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PRODUCTIVITY

Test Yourself: Is Your Inner House in Order?

Think your life might be lacking balance? Here's one way to find out: this two-minute test can tell you where things might be out of whack.

Like most good ideas, this one came far away from work.

Steve Mundahl, CEO of Goodwill Industries and author of "The Alchemy of Authentic Leadership," was on a fishing vacation in Northern Minnesota when he started pondering his life and asking himself if all its elements were in balance. "I asked myself, do I have enough fun in my life, and enough creative expression?" he says. Although he was on vacation on that moment he realized that in general the answer was no.

It was a gap he needed to fill because without making room for all the different parts of himself to flourish--physical and spiritual health, leisure, creativity, and family as well as money and career--he knew he couldn't be the complete human being he needed to be to lead effectively. He began thinking of the different elements of his life as the six rooms of his inner house and tested himself on each of them.

That first time around, he adds, he didn't do so well. How do you measure up?

1. Money

Are you making enough, or living paycheck to paycheck, contract to contract, or sale to sale? Do you have debt you fear you'll never pay off?

"If your financial room is out of balance in your personal life, you won't feel authentic managing finances for your business," warns Sharon Massoth, Mundahl's wife and contributing author, who is also a business coach. "So do whatever you must to get that in balance."

If you are making enough and your company is profitable, what are you doing with the profits? Are they bringing satisfaction to you and your family, and are you sharing the wealth with your employees and the community? Or do you feel like it's never quite enough so that you keep chasing that next financial milestone?

Give your inner money room a rating of 1 to 5.

2. Creativity and fun

"I love Richard Branson because he always looks like he's having a good time," Mundahl says. (Who else would have commissioned this safety video?)

Do you have the same space for creativity, relaxation, and play in your own life? If you're an entrepreneur or business leader, the asnwer may be no. "Leaders have that adult responsibility," Massoth notes. "You have to get in touch with the inner child and know that it benefits you overall."

Imagine your obituary, she suggests. Most don't talk about the extra hours the person spent at work, but about the things he or she loved to do.

Give your inner fun and creativity room a rating of 1 to 5.

3. Philosophy and spirituality

This doesn't mean you need to attend church daily, follow religious practices, or even belong to a particular religion. But if you don't take time on a regular basis to connect with ideas larger than yourself, it's difficult to be an authentic and well-rounded human.

"Pulling out the things that feel right to you is healthy," Massoth says. For some people, a walk in the woods or practicing yoga offers a connection with spirituality. Or you can consider the core tenets of most of the world's religions: caring for and accepting others. "Are you doing something that's good for the world?" she asks. "If that's as far as you take your spirituality, that's plenty far.

Give your spirituality and philosophy room a rating of 1 to 5.

4. Career and education

"A reporter asked Michael Jordan how he liked playing basketball and he said that he couldn't believe he was making a living doing something that was so much fun," Mundahl says. He feels the same way about running Goodwill Industries.

Is your work overall fun for you and/or do you feel that you're doing something meaningful so that it gives you satisfaction? If the answer is no, something is awry.

Are you pursuing formal or informal education that can help you learn new skills or improve existing ones? The most successful people must keep learning throughout their careers, especially in this rapidly changing world.

Give your career and education room a rating from 1 to 5.

5. Family and relationships

"Most of us have an imbalance there because it's where we play out the positive and negative elements in our lives," says Massoth, who is also a psychotherapist. Worse: "It's a room small business owners will neglect because they don't have enough time. But you need this room in balance so you have a place to return to to get support, and someone who can hold you up when you're going through the tribulations of running a business."

What if you're single? "It's really important to enjoy other single people and also have time to meet a partner," she says. Achieving balance will bring extra rewards, she says. "If you get your own house in order, especially in terms of honesty, self-love, and understanding, you will draw a partner at that same level."

Give your family and relationships room a rating of 1 to 5.

6. Physical and emotional health

"One in five American adults is on some kind of anti-anxiety medication," Mundahl says. "Something's out of order here."

Whether you're popping pills or not, it's much too easy for small business owners or business leaders in any role to neglect their own physical and emotional needs because of the many hours work demands. But the benefits of regular exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and caring for your own emotional well-being have been proven, so this inner room deserves your attention.

Give your physical and emotional health room a rating from 1 to 5.

OK, now add up your points.

25 or more: Pat yourself on the back. You're happy and feel that your life is in good balance.

20-25: You're in pretty good shape but some rebalancing work is needed. (I myself scored 22, so join the club.)  

19 or less: You seem to be quite unhappy with your work-life balance. Some drastic action may be needed.

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Last updated: Nov 7, 2013

MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, 'The Geek Gap'

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Like this post? Sign up here for a once-a-week email and you'll never miss her columns.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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