life audit

Life Audit Your Way into Long-Term Change

Life auditing! Have you heard of this? Let’s have a quick discussion today about taking stock of our lives.

The other day, I talked about a Three-Step approach to creating the life that you want. Today, I thought we could take some tangible steps toward making this simpler. Before we can begin to intentionally create our lives, we need to assess where we’re at right now.

Recently I’ve started to learn about life auditing. I love this idea, and thought that I would share with you a process that I believe could help you navigate your own life audit. I’ve broken it down into four simple steps you can begin applying to your own life immediately.

  1. Life Goals
  2. Personal Mission Statement
  3. Assets and Liabilities
  4. Balance Wheel

Establishing Life Goals

This sounds a little more grandiose than it needs to be. “Life goals” are pretty fluid. The key is to have some overarching, really big, long-term life goals (raise a family, run a non-profit organization, save the whales), and then also some large but more temporary goals that you’ll achieve but then will inevitably move on from while you establish new goals (write a book, lose 40 pounds, run a marathon).

I’ve found that writing annual goals I can break down into bite-sized pieces throughout the year helps me achieve both overarching, completely long-term goals, as well as those that are more “long-term-for-the-year” if you will. For the last several years, it’s become a tradition of mine to write my annual goals at the beginning of each new year. But it’s not necessary to wait until January 1st for this. Go ahead and start today. Or start at the beginning of the week of you like a “fresh” start.

What is a personal mission statement?

We don’t need to get too crazy here. Just something simple that helps define your goals and purpose. This isn’t something you’re going to have hanging in your foyer, this is a personal way of staying on track as you set goals and make decisions. An example would be:

“To live each day with courage, compassion, and curiosity; to become a better version of myself each day, and to inspire others in my path to do the same.” 

This statement was taken from www.bohoberry.com. If you’d like to learn more about how to create  and write out your own statement, check this out on her site.

Assets and Liabilities

What’s an audit without looking at assets and liabilities? Please keep in mind that WE ARE NOT MAKING CHANGES YET. We’re just getting a clear picture of where we’re at right now. No passing judgment on yourself. All we need right now is honesty (and a healthy dose of self-love).

Assets are things like healthy habits (exercising, green juicing, plenty of sleep), and positive character traits (kind, generous, optimistic). Liabilities are things like negative health habits (smoking, eating fast-food, drug abuse), and negative character traits (pessimistic, unapproachable, defensive).

All we need to do here is make a list of them. You’ll use this list as you craft goals, mission statements, and apply changes.

Balance or Life Wheel

You’re no doubt already familiar with balance wheels or life wheels. This one is from Start of Happiness.

life-wheel

I sometimes call them “wheels of perfection” because I think that it’s both unrealistic and unnecessary to try to achieve perfect balance all of the time. But, they’re fantastic as it relates to wanting to achieve better balance, and when we need a good litmus test as to where we’re actually at with things (not where we think we might be, or wish we were).

As we look at areas like the balance wheel and our list of goals, let’s audit how we feel about how we’re currently doing in each area. Again, we’re not passing judgment and we’re not creating action plans toward change. We’re just auditing.

Let’s start out by looking at which areas of our lives we may want to audit. My list is similar to the wheel above:

  • Health and Wellness
  • Spirituality
  • Family
  • Marriage
  • Career 
  • Financial Health
  • Community Service Involvement
  • Personal Development
  • Leisure
  • Social Life
  • Wellness of Living Space
  • Friendships
  • Adventure/Breaking Routine

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend tackling them all in one fell swoop. Just work your way through them one at a time, starting with the ones that feel the most off balance or need the most attention. You know which ones those are because we can all identify the areas of our lives that feel the most crappy or cause us the most problems.

Applying the Three-Step Approach

Now that you’ve done your audit, we can get to work, utilizing the three-step approach:

  1. Unburden
  2. Organize
  3. Shift

Let’s unburden by asking ourselves some key questions. We’ll start with career as our example.

  • Do I enjoy it?
  • Does it align with my goals?
  • How does it fit into my personal mission statement?
  • Why do I do this? Could I achieve the same results (earning money) in a job that more closely aligns with my mission statement?
  • What would I lose by leaving?
  • If I had the option to leave or stop doing this work, would I?
  • Could I better utilize my skills, experience, and time elsewhere?
  • Does this energize or drain me?

I’m not so unrealistic that I don’t understand things like economic conditions and responsibilities. We’re not all going to move into a more fulfilling career that aligns with your overall goals overnight. The point of an audit is to get you thinking about what you can do to start moving a little closer to it. Let’s consider this example for a moment. You may not think that your job at Starbucks aligns with your goal to be a social worker. But you’re in graduate school right now working on your MSW and your job at Starbucks is keeping food on the table and your lights on. It’s a small step among many small steps that are leading you toward your bigger goal that does align with your personal mission statement.

Now let’s look at our next step. Organize. Here we’re going to shake things out and gain some clarity. We’ll say that we’ve gone through the questions above regarding career and your answers were along the lines of:

  • I would rather die.
  • Pulling into the parking lot makes me vomit a little every morning.
  • I’m seriously considering clown school as my backup option.

This is a good starting point. We need to look at what your goals are, what your personal mission statement is, what your assets are, and now how we can use that to pinpoint where we’re heading. Ask yourself some more key questions as you get organized.

  • Can I realistically hang in at my current job until I get a new degree? Certification? Take some required training?
  • Could I find another job that will cover my expenses and responsibilities until I can move to a new position?
  • Do I need to secure financing to start a new venture of my own? How long will that take?
  • Do I have savings enough to quit my job before I have a new one lined up? Does that make sense?
  • Are there things I can do at my current employer so that I don’t have to quit? For example, find a new role? Report to someone else? Change to a new location? Change shifts? Change status (full-time to part-time)?

Once you’ve started to work through these types of questions in a realistic and honest way, it’s time to shift. Shifting is actionable steps that you can take to move you toward your goals. Again using our above example, some shifts would be:

  • Updating your resume
  • Updating your LinkedIn profile
  • Networking with people in your desired field and with your desired employers
  • Beginning a job search
  • Speaking to your current boss, or their boss, about potential changes you could make at work now

It’s important to look at doing a life audit periodically. Consider doing a broad-view audit of all the areas of your life once a year. But anytime you’re feeling your balance get way out of control in any area, try the three-step approach to help you identify what it is you’re really struggling with, what your options are, and how you can start taking actionable steps toward change.

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