The 10 Domains of Life

 

Listen, I want to start this off by being really clear about something. In my opinion, every single life is a life worth living, no matter how we might feel about the way we’re currently living it. Maybe, as you read this, you feel completely stuck in your old behaviour patterns that are really difficult for you to get away from. You might even be thinking that it's an impossible task to change the way you're currently doing things. If that’s the case, don’t worry, it’s totally fine, you are exactly where you need to be. Why? Because you literally can’t be anywhere else than you currently are, so let's begin with acceptance. When we want to make changes, we first have to accept where we are. From that point, we can decide where we want to be so we can take deliberate actions to get there.

For me, accepting that my life was in a place that definitely wasn’t where I wanted it to be was the springboard for making changes. Before I could actually make those changes, I needed to know what areas of life were important for me to make those changes in. Where did I want to focus my attention? What was important for me to work on? Living the Life I Want to Live, is all about living a life with purpose and meaning. It’s about lining up with your true core values and beliefs. We will only be motivated to take the actions that are needed to create that purpose and meaning if we are taking these actions in areas of life that are important for us.

At the same time, keep in mind, nobody has the right to tell you what should, or shouldn’t be important to you. This was a concept that took me a while to get my head around. I get to choose what’s important to me, just like you get to choose what’s important to you. Once we know what it is that’s actually important to us, we can use our understanding of the Five Core Values to figure out what our true authentic core beliefs are. Then we use this information to guide the way we live our lives. This understanding is essential in any type of self analysis for behaviour change, but particularly in a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy approach.


"When this analysis is done mindfully, nonjudgmentally, and with self-compassion, it establishes a connection with the parts of our personality that are activated when trying to live the life we want to live, parts that are usually stuck in a state of fear about what it means to do the things we are trying to do."

~Steven Morris RP.


From a DBT perspective, we are not looking to judge our choices as good or bad, right or wrong. We are simply analysing whether they are effective or ineffective for Living the Life I want to Live. When practicing Self Analysis, we ask the simple question, are the things I’m doing, the decisions that I’m making, and the actions that I’m taking, lining up with my true Core Values and Beliefs in the areas of life that are important for me? If they are not, then we get curious, not judgemental, about the reasons, and the stories that are keeping me stuck in a behaviour pattern that's simply not an effective thing to do.

So, what are these 10 different areas of life that I need to be aware of, and how do I establish which ones are important for me? Let's start with what they are. The following is a list of the 10 Domains of Life from which we get to choose what’s import to us.

 

Marriage, Partnerships, and Intimate Relationships.

Parenting.

Family Relations (Other Than Intimate Relations and Parenting).

Friendship And Social Relations.

Career and employment.

Education/Training/Personal Growth and Development.

Recreation and Lesure.

Spirituality.

Citizenship and Community.

General Health & Physical Wellbeing.

 

Obviously, this list is in no particular order and remember, you are assessing each domain’s level of importance as it is for you right now!  This can, and definitely will change as your life evolves. The importance that each domain holds for you is extremely unique, and fluid by nature. For example, right now, as I write this, I am developing a new business and working on building a private practice. It makes sense that career and employment are high on my level of importance. Over time, as my life changes, these areas will no longer hold as much significance, and other domains will overtake them in importance for me.

This is the case for all the domains, as they can shift and move throughout our lifespan. I suggest completing this exercise every 6 months so that you can evaluate your life, see how you’re living according to your values and beliefs, and make the necessary adjustments in behaviour to bring things in line with the direction you want your life to go. Take some time to work through the exercise attached to the PDF at the bottom of this page. It is central to the work of behaviour change that we understand what’s important to us in the way we're living our lives. Completing this exercise gives us direction moving forward, in that, each week, we choose an area of life that we want to work on, as well as a specific value that we want to practice living that week. Then, we take definitive actions to live this way, and analyze what comes up internally when we take the actions we want to take.  


"Building awareness for these stories, and the impact they have on our system opens the doorway to the possibility for individual change, and Unconditional Self-Acceptance, which is the ultimate goal we are all attempting to achieve by doing this work."

 
~Steven Morris RP.

When this analysis is done mindfully, nonjudgmentally, and with self-compassion, it establishes a connection with the parts of our personality that are activated when trying to live the life we want to live, parts that are usually stuck in a state of fear about what it means to do the things we are trying to do. This fear is often generated by the many different Schema we've developed as a result of our unmet childhood needs, and building awareness for these stories, and the impact they have on our system opens the doorway to the possibility for individual change, and Unconditional Self-Acceptance, which is the ultimate goal we are all attempting to achieve by doing this work.

In the PDF, you will find a list of the 10 domains we listed above, along with a brief description of what each one represents. Try to establish their importance to you right now. Remember, this might change over time, and that’s completely ok, you can revisit this exercise as many times as you like throughout the journey of your life. I often revisit this list myself. It helps me to take a look at how things might’ve changed for me, moved in a different direction, or just shifted slightly. As you read the description for each domain, think about its importance to you at this time of your life. You might see things that could be important for you in the future, but right now they’re just not on your agenda.

For example, it might be important for you to develop an intimate partnership in the future, but at this point in time there’s just not the space for this type of relationship in your life. Maybe you have to work on your mental health, develop a new career, or finish school before you can explore this area with the right degree of commitment. When you decide the level of importance each domain has for you, grade it from 0 to four and use the scale at the top of the form to guide your choices. Then, at the end, list the top domains that are important for you, we will use this list later to define you Values and Beliefs.

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