The 5 Roles Principle

One Simple Piece of Advice to Help You Find Life Balance

life balance

It’s no secret that the post-college graduation years can be a downright tough era to handle. When you think about it, for this moment in time, every aspect of our lives seems to be a paradox.
  • We are young but we are expected to be mature adults.
  • We are starting our careers yet we’re expected prove ourselves good enough to climb to the top.
  • We are figuring out who we are and want to be yet we are expected to be in serious relationships.
The list of puzzles we are posed with ranges across every aspect of our young adult lives from personal questions, to professional challenges, to relationship hurdles. Speaking from firsthand experience, I know that trying to keep a sense of balance can nearly feel impossible at times.
Juggling the many roles we are expected to play while maintaining our priorities, not to mention our sanity, is no easy feat. We want to prove to ourselves, and to the world, that we can take on more responsibility and be successful. Yet, in doing so, we often end up with too much on our plates and things begin to spin out of control.
Personally, this is something that I’ve been struggling to master since I graduated two and a half years ago. It seems like I’m always trying to find the right balance between pushing myself forward and taking on too much. There is a constant struggle to keep the important things thriving while not letting the unimportant things take over.
Admittedly, I can’t come to you with the answers for how to make sense of it all. Instead what I am offering up is some great advice that I have found very valuable—the 5 Roles Principle.
The 5 roles principle
I was first introduced to the 5 roles principle through a work training on work-life balance. However, I believe the idea is applicable to any sort of balance you wish to seek in your life.
The principle, which originated from ancient Buddhist teachings, says that each person is only capable of playing 5 roles well in their life: 5 and no more.
Here is my personal example: I have a role as young career professional, a girlfriend, a daughter, a blogger, and a runner.
I could add 20 more roles to that list (friend, roommate, cousin, alumni, etc.). However, the point is that in order to be successful at things in life that matter,  you can only take on 5 roles at a time. Any more and you’ll start to falter in those important areas. Thus, every time you add one role, you need to take one off.
How to Apply this Principle
My advice is to write down all of the roles that you feel you play. Then, go through the list and pick the 5 that are the most important to you. Once you’ve completed that task, look at your list and ask yourself if the 5 things you’ve selected are the 5 roles you’re truly playing.  Be honest with yourself. If your lists don’t match up, challenge yourself to think about what you can do to get them to be the same.
Why this Works
The reason that I like this exercise is that it is simple and straightforward advice. It pushes you to think about the things in life that matter the most to you, to prioritize them, and to not lose sight of them. Your 5 roles can, and will, fluctuate over time but you should always have a clear vision of what they are.
Anytime the things that are important to you fall out of the roles that you are playing, step back and reassess the responsibilities you’ve assigned yourself. By doing this exercise regularly, you should find that you are growing better at the things that matter, stressing less about the things that don’t, and living a happier more balanced life.
I hope you find this advice helpful and would love to hear any advice of yours you have to share!
Superbly Single,


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