This week’s post is quite different from my typical ones. For the first time in the history of Because Pets Can Have Specialists Too I’m deviating from the norm of providing digestible bits of information about a specific pet health topic. Rather this week I focus on an all too important topic, one to which every single one of you can likely relate: maintaining a well-rounded lifestyle. Now you may be asking yourself, “Why the heck is he writing about this?” The answer is simple. I need to do so…for me! In a way, writing about leading a balanced life is therapy, a reminder that leading such a lifestyle requires continuous effort. I hope you allow me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Happy reading!
How a wheel is made…
A wheel is often used to depict the quintessential representation of a well-rounded life. Some refer to it as a “wellness wheel” or a “life wheel” while others call it the “wheel of success.” Call it whatever you want, but I think of my life as a spoked wheel. The rim of the wheel represents one’s life, and each spoke symbolizes an indispensible aspect of everyday existence.
No one spoke should ever be compromised or sacrificed for any of the others. They should be equal in length so the wheel rotates properly. Classically the spokes (also called elements of wellness) are:
- Social: This spoke has everything to do with how one relates to others, how we connect, communicate, and get along with the people who surround us.
- Emotional: This spoke represents how in touch one is with his/her feelings, allowing one to cope with the emotional challenges of life.
- Intellectual: The spoke depicts one’s ability to be open to new experiences and ideas in order to be a lifelong learner.
- Physical: This spoke considers one’s overall health, representing an ability to take charge of one’s health by making conscious decisions to be healthy.
- Spiritual: This spoke doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with religion per se. Rather it represents one’s ability to discover meaning and purpose in life in an effort to establish peace and harmony.
- Occupational/Financial: This spoke represents one’s fulfillment in his/her job and an ability to establish balance between work and leisure time.
Why a wheel becomes unbalanced…
I’d be willing to bet most of you have flat life tires. I know mine is. Honestly it’s quite easy for one’s tires to become flat, and we all know flat tires don’t allow one to travel down a road smoothly or efficiently, if at all.
Using the spoked wheel analogy, if any spoke is shorter than the others, a wheel will not spin properly – the road (of life) will be rough, and one will need to expend a heck of lot more energy to get the wheel to go round and round. Furthermore the rim is at risk for irrevocable damage. With an unbalanced wheel, the journey will be tiring, hard, frustrating, inconvenient, annoying and stressful!
To get a little personal with you, I’m a workaholic. I always have been. I absolutely love being a veterinarian, and fundamentally consider it a calling. In my experience most animal doctors have very similar traits, and that’s part of the problem with the veterinary profession. We dive (too) deeply into our professional commitments and often neglect other facets of our lives. Wanting to be the best at our job makes it difficult for veterinarians to say no. We accept more responsibility than we can handle, and when commitments aren’t fulfilled, projects, client interactions, and patient outcomes can suffer. With such unwavering duty comes burnout. Many much more qualified individuals of written about the topics of professional exhaustion and compassion fatigue among veterinarians. Without question this rigid professional duty is a key issue, and in my humble opinion, is a reason why so many veterinarians are living with flat tires.
Of course one’s occupational spoke isn’t the only one that be short. If any of you are like me, you have more than one short spoke. Maybe interacting with other people induces social anxiety. Perhaps you’re not in the best physical shape. Previous life experiences may have limited your openness to new adventures and personal interactions. Any number of spokes can be affected at the same time, and recognizing an unbalanced tire is a major step in making the journey down life’s road smoother.
How you can balance your wheel…
The first step in balancing your life wheel is knowing from where you are starting. You need to know what your current tire looks like. Doing so is a relatively simple exercise, one that I strongly encourage you to complete. Below I have listed several statements that correspond to each tire spoke discussed above. I have also included an empty wellness wheel for you to use.
Read each statement and fill in the corresponding pie-shaped section of the wheel to the degree you are achieving this. For example, statement #1 is: “I eat a balanced nutritional diet.” If you feel you are doing this 100% of the time, color in all of section #1. If you do this 50% of the time, color 50% of the section. Complete this routine for all 36 sections of the wheel.
- I eat a balanced nutritional diet.
- I exercise at least 3 times per week.
- I choose to abstain from sex or sex is enjoyable and I practice safe sex.
- I do not use alcohol or use in moderation, am a non-smoker, and avoid street drugs.
- I am generally free from illness.
- I am a reasonable weight for my height.
- I have a solid balance between saving for the future and spending for the present.
- My beliefs/values surrounding money are harmonious with my behavior.
- What I am doing with work/school has purpose.
- I use money positively, e.g.: little or no gambling or excessive massing of goods.
- I have a balance between work/school and the other areas of my life.
- I have financial plans for the future.
- I have specific intellectual goals, e.g.: learning a new skill, a specific major.
- I pursue mentally stimulating interests or hobbies.
- I am generally satisfied with my education plan/vocation.
- I have positive thoughts (a low degree of negativity and cynicism).
- I would describe myself as a lifelong learner.
- I commit time and energy to professional and self development.
- I have a sense of fun and laughter.
- I am able to feel and label my feelings.
- I express my feelings appropriately.
- I have a sense of control in my life, and I am able to adapt to change.
- I am able to comfort or console myself when I am troubled.
- Others would describe me as emotionally stable.
- I am able to resolve conflicts in all areas of my life.
- I am aware of the feelings of others and can respond appropriately.
- I have at least three people with whom I have a close trusting relationship.
- I am aware of an able to set and respect my own and others boundaries.
- I have satisfying interaction with others.
- I have a sense of belonging/not being isolated.
- I practice meditation, pray, or engage in some type of growth practice.
- I have a general sense of serenity.
- I have faith in a higher power.
- I have a sense of meaning and purpose in my life.
- I trust others, and am able to forgive others and myself and let go.
- Principles/ethics/morals provide guides for my life.
The take-away message about balancing your life wheel…
Each of us is meandering down a very unique road of life. There is no “right” or “wrong” wheel to help us travel down our individual paths. The wheel you create now can be used as feedback that you either choose to use or ignore. I have completed this process multiple times in my life, and each time my wheel has changed. If you choose to complete this exercise, make sure you set specific goals and metrics for achieving them. What will your first step be? Will you share your plans with someone who will help keep you accountable? When will you review your progress? I challenge each of you to take every possible step toward living a fulfilling and balanced life.
Please leave a comment telling me what you think about this topic. Is your tire flat? How do you keep your wheel balanced? I can’t wait to hear from each of you!
Wishing you wet-nosed kisses,