Before you can improve your life, you need to how you’re doing.
That’s why it’s important to give yourself the opportunity to pause and reflect on the things that spark joy in your life and the things that make you miserable.
Whether you’re looking for answers in your personal life or your career, it all begins with the commitment to make changes.
Life audit: why, what, and how
At its core, a life audit is just a way to check in with yourself. Some call it a “spring cleaning for the soul,” but strip away the metaphor and what you have is a simple exercise in self-reflection.
The goal of a life audit is to take stock of where you’re headed, what you’re doing with your life, and how that compares with your ultimate goals and dreams.
Everyone can benefit from a life audit because it just so happens that life tends to get in the way of living. And since it’s not as complicated as it sounds, it really can’t hurt to stop and look inward.
Ready to do some soul-searching? Then let’s begin at the beginning.
Life areas to audit
One of the most popular ways to carry out a life audit involves 100 Post-its (or more if you’re particularly ambitious).
It’s a straightforward process — write one goal, wish, or dream on a Post-it, and repeat until you reach 100 Post-its or completely run out of goals. Approach this exercise with an open mind and don’t feel like you have to write down things that should be important to you (for instance, getting married or buying a house) but maybe aren’t — the whole point of a life audit is to uncover the themes and values that truly light your fire.
As you begin putting your aspirations down on paper, you’ll quickly notice that they naturally fall into different categories: professional, personal, and creative.
This is already good, but you should go further and break them down into smaller subcategories according to themes, such as
Classifying each goal under a particular category will help you get a clear 360-degree view of your life’s priorities and determine where your energy and time should be spent.
How to perform a life audit
The Post-it note method is not the only way to do a life audit. There are several other highly effective and slightly more “scientific” processes that can help you gauge the balance between your dreams and reality, including the Wheel of Life and A Questionnaire for Self.
Here’s how they work.
1. Collect data
The Wheel of Life is a visual tool that brings a lot of clarity to the self-reflection process, helping you instantly identify which areas of your life need attention.
Each color of the wheel represents a different area of life (or subcategory), while the concentric circles indicate satisfaction levels from 0 to 10 (with 10 being a top mark).
You can either print out a copy of the Wheel of Life or create your own to reflect the areas that matter most to you. Then mark your satisfaction level in each area to see where you stand.
As the name A Questionnaire for Self suggests, this method involves filling out a form that comprises multiple questions about your satisfaction levels in various areas of life. The questions could be anything from “How happy am I with my job?” to “Do I feel connected to my friends?”
It’s completely up to you which questions you want to pursue.
2. Organize your data
Once you have an honest chat with yourself and collect the necessary data, the next step is to organize that data into a spectrum of satisfaction. While nothing is perfect, those areas of your life that you’re pretty content about can be set aside for the future.
Try organizing your data into clearly defined, simple clusters, such as “happy” and “unhappy” or “great,” “could be better,” and “sucks” — whatever speaks to you. The goal here is to get a bird’s-eye view of your day-to-day realities and inform the next steps.
3. Identify your pain points
Determining your current level in life will help you clarify what you want from the future. For instance, if you realize that your job is causing you a great deal of unhappiness, you can work on developing an action plan to tackle that particular pain.
Often, one deep pain point can be the cause of overall dissatisfaction with life, and a life audit is just what you need to prompt yourself into action.
4. Define your metrics
Identifying your weak points and setting goals is great, but how are you going to measure the progress you’re making?
That’s where metrics come in.
Taking the time to think through and determine the metrics you’ll use to measure how well you’re doing in your chosen life area is key. Whether you’re measuring your weight, hours spent pursuing a hobby, the number of times you smile per day, or anything else — setting a benchmark metric is the best way to assess your progress.
5. Set priorities
It’s common for a life audit to uncover more than one area that needs transforming. Focusing on all of them at once is not a good idea.
Make sure you prioritize and work your way through a list of planned actions rather than trying to tackle all problems in one breath. In some cases, if your goals are similar or require a similar action plan, you can try to match them up.
For instance, if you want to lose weight and start volunteering, you can craft a plan that addresses both goals at the same time — walking shelter dogs or running a marathon for charity. Be creative but aware of your own limits — it’s better to move slowly and steadily than burn out two months down the line.
Questions to ask
Taking a life audit is not just another list of things to do — it’s a way to put your life into perspective, avoid making the same mistakes, and find happiness.
This means making time for the big life questions and some serious emotional and mental sorting out.
But what could you ask yourself?
Here’s a handy list that you can make your own:
- How am I feeling? What is my dominant emotion (excited, tired, lonely, etc.)?
- What excites me, and how can I get more of that in my life?
- Do I make the most of my free time?
- Am I happy with my physical shape?
- Am I happy with my mental state?
- What would I do if I had more money?
- What do I regret and why?
- What am I grateful for and why?
- What scares me and why?
- Do I challenge myself? What achievements am I most proud of?
- What material things do I need to be happy (e.g., owning a home)?
- How am I contributing to my community, family, circle of friends?
- What are my biggest strengths and best qualities? What are my weaknesses?
- Why haven’t I achieved the goals that I’ve previously set for myself?
- If I could wake up tomorrow and do anything, what would that be?
These questions are designed to stop you in your tracks and make you think. They shouldn’t be taken lightly and can only provide value if answered honestly. Give yourself time to ponder and really figure out what you want from life.
As Elvis Presley famously said, “Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ’em all over everything you do.”
Defining your personal values will help you understand what’s important to you and where your focus should be.
How should you go about doing that?
Think back to the times when you felt really good about and confident in the choices you were making. These could be examples from your professional or personal life, as long as they shed light on the values that contribute to your happiness.
Based on those experiences, you can then determine the values that make you who you are. It’s best to aim for no more than 10 different values.
Taking the next step
Once you have completed the audit, you’ll have a solid idea of what’s happening in your life and why. And that’s exactly what you need to plan the next steps.
Let’s imagine for a second that your life audit has revealed that you’re at your happiest when engaging in activities like playing board games with friends and family and working on personal projects, such as journaling, preparing for a marathon, or baking, while your unhappiness stems from a toxic relationship with work colleagues. This makes for a pretty straightforward action plan — commit to finding a new job that brings you joy and make more time for the activities that fuel your inner fire.
Life is simple if we don’t make it complicated.
Focus on decluttering: stripping away what doesn’t add any value and spending your energy and time on things that make the biggest impact on your mental and physical well-being. And continue to reflect on your choices and decisions as you grow personally and professionally throughout your life.