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Sigmund Freud once suggested that as humans we have three main parts of our lives—work, love, and play. Ideally, our lives should be balanced, with enough work, enough love, and enough play (but not too much of any one area).

For most of us, work involves our job or career. But a lot of us have more work in our lives than just our occupation. Work also might involve chores around the house, parenting duties, and volunteering tasks.

Love involves our relationships with those closest to us. For many of us, love is centered on a relationship with a spouse or partner, children, other family members, and close friends.

Play involves activities that bring us relaxation and pleasure. Maybe you like playing golf, going out to eat, or watching movies. The things that re-charge you and that you find enjoyable fall under this category.

Take stock of where you are at right now. You could even think about a typical day or week in your life. What percentage of your time and energy is spent working? What percentage of your time and energy is spent loving, or investing in your close relationships? What percentage of your time and energy is spent playing and having fun?

In general, I think it’s good to keep our work, love, and play balanced. When you think about your activities in these three areas, maybe you realized that one area is lacking a bit, or perhaps is completely missing from your life. To the extent that one of these areas is lacking, this can cause problems in your life and make you unhappy. You might think about spending some extra time and energy on the area that is lacking, in order to bring your life into a better balance.

Another thing that sometimes happens if one area of our life is lacking, is that we can focus even more on another area to compensate. I have a tendency to do this with my work. If I’m feeling frustrated with dating, or my friendships, I might spend more time at work in order to compensate and fill the gap. This can be a problem—because I’m filling the extra space with work, I might not even realize that my life is out of balance. If you notice this pattern in your own life, it can be helpful to dial back the area you compensate with. At first, there might be some empty space, which can cause anxiety. But if you are willing to sit with that empty space a bit and not rush to compensate for it, you might get a sense of what you need to do in order to shore up the area of your life that is lacking.

Discussion: When you look at your life, do you have a good balance between work, love, and play? Is there an area where you feel you are lacking a bit? Do you compensate by spending a lot of time and energy in a different area?

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