Time for a Check-up©

How healthy are you? I don’t mean just your physical health (although that might very well require your attention as well) but the health of all of the different parts of your life. I was recently meeting with a coaching client and when I asked him this question – How healthy are you? – his answer was “That’s a good question.” When he struggled to answer, I helped him out with the following list of the various parts of his life and he gave each one a letter grade:

  • Work Health – How are you doing at work?
  • Romantic Relationship Health – How are you doing with your partner?
  • Family Health – How are you doing as a parent or with other family members?
  • Financial Health – How are you doing with your money?
  • Spiritual Health – How are you doing with your spiritual practices?
  • Mental Health – How are you feeling?
  • Physical Health – Are you taking care of your body?
  • Play or Passion Health – Are you having fun or doing things you’re passionate about?
  • Personal Growth Health – What are you doing to grow and develop?
  • Community / Give Back Health – What are you doing to give back or help others?
  • Friendship Health – How are you doing with your friends and other relationships?

When he had finished his personal check-up, he was not too pleased because his overall grade was a C. His highest score was a B and there were lots of C’s, a D and one F.

Your first step is to undertake the same self-examination in each of these areas. This may seem simple, but there are two key elements. First, you must be honest with yourself. Nothing–I repeat, nothing–will change in your life unless and until you are willing to be fully honest with yourself. Second and most difficult, grade yourself based upon how other people would grade you. For example, what grade would your spouse or partner give you, what grade would your children give you, what grade would your friends give you, etc.

If you’re already feeling uncomfortable, then good–this should be an uncomfortable exercise because the truth doesn’t always feel good, but the truth is the essential starting point for positive change. Once you’ve completed your check-up, you will either feel great (because your life is largely where you want it to be) OR you will feel bad or overwhelmed. If it’s the latter, don’t worry because below we’ll be talking about ways to improve your health.

Whether your assessment was positive or needs improvement, the action plan is the same. Unless you scored an A+ in every area, each of you will have opportunities to take action to improve in one or more areas. If you’re like many lawyers, your immediate reaction might be, “Where am I supposed to find the time to do more things?” Respectfully, this is the wrong question. The right or better questions are the following:

  1. What do I need to do differently in order to improve my health in any area?
  2. What new commitments do I need to make in order to improve my health in any area?

While time is sometimes an obstacle, it is often just the “story” (excuse) you use to avoid making changes in your life.

Most often, our best answers and solutions come from doing things differently rather than doing more. Doing more usually just makes me more tired and stressed. Here’s a quick example. Let’s assume that you want to improve your relationship with your spouse or partner. My guess is that you’re already spending time together, but it’s either not purposeful (you don’t think about what you’re doing together) or you’re defaulting and doing what you’ve always done (perhaps sitting in front of the TV and not talking to each other). One of the best ways to enhance any relationship is by simply being present for the other person, and being present doesn’t take any more time–just more attention and intentionality.

One power tip–if you’re going to work on doing things differently, then choose things that will positively impact more than one area of your life. This is the essence of leverage–doing one thing (in one unit of time) that either impacts multiple areas or which creates exponential impact. For example, four or five times a year I staff men’s retreats which feed my health in 8 or 9 of the areas listed above. That’s a great return on my time investment. You can do the same with your chosen priorities and new commitments.

Why do I emphasize commitments? Because most of your life is based upon reacting to things and situations, rather than prioritizing and making commitments to yourself and others. For example, if you want to spend more time playing with your children, then make a specific commitment, communicate it to your children and then honor the commitment. It may sound simple–and it is. The problem is that most of you are not making commitments.

I recently asked a client how often he fails to honor a specific commitment to be somewhere for his children. His answer somewhat surprised me when he said, “If I make a commitment, I never miss it.” Never? Really? I then told him that he doesn’t have a prioritization problem, he has a commitment problem because when he makes commitments he honors them. In other words, he and we need to make more purposeful commitments.

If you’re like most people (and lawyers) your “commitments” sound something like this: “I’ll do my best to be there” or “I’ll try to do that.” Let’s be clear–these are NOT commitments. They are loose promises and hopes. When you make clear commitments, your integrity is at risk, and most people will do whatever it takes to honor their commitments and maintain their personal integrity. This is precisely why most people don’t make commitments–because they don’t want to be accountable. If you are serious about improving your health and your relationships, then more and clearer commitments are an essential part of the prescription.

There you have it. Give yourself a check-up. Tell yourself the truth. Prioritize which areas most urgently need to change. Pick a couple of specific and actionable things to do differently. Do NOT pick something in every category or too many things to change because you will most certainly fail. While doing nothing assures that you stay the same, picking too many things to change will create the same result. Make clear commitments for new behaviors or actions. Communicate your commitments to the people that need to hear them so that you can be accountable to someone. This may seem challenging or even scary, but it is simple (even if not always easy)

The only question you need to ask yourself is this: What I am prepared to do differently and consistently in order to improve the health of my life? Let the commitments and changes begin.

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