How to balance the roles you play

posted in: Balance | 0

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

William Shakespeare


Leave it to a guy who lived in the late 1500’s to sum up what is still an existential truth today; we all play various roles in our lives and we’ll all make various entrances and exits from the grand stage as it unfolds in front of us over time.

Learning to figure out the parts we play – how we embody them, embrace them, fight them, and ultimately come to terms with them – helps us move us further toward or away from our greater purpose.  So along the journey it’s important to learn how to balance these roles in ways that keep us moving toward our goals – our greater “why” – instead of away from them.


Taking time to get in touch with your roles, and the feelings you have around them, helps provide insight into your motivations, how you’re rewarded and how you’re currently living.  You can then use what you’ve learned to figure out why you’re still performing these roles.  This may lead you to some breakthroughs on how you change your actions to feel more productive, rewarded, balanced, and engaged in both your personal and professional lives.  Use the following two step process to start you on your way.


Step 1 – Get to Know Your Roles

  1. Write down all the roles you play in your personal life in one list and all the roles you play in your work life in another list.
  2. Hold each role from each list in your mind for a few minutes and begin to feel it. Close your eyes if you need but notice the feelings that come up around each role.  Jot down a few feeling words about each role (don’t censor, just write).
  3. From this place of emotion, take another pass at identifying micro-roles. Look at what you wrote down for question 1 and think about the emotional components of those roles.  List out all the micro-roles you play, emotionally, as part of the main roles you wrote down using the following examples:
    1. Personal Life: If you said you are a Spouse in question 1, are you also The Empathizer, The Encourager, The Confidante, The Sounding Board, The Lover, The Voice of Reason, The Financial Veto Holder, Organizer of the Family Universe, etc.?
    2. Work Life: If you said you are a Boss in question 1, are you also The Listener, The Mediator, The Go-To Person, The Babysitter, The Cat Herder Extraordinaire, etc.?


Step 2 – Notice What Is Revealed

Many times we continue in roles because we love them.  But other times, we continue in them because either we’ve not taken the time to really identify what they are and name them, or we just believe they’re part and parcel for the territory.  This step is where you get to question those assumptions and start noticing where words like “should”, and “have to” start cropping up.

Ask yourself the following questions to figure out how to start living with more balance as it relates to your roles.

  1. Using both lists, what role is your number one, the one you relish most and feel is most central to your life?  What core thoughts and emotions underlie this role – in other words – why is this central to you at a deep level?  What feelings bubble up when you think about this role, even if some of the micro-roles within it aren’t ideal?  If you’re struggling with this, remove one role at a time from your lists and notice your feelings – what role, if removed, would leave you feeling crushed, as though an essential part of yourself were missing?
  2. Write down the 3 most important roles in your personal life and the 3 most important roles in your work life.  Think about these from the standpoint of energy – how do you currently use energy (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, social, financial) to manage these roles?
  3. In both your personal and work lives, what role(s) could you give up right now and never miss?  What core thoughts and feelings are behind this answer – in other words – why could you leave these roles without hesitation?  How are these roles draining your energy (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, financially)?  Write down five feeling words that would describe you if these roles suddenly vanished from your life.  Where would you gain more balance by eliminating these roles?
  4. What one role do you play in your personal life and in your professional life that makes you feel the most connected to yourself?  (If one of them is the same as answer 1 that’s fine.)
  5. What roles(s) do you play that make you feel the most disconnected from yourself – either because they don’t resonate with you and yet you still do them, or they don’t speak to your soul or spirit?  Jot down some thoughts on replacement roles for these (they can be new roles or “more of” a current role you enjoy).
  6. Think about the roles or micro roles you enjoy most.  Which ones overlap and appear in both your personal and work lives?  Do you like working with people, organizing things, generating ideas, keeping the peace?  Take a few minutes and answer this from a standpoint of emotion – what roles leave you with feelings of pride / confidence/ success/ contentment in BOTH your personal and work lives?