How to Maintain Balance in Life to Ensure Success 

monitor vitals for success
Photo by Jens Mahnke:

Monitoring the most important mental, physical, social and emotional factors in our life helps us to maintain balance and helps us achieve success

What does success look like? Is achievement in life about realising your big goals or maintaining a good work-life balance?

In many ways, success is a bit of both. Certainly, unless we maintain some balance, we will likely undermine our ability to achieve our goals. It is important to remember that the journey to achieving our ambitions is actually as important as the destination itself. Success is daily progress, continual personal growth and character development, as well as hitting our targets. 

“Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be. If we do our best, we are a success.” – Zig Ziglar

So, if we want to achieve success and our life goals, we need something equivalent to work-life balance. The problem with thinking about balance in these terms is that it is purely binary. But work is an aspect of life, not a separate entity, and there are many other aspects of our lives that we should consider when maintaining balance. I found this out the hard way when I burnt out, physically and emotionally. 

The danger of getting out of balance: physical and mental burnout

One day I woke up, but I could hardly move. I felt smothered under a leaden blanket – utterly drained of energy. Trying to sit up induced waves of fatigue making me fight for breath. What was happening? It was as though someone had replaced my body. This faulty one could surely not belong to me. 

I assumed I had some infection, probably the flu. But a day in bed became a week and I was still no better. By the end of the second week, I was getting scared. I had never been ill for this long before. I wondered if I would ever recover. 

“There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” – Jack Welch

But it was not a virus that I was suffering from, it was fatigue. I had burnt out. I was suffering from complete mental and physical exhaustion. Having run my tank to empty, and my body had shut down. I did eventually recover, but it was many weeks before I was close to normal. 

On top of feeling bad physically, I also felt terrible mentally and emotionally. I had not realised how much of my self-worth related to my physical well-being until it was taken away from me. I also felt guilty. Guilty for letting people down at work. Guilty that my wife had to look after me. And guilty that I did not have a ‘proper illness.’ 

And why now? I had been tired before. In my military career, on exercises and operations around the world, I had been frequently tested to the limits of my endurance. But now? My colleagues were my friends, and I was passionate about what I was doing. I lived in a comfortable flat with a loving wife. How could I be so weak as to collapse?

Avoiding burnout by keeping balance

In the aftermath of my burnout, I started to examine my life and the causes of my exhaustion. Medically, I had not developed full-blown chronic fatigue syndrome but my illness had shaken me. Situationally, there was no one moment or big event that tipped the balance. My collapse was the compounded effect of a lifestyle I had been living for several years. 

I realised that I needed to to keep my life in better balance and to do this I would need metrics, like dials on a car, to monitor. I researched what were considered the key things that are needed to keep physically and mentally healthy, and then created my own way of managing my well-being. This became my mental activity monitor.

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” –  Epicurus

Keeping life balance by watching your metrics

When I am ski-touring I rely quite heavily on my watch. That is because it does a lot more than just tell the time. It is also an altimeter and smartwatch which allows me to monitor metrics such as my speed, elevation, and heart rate. When trying to pace myself, high in the mountains, over long distances, the ability to be able to measure my progress is invaluable. Watching the dials gives me the short-term indicators to ensure longer-term success.

That is why, in The Right Questions Framework, the tool we use to monitor our balance and ensure success is the Activity Monitor. This conceptual tool helps to think about the factors that we need to manage in order to stay in good physical and mental health, as well as keeping on track to achieve our goals. 

The Right Questions Balance Tool: The Activity Monitor

The conceptual Activity Monitor is broken down into four major quadrants that each have four further sub-divisions. Each of these sixteen elements can be used as a metric to manage our well-being across various important aspects of life.

This breaks down in the following way:

  • Body
    • Health, fitness
    • Diet, nutrition
    • Sleep, rest
    • Vacation, holiday
  • Heart
    • Emotions, feelings
    • Family, community
    • Friends, network
    • Relationships, romance
  • Mind
    • Career, vocation
    • Money, finance
    • Learning, personal development
    • Safety, security
  • Soul
    • Mindfulness, thankfulness
    • Spirituality, faith
    • Reflection, understanding
    • Fun, recreation

To help make these qualitative factors more quantitative, we can rate how we think we are doing in each area by giving ourselves a score from 1 to 10. 

A higher rating usually means we are doing okay whereas a lower ranking reflects an area where we likely need to take action. A low score is like a dial going into the red that warns us that this area is unsustainable. For example, you might not get the sleep you need one day, but if this continues it is likely to compound into a problem. 

We may have some scores that are middling or not quite as high as we would like. In these cases, we can then assign actions to help improve the rating. We can ask ourselves, what do I need to do to increase this score by one?

The Activity Monitor Balance Questions

To help you think about your rating, here are some questions to help you:


  • Health, fitness
    • How much exercise have I had today/this week? Is it enough?
    • How is my general health? Am I well or sick?
  • Diet, nutrition
    • Am I eating at appropriate times or am I snacking too much?
    • What proportion of my meals would be considered healthy?
  • Sleep, rest
    • Am I getting more than 7 hours of quality sleep at night?
    • Am I watching screens, snacking or drinking alcohol or caffeine just before trying to sleep?
  • Vacation, holiday
    • When is my next day off and how will I protect my recovery time? 
    • When was your last vacation? When should you have your next holiday?


  • Emotions, feelings
    • How do I feel today, am I happy or sad, energised or depressed?
    • How well am I managing my negative emotions such as anger or fear?
  • Family, community
    • Am I spending quality time with my family and loved ones?
    • How well am I connected to my community?
  • Friends, network
    • How well am I maintaining and deepening my friendships?
    • Am I connecting with new individuals and increasing my network with positive people?
  • Relationships, romance
    • How fulfilled do I feel in my relationships?
    • Am I getting quality time with my romantic partner or significant other?


  • Career, vocation
    • How satisfied do I feel in my career at the moment?
    • Am I progressing the way I want to in my work?
  • Money, finance
    • How secure do I feel financially?
    • How worried am I about money?
  • Learning, personal development
    • What are my development goals and how I am progressing?
    • What new thing did I learn today?
  • Safety, security
    • Are threats in my physical environment affecting my thoughts and emotions?
    • Am I fearful about the response of people to what I think, say, or do?


  • Mindfulness, thankfulness
    • How thankful am I, or can I be today?
    • How well am I doing in taking time to find peace and enjoy the moment?
  • Spirituality, faith
    • How well am I acting out what I believe in?
    • Am I prioritising the things I care most about?
  • Reflection, understanding
    • How well am I developing and reaching my potential?
    • How closely am I living to my core values?
  • Fun, recreation
    • How much fun have I had today or this week?
    • How much space do I have for my pastimes and recreation?

Improve your life balance and increase your daily sense of well-being

Monitoring your metrics doesn’t just help you maintain balance; it also gives you a daily sense of well-being. It is satisfying to achieve goals, no matter how small, and the measures on our dashboard allow us to tick off small achievements every day.

For example, today I went for a short walk (reflection and mindfulness), wrote an article (vocation), did some exercise (fitness), and had a healthy lunch (nutrition) while listening to a French podcast (learning). After work, I will have supper with my kids (family), play a game (fun) and then make sure I get to bed on time (sleep). 

So, you can see, when I look at my day I feel good about it. The metrics give me a sense of achievement, even on an ‘ordinary’ day. This in turn increases my sense of well-being and improves my mental health. 

We may not always feel like we are making significant progress towards achieving a big life goal on any single day, but these incremental measures help us. When we look at the smaller things we accomplish, we can be satisfied and appreciate the journey as well as the destination.  

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

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