Life's not a balance. It's a blend of seven elements: Faith, Family, Finances, Fitness, Friends, Fun and Future.
That's the formula entrepreneurs Paul Batz and Tim Schmidt offer in their new book, What Really Works. They join others on what seems to be an ever-growing bandwagon of commentators who scoff at the notion of life-work balance, in this case because of the implication that one element must be sacrificed for the other.
But they acknowledge we often struggle with our obligations, and argue we will regain our footing if we pay attention to blending together the seven fundamentals of a rounded life. "The seven Fs will help you articulate the life you imagine," they write.
As I list and explain the seven Fs, you may want to rate your own level of satisfaction – from one to 10, with 10 high – on how you are faring:
Faith: This can be controversial, particularly when offered as the first F. But for many people, life revolves around faith, spirituality, purpose and values. We search for significance and meaning in life. And if you aren't a believer, be reassured: One atheist told the authors he gave himself a 10 on this factor because he is very satisfied with the fact he doesn't believe in faith. On a survey of more than 1,000 people, most rated their satisfaction level at 6, 7, or 8 for faith.
Family: Family is an anchor and what we turn to for support, refuge and joy. These days, sandwich parenting can take a toll, as individuals care for both their children and their parents. Still, participants in the survey had their highest scores for family – eight or higher – and that held regardless of gender or age.
Finances: For some individuals money is a goal. It can determine status, and allow desires to be attained. Lack of money can discourage and block us. Two-thirds of respondents claimed they were making as much or more money than they expected at this juncture in their lives. But still, finances ranked next-to-last in satisfaction, just before fitness.
Fitness: Most of us have experienced the adrenal rush and overall glow of a fitness regimen, but with desk jobs and eat-on-the-go lifestyles, too often we struggle to find the time and discipline for keeping fit. The survey found fitness the throwaway F, ranked the most difficult to live up to our expectations. The authors sum up the prevailing attitude as: "I'm not happy about my fitness. It's hard, and I'm really not going to do much about it!"
Friends: The support we give and receive through friendships helps us through life's tumult. "Some people can collect and maintain a wide range of friendships even as personal and professional demands shrink their time. Others cannot. What role do friends play in your life?" the authors ask. Respondents rated their friendships not as satisfying as other areas of their lives, with almost half – 45 per cent – reporting moderate to low satisfaction with friends.
Fun: Humour, laughter, play and fun add joy to our lives, and help us cope. We need time for regeneration. But fun only ranked fifth of the seven categories in terms of satisfaction. Are you having fun?
Future: Progress and hope are an important feature of our lives. "Without the future, no one would care for today," the authors state. For respondents, this was not only about progress in careers but also about social responsibility: Ensuring the rights of all children to quality education, building healthy local and global communities, and finding one's personal purpose in helping others. This ranked second in how satisfied respondents rated themselves.
The authors suggest you use the 7Fs to help reshape your life. You might want to take their survey at www.sevenfs.com. To retool, ask yourself which of the Fs needs to be the first priority for you to lead the life you imagine. Then consider which is the second priority, and act to improve in both those areas. As well, spend time thinking about which of the Fs is the most difficult for you, and what you might do to live up to your expectations. The authors also recommend you consider which of the Fs you feel the most qualified to help others with.
They say the most important thing they learned in developing these concepts and writing the book is you have to schedule your priorities. Satisfaction in the 7Fs won't come serendipitously. It takes some thought and effort.
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager for The Globe and Mail's T.G.I.M. page, management book reviews on Wednesdays and this online work-life balance column on Fridays. He has also written a series of articles for The Globe called The Leadership Guru Interviews, which can be found on the Globe Careers leadership page.