Have you ever taken the time to hang a picture on the wall? I don’t usually use a level, so I have to rely on my own measurements and any other help I can get to confirm that it is hung exactly the way it should be (usually from a family member!). Unfortunately, after all my hard work, the picture is often not hanging straight – it is often lopsided!
Does that sound anything like your life? You’ve been doing all that you know how to do to have a balanced, well-structured life that is rewarding and refreshing. Yet, with all your efforts, you still feel tired, run-down and discouraged. You could be working very hard but not very smart.
Martin Seligman, in his very successful book, “Authentic Happiness” (New York: The Free Press, 2002), reasoned that authentic happiness is derived from three major sets of experiences in life. He suggested that experiencing the pleasant life, experiencing the engaged life, and experiencing the meaningful life should lead to true happiness. Even if “true happiness” is not your personal life goal, professors Dr. Charles Christiansen and Kathleen Matuska, in their article “Lifestyle Balance: A Review of Concepts and Research” assert that there is conclusive evidence that illnesses related to lifestyle imbalance, such as burnout, insomnia and obesity, are pervasive and may lead to negative health outcomes.
Imagine for a moment that your life is comprised of six compartments. These compartments could be your physical health, spirituality, relationships, personal development, career & finances, and emotional health. These, and/or others could be the areas of your life that, if not adequately attended to, could lead to “lopsided” living. Asking yourself the right questions in each of these areas could give you an idea of where the imbalance is coming from.
How healthy would you say your diet is? Does the way you eat now leave you feeling guilty, energetic or sluggish? Do you get enough sleep? Do you exercise? How often?
Do you live according to your beliefs? Is your belief system a source of strength for you? Do you practice spiritual disciplines?
Do you have close friends or family that you can confide in? Are you satisfied with the quality of the relationships in your life? Do you spend enough quality time with the people you love?
Do you intentionally attend to your personal development? How self-aware do you think you are? Are you growing?
Career & Finances
Are you currently in the career that you want to be in? Is it your dream career? Are you satisfied with your current financial status? Are your financial needs being met?
Do you feel emotionally stable? Are you emotionally self-aware? How well do you cope with stressors and other negative emotions?
If you answered these questions honestly, you should now have a fair idea of where the imbalance you are experiencing in your life is coming from. So, what can you do?
You can be pro-active about making what has gone wrong in your life right. You may choose to address each “lopsided” area of your life in the order of the most stressful and debilitating area first, with the least debilitating being last. If you feel like you don’t have the skills or resources to make a significant change, consult with close friends and family members. If they mean well but are not helpful enough, then it’s time to consult a professional who has the necessary training to help you in the area of need. Most importantly – do something! Your health and quality of life depend on it.
Dr. Karen McGibbon
Assistant Professor in Clinical Counseling
Practicum & Internship Coordinator