Quick Balance

Check in with yourself when you are out of balance by asking if you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired.

Hungry, angry, lonely and tired are universal human states. Each one of these has it’s own discomfort and unmet need. When that need isn’t recognized, it often spills over into areas where it doesn’t belong.

For example, when tired, the solution is to rest, not to criticize someone else. Or when lonely, the solution is to deal with your need for contact, not to overeat. When hungry, the solution is to eat, not to surf the web or do just one more task. When angry, the solution is to work with the root of the anger itself, not to push it out onto others.

When you go through the HALT checklist, you do everyone around you a favor. The people you live and work with will be relieved when you don’t let your internal discomfort spill onto them.

So when you are out of balance, ask yourself: “Am I…”





Each one of these states has its challenges. The ones that are more emotionally based (loneliness and anger) may have less direct and more complex solutions. The necessary response to hunger and tiredness may be simpler, but responding to the ongoing demand for food and sleep is a lifestyle challenge that can be very complex.

The goal is to respond to each one of these states by keeping them on your radar. You then have the option of responding to the unmet need. As a consequence, can create a happier existence for yourself.

Terry, a professional public speaker, did this for himself when he decided to use the HALT checklist in a focused way when traveling. He found that travel aggravated all 4 states on the checklist. He was often hungry because he didn’t want to eat what was put in front of him. He was tired due to jet lag and not having enough time between scheduled events. He was angry at his schedule and resented being on the road so often. And he was lonely because he missed his wife and 2 year old son who seemed way too self-sufficient without him.

Rather than yell at flight attendants and support staff, make self-deprecating remarks to his wife and drink too much alcohol before bed, Terry decided to engage in better self-care.

He realized he needed to travel less frequently in order to have more time with his family. This meant creating speaking engagements closer to home and taking the daring step of increasing his fees when he traveled. He also took more control of his travel schedule by building in more down time for recovery. He worked with his wife to create a standard “care package” for him when he was on the road. This provided back up food he wanted to eat and some warm fuzzy reminders of home. He decided to limit all alcohol except for an occasional social drink with a client.

The result: he slept better, ate better, felt better and was a much nicer person to be around. An unexpected outcome: his overall manner was much more positive and he was able to successfully command a higher price for his speaking engagements.

The next time you feel irritable, off balance or distressed use the HALT checklist. It will help you identify potentially misplaced needs. When you take responsibility in this way, you have more freedom to create what really supports you.

Action steps

1. Try using the HALT checklist at the end of your day. Ask: “Was I hungry, angry, lonely or tired?”

2. Notice how you act when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired and NOT responding to your basic physical or emotional needs. Write down those behaviors that show up when you aren’t taking care of the unmet needs.

3. Decide to tackle the HALT area where the need is most pressing. Look for a systematic solution to satisfy the pressing need over an extended period of time.

4. After you’ve worked with the HALT checklist for a while, share what you’ve discovered with your best friend. Good friends often see things we don’t. Ask for feedback and ideas.

5. If you’re intrigued by the possibility of better self-care, be sure to check out my free Self-Care Assessment.

6. The HALT checklist is just one facet of responsible self-care and work-life integration. If you’re interested in combining work-life balance with high performance, take a look at my Performance and Balance  training. Or take the Work-Life Effectiveness Assessment. Work and life do not need to be pitted against each other. But work-life choices are hardly ever simple. Both coaching and the above training can help.

7. Subscribe to the Enlightened Edge™ newsletter.

Barbara Bouchet
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