Thursday, May 24, 2012

What Color is Your Life?

As a  "Life Balance Strategist," I've discovered that there are many personal assessments out there. Some ask lots of questions. Some have you rate various aspects of your life on a scale of numbers. Others make you plot points on a chart or graph.

I hate to create any negative energy since I know all of these tools come from a place of wanting to help people.   However, I have a few minor complaints. 

Let's discuss.

One is that these tests tend to be far too complicated.

Most likely if someone is seeking out a "life balance assessment," they are already experiencing some stress in life.   In my opinion, many of these tests unintentionally exacerbate the stress.

Here's a very popular format: "I enjoy the company of others: Never, Seldom, Occasionally, Most of the Time, Often, or Always."

As far as I'm concerned, you really need more details for some of these questions to be answered accurately. For example, who exactly are the "others" and are refreshments being served?
Some have trick questions such as,"If you were a fruit, what kind would you be?" Or, repeat questions worded different ways to see if maybe you lied the first time.

Some tests just take so damn long that if you didn't have a life balance issue when you started, you very well may have one by the time you're done.

Luckily there are some personal assessments out there that attempt simplicity. You can simply write a plus or a minus sign next to specific categories or answer a handful of yes/no questions.
However, even these have one consistent flaw for me. They tend to place equal emphasis on internal as well as external life areas. For example, one has sections of a pie chart with labels of health, friends, work, spiritual, and family. A bunch of others include a square with four quadrants including categories like work, friends, family and self.

My philosophy and a primary inspiration in creating Personal Strategic Management (PSM) is that SELF must be the critical core.  Internal is prioritized over external.   YOU are the central point of energy; radiating from the inside out to create success in all of the other areas of life.

Here's a preview of what I've defined as the "Capacity Framework":

True life balance starts with the internal. It's our ability to maintain a strong and healthy Critical Core, even when we are not reaching external goals.
At the end of the day, throughout your life... all that external stuff may come and go.  But you've got YOU forever, baby.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of your life.  There is not another single person, thing or activity for which this is also true.
Here's a high level explanation of the self-assessment tool I created and have been delivering at volunteer life balance workshops like the one I did at Emerson College recently.
To start, think about your own life in terms of each PSM area: Critical Core, HR/Facilities, Learning, Social Responsibility, & Finance. Rate yourself in each of the five categories based on this green, yellow, red scale.
Think about each "rating" in terms of your OWN criteria. Don't assess yourself based on the judgment of society or your parents or whomever. It's called a SELF-assessment for a reason.

For example, Finance & Profitability: Let's say you are a stay-at-home mom and do not collect an actual paycheck. Yet, this arrangement works well for your situation and does not create stress for you personally. Your contribution may be that you control the budget, watch expenses and physically pay the bills accurately and on time. You may not work outside the home but this area may well be green. It could also be red. You need to decide for yourself.

Conversely, you may have an advanced degree but really feel there's some other educational goal you want or need to achieve to feel completely fulfilled in some way. So, even an MBA executive might mark L&D as yellow or red.

All that said, the first place to focus is in the center - the Critical Core. In this area, even more than the others, think of the colors as a standard American traffic light.
If you rated your Critical Core as red, then STOP. Chances are pretty good that if you are truly a red at the Core, there's not a lot of sustainable green in your life.

No matter what measure of "success" you perceive in the other areas, nothing is more important than figuring out what you need to do to start taking care of the Critical Core.
A very nice lady recently responded to this advice with, "I was taught that taking care of myself ahead of others is selfish."    I get that. But let's review: If you get sick (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually) you are not really doing anyone justice. Don't kid yourself. Be selfish. I'll write you a note.
If you rated the Critical Core as yellow, then PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Contrary to popular belief, yellow does not mean speed up quickly because you know it's going to turn red any minute. My fellow overachievers -- this means you.
If you're green at the Core, then KEEP GOING. YAY YOU!
Self-assessment is really about creating awareness. Not just about what we may want to do differently but also about what we're doing right. Likewise, the personal strategic planning process is as much about outlining what has worked well for you in your life as it is about improvement.
Thank you for Occasionally, Most of the Time, Often, Always reading my blog. I really appreciate it!

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plainolebob said...

man I ain't nuthin but green all over, I guess hick red neck, is bliss.

I loved the words of Aesop, if onl more could grasp this truth.
Big Hugs Bess

Hunter said...

I appreciated the heck out of this. Great post, Charlene.

Charlene said...

Thanks! Obviously it's an easier thing to walk people through "live" but I thought it would be fun to share in this forum as well. said...

Thanks for sharing this!

Following you from MBC. Looking forward to reading your posts.

Charlene said...

Thanks Nancy - likewise! :-)

Brittany at Mommy Words said...

Thanks Charlene. I am following your very helpful posts. I really like this and I am always taking those long self assessment things. I am a little addicted to fidning out what is wrong. Here's what is funny - when I read the title of your post I was actually thinking about color. I need to change some of the actual colors in my life. My moods are needing a lift. Here I come paint and pillows!

Otherwise I am pretty green!

Dawn said...

Stopping by from SITS-thanks for posting this-I'm going to go over it tonight.

Happy Saturday Sharefest!!!

Yaya said...

I like to think my life color is orange. ;)

and yes, internal balance is huge for external balance. I do a lot of yoga and acupuncture.

Alex the Girl said...

Yellow, although it's not a color I would often choose to describe myself, yellow it would be. Green would be a better state, but Yellow isn't as bad as one would think.

Thanks for sharing my FB SiTS day.

Just Playin' said...

Balance is what EVERYBODY wants! You must be very busy! Now that I am retired I think I am all green....well, there are a few areas.... haha. Life goes on. Good post and thanks. Found you at Bob's.

TC said...

Some days I would say I was 3 greens and a yellow. Today I'm 3 yellows and a red but it's Monday, it REALLY is Monday.
Taking care of yourself is perceived as selfish, if you don't though you will wind up being a burden, I learned that from lyme, yes it took me 40+years to learn it.

Anonymous said...

All I know is that I'm happy to be working on the all or nothing strategy for it is draining.
I get so moved when I see my friend challenge me when they are taking charge of their lives and showing great balance in all the things they do. It is people like you that take time to post these blogs that make huge impact in my life. It gives me inspiration.

Charlene said...

Anon - Thank you so much for your kind words. Sounds like maybe some yellow is in order? :-) All the best to you!

Pratishtha said...

First of all thank you for making me laugh through the first half. Second half was introspective and very helpful. Wish you all the best.

G.K.Menon said...

Really inspiring. Thanks

Suelosophy said...

I have been stuck on red in a few areas of my life for a while now. Yours is one of the first blogs I've read (ever!) and I found you motivating, and very likable ;-) As a former HR exec., I can relate to and agree with your 'personal assessment' assessment. Thank you!

Karen & Gerard Zemek said...

I like the self-assessment tests because they make me feel good but not those ones that have a billion different questions that repeat in different ways like you mentioned above.

Congrats on your SITS day!

Melissa @ Cellulite Investigation said...

I love reading this stuff, Charlene. Good luck with the book!

AngieB said...

Oh, wow! I love this and am forwarding a link to everyone I work with!

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Hi Charlene, been a while since I got round to your blog. I am trying to catch up on everything. I read this post with interest and it reminded me of why I left the First World; in a word, Stress. Here in the Third there isn't the stress. I'm not saying it's perfect, far from it, but the day to day stress generated by First World living aren't here. I am a much happier and more relaxed person as a result. But a great post nevertheless.


Reenie said...

Hey Charlene,

I am finally catching up and read this one. Thanks for sharing :).

ropcorn said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I so agree with you! And I love the quote you ended with. Because that is truly what matters. :-)

Also, I'm glad you linked up over at my 72 hours No Rules Blog Hop! And thank you for commenting too! :-)

Have a lovely Sunday,

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