As a life coach, I help people set goals in seven key areas of their lives: work and career, family, spiritual, financial, intellect, physical health, and personal/social (based on Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life in his book, Born To Win).
Some of us truly excel in several of these departments. We might be delighted with the balance in our bank account. We might be in pretty damn good shape. We might go home to the man or woman of our dreams after work every day, or maybe we feel permanently grateful for our funny and supportive friends. How awesome!
These feelings can pop up and gradually increase over time if we don’t address them.
But what about the other areas? The areas that tug at our hearts in unexpected moments while grocery shopping or falling asleep at night? These feelings can pop up and gradually increase over time if we don’t address them. Your pangs might include, “I wish I had a better relationship with my brother,” “Am I ever going to pay off my student debt?” or “I just know in my heart that I’m in the wrong career.”
Life is dynamic, and it’s impossible to be winning in every facet of your life, all the time. But there’s also no “trade-off” that you sign up for at birth. No one decides, “This guy’s gonna have great health and a decent income—what more can he expect?”
The truth is you can enjoy more in your life than you allow yourself to believe. You can expect more. And expectation leads to creation. All it takes is following these steps to leverage your prosperity and success more effectively.
5 Steps to Thrive
1. Pause and reflect.
Consider these seven life “departments.”
- Work and career
- Mind/intellect (personal and educational development)
- Physical health
Most people have never done this before. Write them out on paper (not on a laptop or iPad) and ask yourself: “Where am I currently in this area?” Rate each from one to 10, one being dismal and 10 being thriving and successful.
2. Observe what’s going right.
Look at the most productive areas—say, anything with a rating of eight or more. Ask yourself, “What am I doing differently in these areas?” List five things for each positive area. For example, if you feel great about the family and spiritual aspects of your life, your reasons might look like this:
“I call my parents twice a week.”
“I’m a mentor to my younger sister.”
“I focus on what I’m grateful for to get me through negative situations.”
“I listen to uplifting podcasts on my commute.”
3. Highlight your habits.
This exercise unearths what we do well most of the time. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act but a habit.”
Spend a week observing your habits in the strongest area or two. Write notes in your phone every time you make an observation. Don’t gloss over them just because they might come easily to you. Break it down as much as you can. Why is it exactly that you have such close friendships or a killer career? Try to list 20 to 25 things that you notice over the course of the next seven days. For example, here are a few observations I made that contribute to my happy marriage:
- No TV or distractions at dinner time—it’s our time to connect and talk.
- I apologize quickly after I snap or act impatiently.
- I treat him to small surprise gifts.
- I tell him frequently that I appreciate him (and specifically why).
- I complain less about his lateness (this one is very hard for me as I am uber-punctual, but I try!).
My relationship is the one thing that I am most grateful for: My husband is my family. That is why I make our marriage a priority. Which leads us to…
4. Find your "why" and notice how this affects your choices.
When you are clear on what’s going right in your life, uncover your motivation. All success is created by a belief or a vision, whether or not you are consciously aware of it. Without a vision for your life, you fall into destructive short-term thinking by default, seeking stimulation and short-term gratification (“Sure, I’ll have that doughnut!” or “Actually I really do need a $200 white t-shirt!”).
People who always maintain a healthy weight or bank account balance, for instance, allow their why to keep them on track with day-to-day decision making. I have a friend who orders a salad for lunch every single day—rain, shine, or hangover. Her why is so ingrained that her decision is automatic. Get clear on your why for the areas that you are proud of.
Maybe yours is: “My health is the foundation for my full and vibrant life” or “Being financially secure makes me feel safe and gives me a feeling of freedom.” These robust whys not only keep you on track but also make better habits effortless. Over time, your thoughts and decisions become so aligned with your why that they become easier and easier.
5. Craft a clear "why" for the area you most want to work on.
I recommend starting with just one area, but you can choose two if you feel up to it. This why will be the driving force behind the creation of new habits in the area of your life that you most want to improve.
Refer to it daily. Stick your new why on your mirror so that you see it every morning and night. A client of mine has put off getting in shape for a decade, always thinking her life would start sometime in the future (a belief that many of us share). Her progress area is physical health. She printed out a bold and bright statement for her vision board that reads, “I am beautiful and healthy. I deserve to feel this today and every day of my life. My life is happening now.”
Your why will keep you going in busy or frustrating times when it’s easy to lose focus or give up. In moments you feel adrift, your why will be your steering wheel.
If you want to improve work and career, ask yourself, what does success (a 10 rating) look like for me in this area? And why does it matter to me? Your why might be, “My work is my contribution to the world—it has to be meaningful to me.” This will spark ideas such as, “Maybe I can contact a few local yoga teacher trainers,” “I could learn how to create an online course—the busy person’s guide to weeknight cooking,” or “I could figure out how to set up a small business in my state.” Your why will keep you going in busy or frustrating times when it’s easy to lose focus or give up. In moments you feel adrift, your why will be your steering wheel.
Allow it to propel you forward and take inspired action as soon as you feel it. This is what will, over time, bring up your target area’s rating. And not just that number on the paper. It will elevate you in the only aspect that truly matters: your own estimation of yourself.
If you are capable and consistent in one thing, you can be capable and consistent in multiple things. Thomas Edison said, "If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves." What are you ready to astound yourself with next?
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for her free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!