Many of us lock ourselves into one role: “I am a businessperson,” “I am a parent,” “I am a runner.”
But in reality, we each have many roles in life. We are all citizens and humans. We have additional roles in our families, careers, schools, and communities.
The truth is that we are happiest and most in harmony with ourselves and others when all our roles are in balance rather than one role dominating our life.
What exactly is a role? It’s the stake you take in the various communities of your life.
It’s important to remember we belong to many communities: work communities, health communities, neighborhood communities, families, and many more.
How much stake we decide to take in each of those communities and how much of a role we take on in each of them is what starts to define us both to ourselves and to the members of those communities in which we choose to participate.
We do not live in a vacuum. By our sheer existence, we can’t help but impact others. It’s scientific fact that by being alive we have a qualitative and quantifiable impact on others. It’s unavoidable!
What we can avoid is having a negative effect on others, and instead nurture connections that allow us to have a fulfilling impact both on ourselves and others.
Since no man is an island, connecting with others across communities seems like the most logical place to start to help us achieve fulfillment in life; yet many of us seem to overlook that fact and instead build lives out of balance solely within just one or two communities.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’”
–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Let’s put it into practice. Spend the next few minutes on a quick exercise to identify your current roles across the various communities of your life and how to find balance and fulfillment in those roles you truly want to nurture.
Step 1: List Your Current Roles in Life
Grab a piece of paper and write down all the roles you currently have in life.
Whatever they might be, list them all.
Step 2: Add Roles You Want to Develop
Now for the fun part! List roles you WANT to develop. They don’t need to be roles you have now.
Have you always wanted to be a dancer? Add it to the list! Have you become so estranged from a family member that you didn’t list that particular role (son, daughter, father… whatever it might be) in your roles originally, but feel you’re now ready to fulfill that role? There is no better time than the present. Add it to the list!
Step 3: Remove Roles You Don’t Want in Your Life
Free up your list of roles by crossing roles off ones you no longer want to continue. Maybe you’re a runner but you hate running and are just miserable doing it; it’s time to cross it off the list.
Step 4: Balance Your List of Roles
By this point we’ve listed our current roles, added roles we want to develop, and subtracted unfulfilling roles. Now we need to review our list to ensure we’re creating a balanced life for ourselves.
Are the roles tending to be weighted in one particular area or community of your life?
For example, if you listed entrepreneur, manager, corporate board member, studio director, and sister on your list of roles, it’s important to look at how you’re going to find balance when your roles are dominated in one area, in this case, work.
Similarly, do you have roles across several communities or just one or two?
There are three ways to help balance our roles:
- Prioritize certain roles more than others. For example, in our list of roles above, you could prioritize your role as a sister to balance out the fact that the rest of your roles are work-related.
- Replace roles. In the example above where roles are weighted highly in work and having only one role in another community, we could replace a work role such as corporate board member with a role in a community where we don’t currently have any roles, such as neighborhood volunteer, to help lessen our roles being dominated by one community (work) while adding a role in our neighborhood community at the same time.
- Add roles. Add roles related to other communities such as family, friends, health, social good, and other communities to ensure both our communities and roles in those communities are well balanced.
Step 5: Reread Your List of Roles
Reread each role on your list, asking yourself if each is a role you are willing to put time, thought, and effort into nurturing. If not, what can you do to replace or deprioritize that role?
It’s also important not to have left off or overlooked roles that are critical to your happiness as a human being. Did you add roles that show yourself you care for yourself? Whether it’s cultivating your health, beauty, skills, or peace of mind, ensure you take an active role in your own life and happiness.
Likewise, it’s crucial to have several roles that connect you with others, whether it’s family, friends, coworkers, or volunteering.
Step 6: Set Goals to Nurture Your Desired Roles
Here’s where prioritizing along with finding synergies in our roles and setting goals to nurture those roles is most important.
*Realize we only have 168 hours in each week to accomplish this. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanerkam is a great book on this subject and I urge you to read it after completing this exercise!
So how do we accomplish that?
Start by assigning goals to each role. For example, to nurture my role as a sister, I Facetime each of my sisters every Sunday to catch up, and once a month set a visit to see the sister who lives in a nearby city. Often, we catch up even more, but fulfilling the minimum I determined would nurture my role as their big sister helps me feel I’m fulfilling that role in life as Sister, both for them and me.
A goal I set as an architect is that at least four days a week I read a design book or magazine then save the lessons I learned about those designs for future use. Of course, I see design images even more often than this but the difference is that I’m setting my intention four times a week on a particular publication(s) and taking away from them ideas I can apply to my own work.
Here again is where noting the hours in a week excels! It reminds us that we can spend time going through the motions of something like looking at a design magazine only to wonder where the last couple hours of our time went; the difference is applying intention of how I’m going to use my time during that activity (reviewing a design magazine) to benefit something that I want to accomplish (building a catalog of design ideas for my work).
Step 7: Set a Time Weekly or Monthly to Review Your Roles
Now that we’ve created goals to nurture the roles we want to cultivate in life, it’s important to set time weekly, bi-weekly, or at a minimum, monthly, to review how those roles are manifesting.
Hold this regular check-in appointment with yourself as sacred. After all, you are a worthwhile time investment. Using the 168 Hour Time Management Spreadsheet is a good way for tracking how you’re spending your time.
At the end of your first week after establishing the roles you want to nurture, look at that week. Did it go as planned? Did you accomplish the goals you planned? Did you spend more time in one area and neglect others to the point that things fell out of balance?
If anything is out of balance, go through the steps again and see what roles you can reprioritize, replace, remove, or add to better achieve your goals the next week.
To achieve balance in life through fulfilling roles you want to nurture, your building blocks are:
- Identify Your Current Roles in Life
- Add Roles You Want to Develop
- Remove Roles You No Longer Want
- Balance Your Roles
- Set Goals to Nurture Your Desired Roles
- Set a Time Weekly or Monthly to Review Your Roles and Adjust as Needed