Table of Stable Growth: Ratings and Action
During the first Table lesson, we introduced this useful metaphor and gave you a way to conceptualize the different aspects of your life so that you can maintain awareness of them—and note their balance. We gave you the goods, then we let them marinate for a bit so that you could play with the ideas on your own, and now we are going to go in-depth on using the table to balance your life out. We’ll do that with a useful fable. So, hypothetically, there’s this guy named Harry. Ok, there are lots of guys in the world named Harry, but this one isn’t real…he’s my illustrative tool. But I think you’ll identify with him. Harry’s a personal trainer (see, told you) in a bigger-ish city, or suburb type place. The guy’s got a pretty good gig—he has a solid book of business and he enjoys working with the clients that he has. But that’s pretty much all he does. He works with his clients, he finds a little time to work out, and he lives and breathes “training talk.” His girlfriend, Harrietta, an advertising rep, however, doesn’t live and breathe training. She likes to work out, but, goddamn it, sometimes she just wants to hang out and not hear another deadlift state of the union address. They don’t do as much socially as she’d like to, and she’d like to spend some focused time together without Harry reading another blog about some new sphincter exercise that’s all the rage with the kids. She’s not having that much fun right now—and she notices that Harry really isn’t either. He’s wound tighter than an eight-day clock—only he doesn’t exactly realize it yet. So, one day Harrietta has a hard conversation with Harry and brings some of these things to his attention. At first, Harry is resistant and thinks that Harrietta is just upset because they aren’t spending the time together that she’d like, but then she lands some salient points that make Harry think about his life. And he’s like, “Shit.” He realizes he’s becoming one of those out-of-balance ding-a-lings that only thinks, and talks, about training. He’s becoming a bore. Even worse, he realizes he’s on the path to burnout if he doesn’t balance his life out. And he’s going to lose Henrietta. But he honestly isn’t sure how to take stock of everything. One of Harry’s buddies from work, Yasmine, a chick that seems to really have her shit together, listens to Harry about his dilemma. First, she agrees with Harrietta and says, “Dude, yes, you were starting to bore the shit out of me. Thank fucking God Harrietta gave you the business. There were like three weeks in a row when I sincerely wanted to punch your throat.” Then she moved on to something a bit more constructive. She introduced Harry to the Table of Stable Growth, giving him the goods on the table, the legs, and the bolts. Harry liked the idea, and totally saw how it could be useful in helping him gain some balance in his life, but he needed a little more guidance on how to get started. Yasmine walked Harry’s ass through it. How Do I Rate Myself and What Do I Do About It? “So, how do I work this rating stuff? I get that I need to keep the legs balanced, but how do I rate myself on each leg of the table?” Harry asked. “Well, have a look at the bolts. Each leg has different bolts that attach it to the table. In real life, these are the actions that keep each part of your life in balance. If you’re acting on a lot of those bolts, then that table leg is pretty strong. But if you aren’t really acting on any of them, well, then you have a wobbly leg. You can also look at the bolts subjectively. If you don’t think that all of the bolts apply to you, or that the list is missing some that do, you can add or subtract. The key is to have at least a few bolts that sturdy that leg. The rating is really about you having a look at each aspect of your life and being honest with yourself about it.” Yasmine guided Harry. Harry had a look at the bolts of each leg and rated each leg from one to five. His professional development leg got a five, personal development got a two, physical development got a three, and his enrichment leg got a very disappointing one. Harry did a good job being honest with himself—he wasn’t sure he could do that. He felt kind of proud of himself. Ok, What Do I Do with these Ratings? “Alright, so I have these ratings. I’m definitely skewed toward professional life. That’s no big surprise, but I didn’t realize how little I was doing to have fun. I can see why Harrietta is pissed at me. So, now what do I do?” “Cool, well it’s good that you rated yourself honestly and that you’re seeing why Harrietta is thinking the way that she is. Now, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions and get some honest answers before you write out a plan to balance your table. “The first question is: do you have an overarching purpose right now? Is there something that’s your biggest why, your biggest “so that…” something that you’re trying to currently do, achieve, or that you’re motivated by that is more important than everything else in your life? I guess the simplest way to say it is what’s most important to you right now?” Yasmine hit Harry right in the good and plenty with that question. Harry sat back in his chair and thought for a second before leaning forward again and staring at the notebook he was writing in, lifting his pen to write a few times before putting it back down. Yasmine watched Harry working hard to answer the question. “The reason I ask,” Yasmine started in again, “is because your biggest aim, or what’s most important to you, is going to help you set your priorities in order. If you can get it out of your head so that you can realize it, then you can start to make real decisions about balancing your table—or whether or not it can be totally balanced right now.” Harry listened intently and nodded as Yasmine finished, looking back at his notebook. “It’s to grow my career now so that my life’s more stable in the future. I think that’s my overarching purpose right now. I don’t know that I totally thought of it that way, but now that I’ve taken a minute to stop and look at myself, that’s definitely it. And that’s definitely the way I’ve been acting,” Harry said as he wrote in his notebook. “Ok, cool! That’s a great realization. And I totally get that. You’re twenty-six, right? Yeah, so perfect time to focus in and build your career. Can I ask you something, though? Do you think it has to come at the expense of every other part of your life?” Yasmine asked sincerely “I mean it definitely has to come at the expense of some parts of my life, right? Like, I can’t be hyper focused in every area of my life. But I get what you’re saying. I can’t totally depend on one leg to hold my table up. So, what should I do?” Harry asked his wiser, older friend. “Well, I think it’s as simple as looking at the rest of your table and thinking about what you need in relation to your work. What do you want in your life? And what’s going to keep you balanced enough so that you don’t go out of your fucking mind with all this work. I didn’t really think about that when I was your age and I burnt myself out for a while. And I lost a boyfriend that I was crazy about, and I was an anxious mess. So, think about those things that you really want right now that are going to help you be in a better place in the future, and also those things that you need so that you don’t burn yourself to the ground.” “Well, I definitely don’t want to lose Harrietta that I’ve ever met that doesn’t care about my genital warts.” Harry began. “Yeah, Harry, I don’t know that I needed to know that,” Yasmine said, disgustedly. “I’m just fucking with you, I don’t have genital warts. I have herpes.” Harry joked again. “Jesus Christ, can we just move on,” Yasmine laughed. “Ok, so seriously, I feel like she’s the one and I don’t want to lose her.” “Cool, so she’s a big priority, too. What legs of the table do you think you need to work on to make sure she hangs around and doesn’t dump you and your diseased ridden penis?” Yasmine kept a straight face. “Probably Personal Development and Enrichment.” Harry shot back quickly. “Ok, cool, why?” Yasmine asked. “Well, I think this Table work has pointed out that I’m not as self-aware as I need to be and that keeps me from being able to understand when I’m not being who I need to be for our relationship—so I need to develop personally there. And then Enrichment so we are just having some fun together again,” Harry said sincerely. “That’s awesome, my friend,” Yasmine smiled. “Ok, so we know that developing professionally so that you have a stable career is number one, but maintaining your relationship with Harrietta is also a big priority, and you need to work on your Personal Development and Enrichment to maintain your relationship. What do you want to do about it?” Yasmine asked seriously. “Well, I don’t rightly know, ma’am,” Harry replied in a terrible British accent. “That’s fun. You sound like my Aunt Myrtle trying to talk like a Canadian. Really bad, Harry. Ok, so I can tell you what’s helped me. I gave my Table goals structure based on my priorities. I set them up by quarter of the year, keeping in mind my current overarching purpose and the other legs I need to keep in balance. Let’s do that for you,” Yasmine slide her chair beside Harry’s so they could both look at his notebook. Goals and Action “Ok, so we know what aspects of your life need the most attention right now—your work, your personal development, and your relationship with Harrietta. But, we can’t totally ignore your physical development, too, or your body’s going to crap out on you. So, in your notebook, jot down each Leg of the Table, giving yourself enough space to write underneath them. Now, let’s think of some goals over the next quarter that line up with your priorities. What do you want to achieve over the next few months Professionally, Personally, Physically, and with Enrichment?” Yasmine asked, turning to Harry. After some deliberation, Harry decided that he’d like to: Get two new clients per month while also getting published four times on major training blogs. He’s going to give Harrietta a completely devoted one-hour of his time every day and reserve Friday nights just for her and date night. He’s going to start a gratitude journal and write in at least three times per week, noting the good things in his life but also giving himself room to think critically about his behavior. He’s going to do some kind of lifting three times per week to maintain himself physically. Harry committed to doing these things over the next few months of his life and took action. And, at the end of the three months, his career was in a better place, and so was his relationship with Harrietta. His self-awareness grew and he had a better outlook on life. And maintaining his training gave him the stress relief he needed while also helping him maintain a healthy self-image. Let’s leave Harry and Yasmine for a bit and break down what they did. This is the process of their deliberation. Finding the Overarching Purpose and Setting Priorities What’s the biggest aim right now, or for the foreseeable future? That’s the question that got Harry started on ordering himself. It allowed him to take stock of his actions and realize that his career is really the most important thing right now, with maintaining his relationship with Harrietta coming in just under that. Once Harry realized his biggest priorities, he could set other priorities in succession and prepare to plan for action. It’s the question that we all have to start with. Setting Goals for Each Leg Harry knew from finding his overarching purpose that there was no way his Table would be totally balanced right now—but he could keep it from completely leaning to one side and throwing his life out of balance. So, Yasmine helped him look at all of the Legs and at least get something manageable on the board for each one based on Harry’s priorities. They started with a manageable time frame. Harry’s life wasn’t formed enough, and he hadn’t had enough practice at this type of life management, to project out for a year, so they decided to stick with quarterly goals. Each quarterly goal was broken down into simple actions—with his highest priorities getting the bulk of the actions from day to day and week to week. Yasmine also helped Harry think about his goals in steps using the Levels to Achievement format, and it made the progression of each goal simpler. He could act one level at a time to achieve his quarterly goals. His biggest priorities got more Level attention—leveling out three levels for each. The lower priority, training, only got one level because he really only wanted to be consistent, not achieve anything performance or outcome based. Even though we lean heavy on our priorities, we need some kind of aim for each Leg. Total balance isn’t likely achievable, or totally desirable, but complete disregard for one or two aspects of life is a great way to tip the Table over and knock everything off of it. What Are The Things I Could Do? To get all of the possibilities out of Harry’s head, he and Yasmine used a technique called 5/3/First—a process of listing and prioritizing action made popular by the folks at Habitry. Yasmine and Harry listed five things that he could do for each Leg goal and Level. Then they narrowed it down to three actions that seemed like better places to start from right now. Then they chose the one thing that he’d start with—keeping in mind that all of the other options didn’t go away just because he choice that one thing to start with. Give Oneself Choice One part of Harry and Yasmine’s chat that wasn’t mentioned is Harry’s tendency to act like a tyrant toward himself. He tries to force himself to do things and ultimately he rebels—causing him to avoid the things he feels like he should be doing with some kind of personal revolt. Yasmine talked to Harry about self-choice and talking to oneself rather than trying to cajole oneself into acting. We don’t want to feel like our autonomy is taken from us—even if we are trying to do it to ourselves. So, instead of beating himself up and trying to force himself to do things, Yasmine gave Harry some advice to ask himself what he’s really willing to do right now. She told him to remind himself that it’s all a choice, then ask himself what am I willing to do right now, and then start with that thing. It was a freeing thought process for Harry. Sometimes we can think bigger, see the whole picture and get the moving parts going together. Sometimes we need to shrink things down and ask ourselves what we are willing to do right now, and what we can do, and then do that just to keep forward momentum going. An Actionable Recap Ok, so here are the things that Yasmine and Harry taught us to do, and that you can take action on right now to manage your Table and your life:
- Find your overarching purpose right now. Do this by paying attention to your behavior and what your actions are telling you about what’s most important to you. Set your Table priorities based on that.
- Consider time frame for Table goals. Are you in the place right now to project out over the course of a year or years, or do you need to focus a little smaller and project out for a quarter? Set a time frame.
- Set goals for each leg. Use your priorities and set goals for each leg…using the level system where appropriate to create action steps toward achievement.
- Use the tools. Use the tools from this story/lesson to help you get it all done. And remember, it’s all practice. Just keep swinging.