We all have multiple roles, responsibilities and relationships, both in and out of the workplace. Understanding how your various roles interact and affect each other can make a genuine difference in your life.
“It’s all about the levers”, I said. My client looked at me like I had gone barmy. “Maybe you are feeling an imbalance and that you are having to compromise your core values and some of the things that matter most to you”, I suggested. I knew this would require a little more explanation and detail. Once we discussed the topic further, however, it became clearer I was hitting the mark with my coachee.
Since this discussion some years ago, it is now even more evident how important this concept is to almost all of us. Attitude, prioritisation and self-awareness are always critical attributes and skills, even more so at the moment. This blog will explain the concept of choice, time and our various and many roles. A concept that has resonated and contributed to many of my client’s satisfaction, sense of control and comfort as it may for you.
We all have levers in our lives. What does this actually mean?
There is logic to the concept of levers. Each of your roles can be thought of as a separate, yet interconnected lever. Each role could be as a parent, employee, boss, friend, hobby or member of the local sports team as examples. In fact, it could be any aspect of your life that is important to you and you dedicate time to. Consider each role as being represented by a single lever.
Each lever can be adjusted, as required, aligned to how much time, effort and mental energy you dedicate to it.
Each adjustment is also reflective of how much importance you place on the role at that particular point in time. These focus tweaks are often in response to a perceived or real need to better balance your life or respond to some other stimulus. This can be either extrinsic (i.e. originating externally) or intrinsic (i.e. driven from within). The tweak may be required because of the needs of others. Maybe someone close to you expresses frustration or disappointment that you are not spending enough time with them. Or, you may recognise this need for change yourself.
Possibly you are spending too much time at work. Maybe you feel this yourself or there is pressure from your spouse and family to be home more or earlier. Or, you have stopped going to the gym, or taking regular walks and your fitness and mental well-being are negatively impacted. Is it that you recognise that your friends are being neglected? The triggers can arise from anywhere and are generally feeling-based. They can also be managed and influenced.
No matter the trigger, it often feels like something is missing or there is an imbalance in your life.
We all have the same amount of time to spend or allocate to our many roles. However, this time is finite – it has limits. The choices about where to spend this time and allocate to your many roles has a direct and ongoing influence on your overall satisfaction and contentment. It also impacts those you care about the most.
At this point, it is worth looking at where you are prioritising your time and whether this balance works for or against you. Referencing the great work of Stew Friedman, this 4-Way Views assessment will give you clarity regarding where you spend your time and satisfaction as a result.
Let’s extend the concept. I mentioned earlier that each of your roles can be thought of as a separate lever, yet are interconnected. This is true, however every time you adjust a lever or aspect of your life, all your other levers or roles are also impacted. Each lever is connected via an imaginary cable. It is often a small adjustment of maybe 5-10%. Deciding to spend more time at home, for example, will have a natural and direct impact on all of your other levers or roles. To add time and energy to one role, there is a reduction of focus and time in one or more of your other roles. Remember, your time is finite. That’s why your choices and what you prioritise are so important. There are 2 key elements to consider.
Firstly, it is important that you have enough levers.
I have seen many examples where a person has only 2 or 3 roles. These may be work and home, for example. This is a challenge when work or home is not providing positive input or going well. Devastating when both are not going well. Additional roles (maybe 7-8) provide alternatives and options to fulfill your life when one or more roles are not as positive as you would like. I am not suggesting that there is an ‘ideal’ specific number of roles. We are all different and have a variety of needs, capacities and preferences. However, like most things in life, too few or too many are extremes and offer more challenge than your individual, optimum number of roles.
Challenges and difficulties in life are common. How you react and respond to these challenges is critical.
No one lives the perfect life where all of their roles are being fulfilled at the same time. Having enough roles and different levers to adjust and provide a sense of balance is one of the keys. Not work-life balance, but a more holistic and psychologically fullfilling balance. However, it is possible to have too many roles.
Stretching yourself thin and trying to meet the needs of around 10 or more roles can also be a challenge. Imagine trying to fulfill a dozen roles and the allocation of time required? To be fair, I have seen this done. However, the strong relationships and capability to manage this time and roles effectively is rare.
Perspective and resilience are very important traits, particularly in today’s world. Taking control of your time and various roles and consciously adjusting your ‘levers’ as required, can make a significant difference to how resilient you are and in seeing life more clearly. One of the many insights I have learned when coaching and mentoring hundreds of clients over the last decade continues to resonate. Those who struggle with life generally, often do not have enough levers and/or feel they have little choice in what is happening in their life. They see things as happening ‘to’ them, not ‘with’ them. Being in control is not about being controlling. Control is about you – this is good. Being controlling is more about you and others – this is often misplaced and damaging.
Understand your own levers. Reflect on your many roles.
What roles do you have? Where are you spending most time?
Where could you spend more or less time that would suit you better?
Do you feel happiness and satisfaction with this mix? What can you do to find a better and more rewarding balance across all of your roles?
What will you do to feel you are in control and on most days feel happy with what you give and what you receive?
For the most part, you have the same choices, time and ability to influence your life as other people do theirs. Thinking about what you are compromising and what gives you the most joy will lead to change and greater satisfaction. Taking action as appropriate to adjust your levers adds value and lets you meet your core values.
Your life, your choice!