How Satisfied Are You?
My client, Jeff, worked for a company for eleven years. During that time he worked himself up the corporate ladder to a high-level position by knowing about every aspect of the company’s interests and basically being available to everyone 24/7.
Jeff was also the primary parent in his household. After coming home from work, he cooked dinner and shuttled the kids to and from martial arts classes and sports. From the moment he woke up until the moment he went to sleep, Jeff never really stopped taking care of others.
Jeff realized that he wasn’t happy with the quality of his life. He had a seriously good income, and he loved his family, yet his life was feeling pretty empty and devoid of meaning.
Taking time for himself wasn’t on Jeff’s radar. He had forgotten what he even liked to do in his spare time because it had been so long since he had any spare time.
Jeff realized he did not want to be so available to everyone at work, but didn’t see how he could back down when he was the one who had set the standard of working so many hours. He had basically taught his co-workers and the company owners that he could be counted on to come through any time of day or night.
Sometimes we are unaware that we have allowed ourselves to be taken advantage of at work and at home. We forget that we are the ones who have actually coached others to depend on us so much.
At first, it feels pretty good to be so *needed* to know that others would likely flounder without our strong support. As we continue to feed that need, it starts to feel pretty heavy, and more and more difficult to get out from underneath.
The truth is when we over-commit ourselves we typically have only the best of intentions. But spreading ourselves too thin doesn’t lead to happiness, it leads to anxiety, overwhelm, and exhaustion.
Have you heard of the “Wheel of Life” or what I call the “Satisfaction Wheel”? It’s a tool commonly used in coaching to help clients determine how their lives are out of balance and where it might be helpful to focus attention to bring back a sense of equanimity.
If you were to fill this out for yourself (using these categories or others of your choosing) by rating your satisfaction with each piece of the pie, how would your wheel look?
The goal is not to get all areas to a 10 or even to have all areas equal. This is just a tool to help you see where your time and energy is going and if it’s going toward what is most important to you at this time.
When Jeff did this exercise, he rated his satisfaction levels like this:
Career = 6
Family = 6
Romance/Intimate Partner = 2
Physical Environment (home, geographical location, etc.) = 8
Spirituality/Personal Growth = 2
Leisure/Social = 1
Health = 6
Money = 9
Jeff didn’t like the way his wheel looked! He clearly saw the only areas of his life that he was deeply satisfied with were his income and his environment. This realization acted as a catalyst for some big changes.
First, Jeff took a vacation—a real vacation in which he totally disconnected from work. He didn’t check emails or take phone calls and he didn’t bring any work with him.
While on vacation, Jeff recalled how much he used to love biking. He used to race competitively and trained with a group of guys who were pretty tight. Jeff saw the only thing holding him back from doing that again was himself.
When he got back home, Jeff took a step back and made room for his wife to step up her game. He still cooked dinner (something he enjoyed), but stopped his constant cleaning up after everyone else and asked for an equal partnership in shuttling the kids around. The first thing he did when he got home from work was a 10-minute meditation to allow him a little buffer between work and home life.
Jeff also decided it would be easier to set boundaries at a new job than to try to do so at his current job. He had some highly developed skills and when he started looking around he found several job opportunities that interested him. He had a few interviews that didn’t lead to offers. But on the fourth attempt, Jeff struck gold. He negotiated a super sweet schedule, higher pay, and a huge signing bonus—for reals!
It took Jeff just over three months to implement all of these changes. He’s a pretty determined guy and once he saw what he wanted, he went all out to achieve it.
When he rated his levels of satisfaction at the end of our work together, he ranked himself higher in every category except money and physical environment which stayed the same.
Does this seem like a fairytale? It’s not. Aside from changing jobs which was a major change, the changes Jeff made were relatively small and he built on them over time. It's amazing what a series of small changes can add up to in regards to life satisfaction.
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