Have you ever found that success in one area of your life comes at the expense of another area? Are you trying to juggle too many roles at once?

It’s difficult to think of anyone who isn’t challenged by trying to balance all the critical roles they play in life. You have so many roles to play in life that you have difficulty in focusing your time and efforts on those roles that matter most to you. You constantly are stressed and feel out of balance and you feel guilty because you continually let down the people who matter most. You are jealous of the meaningful relationships others cultivate because you aren’t spending time in building the relationships that are of the greatest importance. And, you know if you neglect an important role for too long, you can cause severe relationship damage. If you continue on this path, you may ultimately feel like life is unrewarding and has little meaning.

There are many people who make a deliberate choice to identify their most important roles and pay attention to the contributions they want to make in each of them. As a result, they are rewarded with a greater sense of balance, purpose, and most importantly, they build richer relationships.

When you “play” your roles, you don’t artificially perform them or “fake it” using a pre-written script. Playing a role well means expressing your most authentic and deepest value system through what you do and say. Even when an actor is given a fictional part to play, it’s only when they bring an authentic part of themselves to the role that they can touch a truth within the human condition.

Even though the majority of us aren’t professional thespians, the metaphor of the actor and the stage can still be useful when we evaluate how to play our roles well. Reflect on the many roles you play in your life: leader, neighbor, team member, parent, friend, coach, sibling, etc. Imagine if you had the opportunity to read a review of your performance in the roles you play. How many stars would you get?

To get better at playing your roles well, you need to first identify them and then determine the real contribution you want to make in each one.

Identify Your Roles

When you consider the roles you currently play at work and home, pay attention to how many you take on. If you’ve ever watched a one-woman or one-man show, you will see a single, talented actor seamlessly perform the various parts. But what they can’t do, no matter how gifted they are, is play all of the parts well at the same time.

Unfortunately, we wildly overestimate our ability to effectively focus on several things at once. The only thing that comes from working on too many roles at the same time is mediocrity. So, you get to choose which roles need the most attention at any given time. Remember, it’s not about spending equal time in each role (most people will spend more hours at work each week than they will on a hobby or important relationship), but it is about regularly keeping your most important roles top of mind and ensuring you have an overall balance in the long run. Realize that some roles stay with you for a lifetime (parent, partner, friend), and others may change over time (jobs, community or volunteer positions, etc.) Quite often, our long-term roles are where we experience the most character and relationship growth.

Choosing meaningful roles isn’t something someone does for you — it’s something you do based on your values. Once you’ve identified your most meaningful roles, you’re able to determine how and when you want to show up in those roles. With our most important roles — we should never lose sight of any of them, but we should also be prepared to give our full attention to the one that needs it most at any particular time.

Determine Your Contribution in Each Role

Because we have any number of tasks to perform each day, it might be easy to start thinking of roles in terms of ‘to-do” lists. But, roles go much deeper. Our roles are never just about what we do, but are ways through which we express our values and who we are at our core. Roles require much more than to-do’s. They require “to-be’s” as well. A “to-be” is an ongoing value or a character quality we’re striving to become or at which to get better. If an outside observer can’t connect our actions to our values, we’re doing something wrong.

We can prepare to work within our various roles by drafting a contribution statement, which focuses on how we want “to be” in each role. It expresses our purpose and values, and becomes the standard by which we measure everything else in our lives.

We should be mindful of ourselves as well. Take time to deepen your knowledge of yourself: your dreams, desired contributions, character qualities. Also keep in mind the health of your body, mind, social/emotional and spiritual life. And, remember that no one can tell you how to live your roles or which contributions you should make, for they will be unique to you.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “Your life doesn’t just “happen.” Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices, after all, are yours … Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new choice. And in doing so, it gives you a perfect opportunity to do things differently to produce more positive results.”

Choose wisely and play your roles well.