Off Balance

"People want to live deeply satisfying lives both professionally and personally."

- Off Balance, Introduction

New York Times bestselling author Matthew Kelly gives us much to think about in his new book Off Balance. From the beginning, and all the way through, Kelly challenges us with questions, tools and techniques that encourage us to go deep into what it is we want from our lives.

If you are like many – myself included – who are running around trying to achieve that nirvana of work-life balance then this book is a must-read. With fact-based research he turns this notion – that what we really want is work-life balance – on its head. Truth is, when given the choice, what we really want is satisfaction, not balance.

The true beauty of this book is that the author asks that we not hold ourselves hostage to a quick-fix. With old habits to break and new ones to incorporate he recommends to “give yourself a decade.” Permanent, positive and inspiring change does not happen overnight.

So, with a few practical and simple tools and techniques, as well as a few examples from his own life, Matthew Kelly provides a step-by-step process, one that will guide you on a path to an achievable strategy, one that will ultimately change your life.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Clarity Through Dissatisfaction

"You can stumble into a moderately satisfying life, but to sustain and increase that satisfaction requires a strategic approach and some real work."
- Off Balance, page 8

We all live our lives differently. Some of us live our lives randomly and without much thought, while others stick closely to a plan, one that guides their choices. The problem with both is when “the plan” stops working and we begin to feel like we are not accomplishing anything in our lives.

All of us have had the unfortunate feeling (typically after a day of running around) that we did not get to one thing on our to-do list. What we fail to realize, and what Matthew Kelly highlights throughout his book, is that our lives are a product of our choices. That if we do not pay attention to the choices we make, then we could end up exactly where we do not want to be, in a life filled with dissatisfaction.

Matthew Kelly encourages us to get in touch with our dissatisfaction. By getting clear on what we do not want, we are able to achieve clarity on the things we do want. And filling our life with the things that we do want can only bring more personal and professional satisfaction in to our lives.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The Power of Priority

" can experience incredible levels of satisfaction both personally and professionally if you take the time to work out what matters most to you."
- Off Balance, page 81

Learning to make good choices is one of the critical factors to uncovering what it is that brings us the most satisfaction. The other is to figure out what matters most to us.

In an inspiring speech given by a senior executive, and shared by the author, we are told how one man almost lost everything because he had not figured out what mattered most in his life. So to get his life back on track he decided to make a “priority list,” a list that outlined exactly what it was in his life that gave him the most satisfaction. After much thought, consideration and elimination, he had five things on his list, five priority items that never wavered, no matter what urgent matter happened to him.

Matthew Kelly was so inspired by this man’s approach to priority management that he developed his own priority list. Then wanting to share it, he created a systematic approach that will help you develop your own priority list. Once completed, this list will give you a quick check list so you are not “kidnapped by the urgent” details of our daily lives. You will only give attention and energy to those things that move you toward a life of personal and professional satisfaction.

You can start with the simple (but not necessarily easy!) task of building your own priority list.  For bonus points, see if you can limit your priority list to 5 items.  Could you get it to 3?

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

What's Bothering You?

"You need a system that will drive satisfaction in your life twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year."
- Off Balance, page 105

Building further on what it takes to have a life filled with personal and professional satisfaction, Matthew Kelly shares his systematic approach to getting what we want for our lives.

There are five steps to the process, each one as important as the other: “(1) Assessment, (2) Priorities, (3) Core Habits, (4) Weekly Strategy Session, and (5) Quarterly Review.” Throughout the process, each step requires you to take a broader view of your life.

To make it a little less intimidating, Kelly provides specific examples and exercises to help deliver a system that will work best for you in your life and deliver overwhelming personal and professional satisfaction. Evidence has already shown that for the people who remain faithful to the process this will work, it will change your life.

The best of us have proper review sessions baked into our lives; weekly, monthly, quarterly and/or annually.  January is such a good time of year to establish new habits (and to reclaim lapsed habits!) – could you build review periods into your calendar?


The true beauty behind Off Balance is that the author does not offer a quick-fix which, for the most part, rarely work anyway. Instead, Kelly recommends to “give yourself a decade;” yes, you read that correctly, a decade to attain permanent and positive change in your life. With such powerful things happening, we should not be in a hurry.  But we do need to acknowledge that the first step on that 10 year journey starts today.  Small changes, over time, mean big results.

Besides, if we are to believe the wisdom of the ages, the truth lies in the journey not the destination. I will bet Matthew Kelly would agree.

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Karen Windsor

ABOUT Karen Windsor

At WINDSORCommunications, Karen Windsor helps people and organizations plan and write their authentic story. A writer, strategist and creative thinker, Karen’s success is in helping clients determine what their authentic goals are for the organization, then bringing them brilliantly to life in all facets of their communication...
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