Lately I find myself engaged in conversations about people’s desire for a more balanced, nourishing, or purposeful life.
With friends, family or even professional colleagues, certain topics keep cropping up: exercise and wellness, yoga (or my friends’ passion for Nia), life/work balance, relationships that nourish, meaningful work. On the flip side: frustrations with dispiriting, soul-sucking jobs, heartless employers, broken promises, not enough “quality time” for family relationships and so on.
Based on my circle of friends and colleagues, wellness and life balance, or the lack thereof, are now top-of-mind. Like many Boomers in that regard.
We actively seek options, try out new possibilities, and explore self-help resources. Fueled with the best of intentions, we take steps toward getting our lives back in order. Book clubs, diets, gym memberships, yoga classes. We start with a burst of enthusiasm, keep our new commitments for a while, and then…
…Inertia sets in. Our good intentions fall by the wayside, buried under the pressures of overly scheduled lives, too much work-related travel, or the latest work or family crisis.
How can we get ourselves out of this predictable rut?
Are There Any Useful but Likable Resources?
One promising option is an online service called Mindbloom. Mindbloom, say its developers, is “an online wellness-centric life game.” Quite a mouthful…
To me it’s a “promise keeper” — a way to manage personal commitments, the actions “I should” or “ought to” take. It keeps me focused on tasks I often postpone or overlook, things that tend to remain on to-do lists indefinitely.
Mindbloom offers a useful but playful way to set good intentions, stay on top of your commitments, and follow through on your promises. It also helps you identify the parts of your life that need more attention to be paid. I’ve been using it since December, at the urging of colleagues who know the founders (it’s a local Seattle company).
My feelings about it are mixed, but I like it well enough to talk about it to friends and explore how they might use it.
How It Works
Mindbloom is an inexpensive online service that lets you manage key dimensions of life by yourself, or with the help of trusted friends, family members, personal coaches, etc.
The interface is playful, easy to learn, and not too time-consuming. It incorporates “game mechanics” if you prefer external motivation to reinforce self-discipline while getting your life back in balance.
Using trees and colors as a visual metaphor, Mindbloom helps you visualize goals and objectives, group related activities into a branch, and plan how and when to take action on your intentions. If you’re diligent about tending your tree, you earn the right to change the landscape and other aspects of your environment (like what you hear when you’re tending the tree).
Branches are an organizing principle; each branch represents an aspect of life, such as “relationships,” “health,” “money” or “career.” You decide which branches and how many leaves you want on each branch.
Each leaf’s color reveals how well you’re managing this aspect of life. Healthy, well-managed leaves are green and vibrant. By contrast, neglected ones turn yellow and then shades of brown.
When things are seriously out of whack, your leaves turn red. This can happen when you skip too many intentions, or don’t pay enough attention to an aspect of your life that you’ve chosen to manage with Mindbloom’s help. Clearly, Mindbloom’s developers want to dramatize the fact that this aspect of your life appears to be out of balance.
Alone or Together
So far I’m using Mindbloom as a solo endeavor (perhaps a reflection of a New England upbringing). Mindbloom has been designed, however, to encourage people to work together. The developers have incorporated a number of “social” hooks so multiple trees can be managed within a family or network of friends.
Some of my friends are chatting about adapting the ideas they like best from the Weight Watchers program to share with each other via Mindbloom. (Apparently, they’ve had uninspiring Weight Watchers coaches, so this “social” approach seems more attractive.)
Mindbloom’s founders have learned that professional life and wellness coaches are intrigued by Mindbloom’s possibilities. These coaches are envisioning how they could graft their frameworks onto a Mindbloom context so they can facilitate online interactions with their clients.
What I’ve Learned So Far
There’s an art to designing and structuring your tree: deciding what to tackle with Mindbloom, and what to manage with other approaches.
I’m still working out the kinks of what to manage with Mindbloom’s help, and what to tackle elsewhere. It’s easy to end up with an unhealthy tree if you choose too many or the wrong things to manage.
With my tree, I chose to manage goals and objectives like:
- To-do items that are captured on PostIt notes, but disappear before they’re acted on — things like scheduling a medical appointment for preventive care or routine maintenance for my car;
- Ideas that lurk in the back of my mind, often tinged with guilt or anxiety, but rarely set down on paper — like “lose # pounds this summer”;
- Things I intend to do daily, but may skip when feeling lazy or pressed for time (flossing, going for a walk, meditating, etc.);
- Things like phoning parents or friends on a regular basis, making time to meet colleagues over lunch — just to “catch up.”
For now my tree is very simple, with just the “leaves” that most need attention, so I can tend it with just a few minutes of effort each day.
Things to Avoid, Lessons Learned
At first I intermixed professional and personal intentions within my Mindbloom tree; however, I discovered it’s better to keep Mindbloom centered on key aspects of my personal life.
When it comes to managing work or career intentions, I already have effective systems and tools for those purposes. Adding those goals and objectives (and date commitments) into Mindbloom became duplicative, and therefore easily neglected. Inadvertently this made my Mindbloom tree appear sicker than it actually was.
My take: For commitments you already manage effectively with Outlook, a GTD system, online to-do lists, etc., there’s no point in duplicating your effort with Mindbloom.
Having said that, the parts of your life that don’t lend themselves neatly to PostIt notes, Outlook reminders, iPhone to-d0 lists, etc., are good candidates for Mindbloom.
It’s also wise to avoid setting up leaves for activities that are really being managed by someone other than yourself. For example, I pay the bills and manage household finances; my husband manages our investments. When I made the mistake of defining investment-related leaves, they quickly turned yellow and became sickly. Due to that role mismatch, those leaves needed to be “pruned” and removed from my tree.
There are things about the UI or the way you “schedule” intentions that I find annoying or awkward. But I won’t list them here as I’ll be providing feedback directly to the developers.
Net net. If you’re looking for a way to get your life back in balance, take a look at Mindbloom. Perhaps it can help you focus on the areas that most need attention, or that would bring the greatest joy to you, your family and friends.