the balance model : stop “achieving”


I recently saw an executive coach. I wanted to see what job or career path would be suitable for me after this episode of ill health and “insanity”. I anticipated going through industries, jobs, and positions to find one that fitted my personality, my goals, my strengths and my aspirations. I found no job, but instead a reinforced revelation that it is paramount I work on my “balance model”: to put less emphasis on “achievements”, but distribute my time more evenly towards “self”, “social” and “fantasy.”
The first time I met Andrew, my coach, he wanted to talk first about me, my relationships with friends and family. I was a bit taken aback as I thought we were going to talk about my career but I’m learning to keep a much more opened mind and so I followed his course. He asked me how close I was to some of the people I listed as important on my list in a survey I had completed for him prior to our meeting. I wasn’t sure where it was leading. Then he asked again, how I would characterize my friendship with Mook Lo (alias). I said “err, we are best friends from high school and we played basketball together…?” Then as I was prompted, I understood what Andrew was trying to get at.

Although I valued Mook Lo as my forever-best friend, I did not put in the time and effort to continue cultivating the relationship. Of course we saw each other in HK or elsewhere every time I returned for a business trip or holiday, and we went on trips together a few times. But I believe it wasn’t until I got ill that I started to talk to Mook Lo more frequently. And only through talking to her in the last 2 years did I realize she went through an equally tough time, if not more, 2 years ago, to which I was completely oblivious that she was crying herself to sleep every night after the Financial Crisis.

I literally owe my life to her. She was up in Beijing end of 2009, and back then I still didn’t know how sick I was. She wanted to meet up, but I cancelled on short notice, citing drowsiness from my migraine medicine. The next night I was about to cancel again but she trudged her way and barged into my apartment, demanding I talk to her. After a few hours talking, she declared me in “deep sh!t” and that I’d better go see a psychologist again. And since then we talked almost everyday via email or whatsapp or on the phone, even if it may be a simple “hi are you alive today?”. She was the first one I went to after I overdosed on pills and needed help.

And whilst chatting with Andrew, I had a eureka moment about something I probably already knew theoretically – I had spent all my time on achievements and as a result, had less time to cultivate my relationships with people. I must have mentioned previously how much importance I placed on achievements. Indeed, it was perhaps my full force focus for as long as I can remember. Whilst I might know a lot of people, many of them I didn’t have a quality relationship with. I also sacrificed my health obviously.



This reminded me also of the “Balance Model” my shrink discussed with me as we worked our way through cognitive behaviour therapy. Envision 4 quadrants, on each axis we have 2 opposite forces: “Self – Social”, and “Fantasy – Achievements”. Given 100%, I was told to estimate what proportion of my time was spent on the 4 different behaviours:

-“Self” signified anything that had to do with my own well being, health, spiritual, me-time, etc;

-“Social” meant any activity that involved other people, making friends, networking, etc.

-“Fantasy” referred to day dreams, goals, aspirations, whether achievable or not; and

-“Achievements” pertained to those activities that I considered to get me somewhere, be it career, learning a new language or skill.

I placed about 85% on the “Achievement” scale, and some 10% on “Social”. Leaving only about 2% each for “Self” and “Fantasy”. Assuming the Balance Model is one key to achieving a healthy, happy life, then was it so hard for me to predict my own collapse 2 years ago? Maybe if I had taken a step back to look at the whole picture I could have caught myself before tripping myself over.

Theory says that if each quadrant had the same measure of emphasis, one achieves balance. The point really is not to have a strict 25% in each quadrant, but to maintain some sort of equilibrium between the 4 main aspects that make up life, and supposedly makes us happy. Andrew surmised, if my relationships improved, I’d be happier and the rest would follow. I have not proven him right or wrong yet, as I am still working on it, but what he says makes some sense, no?

After all, at the end of our life’s journey, who stands beside us next to our death beds – our family and friends, or our companies and school certificates?

We all have our individual challenges. My challenge now is to improve on everything else but my achievements. In fact, I don’t think I’m ready to go back to the workplace yet anyways. Who wants to work with someone who disappears from the office every now and then for a few days because of migraines? Give me some time to get my health back in the place I’d like it to be. Give me time to achieve a bit more balance in my life before I launch my next “career”.

Till then, would all headhunters please leave me alone.


10 Responses

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about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.