When you feel like your life is out of balance one way to recalibrate is to identify the “gaps” in your life – the places where real life falls short of your ideal – and make changes to close these gaps. You can approach this from either side of the gap: by identifying your desired state and then finding ways to move toward it; or, by identifying “what’s missing” and figuring out how to either get it or let it go. A great way to identify a gap is to tune into what you are tolerating or coping with in life. Juggling multiple priorities (ex. family, marriage, work, health, etc.) is a fact of life. When these commitments get out of balance or fail to reflect our most important values, we experience that as a gap. Also, when our underlying values are misaligned it becomes difficult to prioritize.
Realigning your personal values is often experienced as a great step forward in personal purpose and fulfillment. When you are looking for a better life in the Present, the process often centers on identifying “the gap” in your life. These gaps can be represented as the distance between your needs and expectations, from the way life is now to your desired future state. Another way of thinking about it is in terms of alignment: the gap is the place where your day-to-day life fails to align with your values and your life’s purpose.
Take It or Leave It
The Take It or Leave It exercise examines how your real life aligns with your ideal life. It is especially helpful if you aren’t a natural dreamer because it brings forth the ideal from your past experience.
To complete the exercise draw three columns on a piece of paper.
- The left side is the “Take It” column: in this column document things you love and value about your life, things that you’d like more of in the future.
- The right side is the “Leave It” column: in this column document things in your life that you dislike, things that drain you and/or crowd out what’s important; things that you’d like to leave behind.
- The middle column is “Take It or Leave It” column: in this column document things you have no strong feelings about.
Use these follow-up questions to explore your list more critically:
- When you look over your lists, what stands out for you?
- How does your life now align with your ideal? Where is there a good match, and where are things out of alignment?
- How well does your daily lifestyle support your life’s purpose? Where does it help, and where does it get in the way?
- What one thing on the “Leave It” list would make the most if you changed it?
- What on your list must change? What can you no longer tolerate?
- What step could you take now to better align daily life with your sense of purpose?
- What would it take to deal with your entire “Leave It” list? What stops you from taking action?
(credit: the inspiration for this post came from the book Coaching Questions: A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills.)