What You Actually Need To Focus On When Tackling Work-Life Balance

Are you desperately in need of work-life balance? Most people are. But I have news for you: you’re setting the bar far too low. Balance is about time and energy ratios. It turns your quest for a more fulfilling life into a simple black-and-white mathematical equation. What you need to look at, instead, is your work-life satisfaction. Satisfaction is subjective; it’s personalized and full of gray areas. When your work life supports your unique personal goals—and your life’s purpose—you’ll get a much bigger payoff.

So how do you start? Follow these five steps:

Step 1: Know your purpose on the planet, aka your ‘POP.’

Take a break from what you’re doing, and envision a pyramid. See that stone at the very top? It symbolizes your purpose on the planet, something I call your “POP.” When you look at a pyramid, every stone is the same except for that one; it’s unique. The bricks below it make up the pyramid’s base, and their sole function is to support that top stone.

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When you evaluate your life, what purpose would you place in that very top position? If you’re not sure, ask yourself this question: “If you were 105 years old and it was your last day on the planet, what would you want to be able to say about your life?” It’s a deep question that garners a very personal response. The answer should be intangible. Only you’ll know if you achieve it. Some choose “helping people,” while others may choose “being a good parent” or “seeing the world.” There’s no wrong answer as long as it’s your truth.

Finding your life’s purpose is about discovery. When I’m coaching people, I ask them to start paying attention to their lives and what ignites their passions. What makes you curious, happy, excited, jealous, or even lustful? What drives your everyday actions? What makes you feel alive? That’s your POP.

Step 2: Line up your bricks to support your purpose.

The bulk of the bricks in your pyramid represent the tools and resources you’ll use to support your life’s purpose. You may have a brick for work, another for travel, one for family, education, spirituality, money, friends, adventure, entertainment, health, fitness, and just about anything else you can think of that supports what you are up to.

Without an awareness of your purpose, you may be stacking your bricks in a way that achieves a different purpose entirely and leaves you feeling less successful or content with your life. For example, you may be sacrificing time at the office to be around family and friends because society says that’s how to build a good life, but you’re stressed because your passion is tied to your work—and you’d rather prioritize your career.

No matter what your purpose may be, place your bricks thoughtfully, or at least be aware of where they are stacked in your pyramid. The higher up a brick is on your pyramid, the more time and energy you’ll invest into it. For instance, if your purpose is to be a good parent, your family brick will be toward the top of the pyramid, and your work brick may fall to the middle or bottom levels, depending on if your job helps you to be that better parent—or if it doesn’t.

Step 3: Move your bricks as needed.

Keep in mind, placing a brick at the bottom doesn’t mean it’s not important. If your life’s purpose is to “see the world,” your work brick may need to be at the very bottom. At the bottom, it becomes a foundational brick that provides the means to travel via your salary and vacation time. Placing this brick on the bottom doesn’t mean you won’t give your all at work, or that you won’t be a good employee. It’s the opposite. Rather than resenting your desk job, you’ll value its role in helping you achieve your goals. As a result, you’ll end up fully engaged at work, and your employer will reap the benefits of a highly motivated employee.

As time goes by and your life evolves, you’ll likely need to move your bricks around. Going back to the example of wanting to be a good parent, it’s inevitable that your children will grow up and move out. To continue to be a good parent, you may shift your focus to being a role model. So, the family brick moves down, and your work or travel bricks move up as you concentrate on living your best life.

Step 4: Be open-minded about your location.

Often, we gauge opportunities solely by what’s available to us on a day-to-day basis. But in this age of mobility, it’s no longer a crazy idea to pick up and move to an area that best supports your life’s purpose and work needs.

If you need to be somewhere with more opportunities for earning potential, consider moving to a location that can provide that. Glassdoor recently posted the 25 best cities for jobs in 2018. It’s worth considering if a different environment might be what you need.

Don’t just look for job opportunities; consider how these cities support your needs regarding education, family values, and more. If you are content where you live, that’s great. But if you find yourself complaining about what your city or town lacks, decide to do something about it and check out other areas.

Step 5: Enlist others to support your strategy.

No matter where you place your bricks for family and friends, you’ll need them to help you accomplish your purpose. Discuss your goals with those who are close to you. Enlist them in supporting and understanding your efforts. It’s a lot easier for your family and friends to get on board when they know what you’re doing is connected to a bigger vision, and it will help them avoid feeling as though they’re not a priority.

Whatever you decide to do or wherever you decide to do it, remember that you have the power to create the ultimate work-life satisfaction. It may take some sacrifice, and possibly even some tough decisions, but knowing your purpose is half the battle.

I believe we can all find careers we love with people we enjoy—but it requires a new mindset as we navigate the unspoken rules in today’s workplace. I’ve built my 20-plus-year career in helping people from all walks of life discover this. I’ll tackle issues that range from r… MORE

My book, “Low Man on the Totem Pole: Stop Begging for a Promotion, Start Selling Your Genius,” can be found here. My podcast can be found here.

|Forbes