In our January 17 Abortion Healing Provider Webinar, Clinical Strategist Lisa Rowe shared a tool for providers to use with themselves and their clients to create awareness and assess how balanced and satisfied they are with key areas in their life. Lisa explained that greater awareness of what’s going on in our lives leads to a greater ability to make changes or take action steps.

We shared a printable Life Balance Wheel handout for webinar participants, but Lisa emphasized that it’s not necessary to have a special wheel to use. “It’s my favorite thing to do on the back of an envelope or note,” she said. This can be a quick, simple self-check. “It doesn’t need to be a workbook-type activity – you can be in the car, on your patio having coffee,” she said. “Just pull out a sticky note, draw a circle, assess your areas, and check where you are.”

Overview

As a prelude to the exercise, Lisa pointed out that we never see people riding bikes with flat tires. She likened the need for tires to be full of air and not bent, and a wheel functioning smoothing that takes us on a smooth journey, to the Life Balance Wheel assessment. Lisa played a short video clip that illustrated a car driving well on perfectly round tires, then facing a spin and blow out from a broken tire.

“It’s my experience,” Lisa said, “that most of the time there are several areas of life that are firing really strongly, and others that are completely the opposite.” She talked about how it is hard to fire on all cylinders at once and how challenging it is to move forward with broken wheels. This tool helps assess how the important areas of our lives are functioning.

Step 1 – Identify the areas of life that are most important to you

Lisa first walked participants through identifying their own eight most important areas. She mentioned that while it’s common to consider eight areas, some people may identify five key areas, while others have more. These are fine, but she suggested that if someone identifies many areas, they may find it beneficial to combine some into a manageable number.

Some areas important to them that Lisa and participants mentioned: faith, family, friends, relationships, finances, parenting, therapy, self-discovery, recovery, ministry, volunteering, work. Lisa commented that some areas might be temporary, such as moving across the country and doing all that’s necessary for that relocation, or caring for a sick family member. As a person does this exercise regularly or from time to time, the areas of importance can change – some may appear and others disappear, while others are consistently listed.

Then she invited participants to consider how to incorporate this into client care. “When was the last time you asked a client how everything is going,” Lisa asked, “not just in the one area your work focuses on – but holistically.” She addressed how doing this exercise with clients can identify patterns and asked, “How might you add this tool to one of the lessons you teach, ministries you lead, or client care?”

STEP 2 – Evaluate Yourself in Each Area

Mark a dot measuring how you’re doing in each of the eight areas, with zero being “not doing so hot in this area” and five being “firing wonderfully in this area.”

Lisa explained, “This is your personal tool, your client’s own tool. Each person decides on the rating meanings for them. You consider why a 1, what would life look like at a 3 or a 4? The numbers serve as a structure to build our own awareness.”

Lisa encouraged participants to be as honest as possible. “Only you and the paper need to know what’s going on,” she said. ”Be real with yourself. The worst thing we can do right now is lie to ourselves, not listen to what’s really going on.”

Maybe you gave yourself a 4 and you really needed to give yourself a 2. Or maybe the opposite is true – maybe you’re struggling to see that you need to change a 2 to a 4 because you are really making great strides in that area. The only way that we can really get to the root of what’s going on is to get real with ourselves. And this is the same thing for our clients.

Step 3 – IDENTIFY YOUR WHY

Lisa asked participants to jot down the reasons for the ratings they gave themselves.

She offered a few examples:

– Maybe you assigned a 5 to your education category. At this step you write “All A’s, notebook ready, syllabus printed for this semester.” Those are the reasons why you’re performing really high and feel really good about how you’re doing in that category.

– Maybe in the parenting category, you’re struggling, you’re over-committed, and you’re realizing how stressed out you are after school and that you wish you were more available emotionally for your kids. And that’s why you gave yourself a 2.

“Think about how much you could learn from a client in this way,” Lisa said offering examples of questions you could ask clients, such as:

– Why did you give yourself a 2? What’s going on in that area?

– Wow, a five?! Tell me what’s going really well. Maybe that client tells you how well they’re doing in recovery, going to meetings weekly or daily, checking in with their sponsor, doing what they need to do to stay healthy in that space. Then maybe you ask, “Wow. How can you apply that to your finances? Maybe you could use an advocate or mentor in that space.”

Step 4 – Connect the Dots

Trace a line around the circle connecting the dots you placed for your self-assessment in each of the eight areas.

“I’m drawing this awareness out of you, but also so you can help others,” Lisa said. “Be present with what happens when you draw your line, what it feels like to go down with your pen stroke, what it feels like to go up. What happens in your head, your heart, your stomach as you see those dips in your wheel? Or as you see the highlights and strong points in your wheel?”

Lisa then invited participants to share in the chat their thoughts or feelings as they connected their dots. Here are a few of their observations: unbalanced, flat, bumpy, awareness, recognized priorities, improvement, stress, messy, clarity, confusion, confirms my area of anxiety, encouraging, hopeful, challenge, wake-up call, scattered, ouch.

Lisa explained that many people go through life working through their to-do lists or most urgent needs and not stopping to think about what’s really underneath it all, and she noted how that is often a challenge with clients.

“You can’t move to a new location inside of yourself unless you have an understanding of what’s going on,“ Lisa said. “You can’t appreciate what’s going well unless you really have a clear picture of what’s going on. The balance wheel is one tool that draws out that awareness.

Q&A

How can we help clients align their life balance goals?

Start with the conversation. Sometimes we want to jump into the deep end with clients, but maybe they aren’t ready to tell us everything related to their abortion. Maybe they want to talk about their relationship or finances. This holistic tool gives us a place to start the conversation, What’s going on with you? You can use this during your initial intake and regularly.

How can we use the Life Balance Wheel to help clients who have relationship and codependency issues?

“This is an awareness tool that can open them up to a different perspective,” Lisa said. Many times with clients who are codependent, these conversations can be difficult. Using this tool gives objectivity. The conversation might be full of emotion, and won’t be the answer to leaving a toxic relationship, but it might be a safe space to negotiate a discussion. Why do you think your relationship is at a 2? What’s going on in that area? Maybe the client says, “It seems like everyone in my life is always taking from me or stealing from me.” Then you could ask, “How might you move from a 2 to a 5 as a way of cultivating new territory for them.”

NEXT STEPS

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