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The Eight Domains - Taking Inventory of Your Life

Kurt Vonnegut noted, “I am a human being, not a human doing.”[1] That said, the things that we do are self-expression. They show the world who we are and what we value. It may be odd to think of our behaviors as communicative, but from a narrative perspective, they push the story forward. They write the story that we want people to know.

Have you ever read a book that did not meet your expectations? Maybe the book jacket made it sound like a different genre, or the reviews focused on unimportant themes. It may not have been bad, but it was not what you had in mind. Our lives can veer into unexpected chapters, as well. But we continue to write, and we can change the narrative.

Benjamin Holmes has conceptualized The Eight Domains that might serve as the structure of our life story.

The purpose of The Eight Domains exercise is to help individuals clearly articulate the set of values which govern their behaviors in each domain. Our values guide how we want to experience ourselves, not necessarily how we want to experience others. When setting values for the romantic/marital domain, for example, the emphasis is on how you want to show up as a spouse or partner, not how you want your spouse or partner to show up. More about this will be discussed in future posts on this topic.

The physical domain involves the relationship an individual has with their physical body. Your experience with your body affects every other aspect of your life; the mind-body connection is real. Yet the places we live and work and the relationships in which we participate are often at odds with our physical wellness.

The mental/emotional domain is the relationship to and experience with your thoughts and emotions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy operates on the principle that our thoughts influence our feelings, which then drive our behaviors. The mental/emotional domain is central to our story.

The spiritual/inspirational domain is a person’s relationship with their higher power or that which they find relevant beyond themselves. Meaning and purpose radiate from this domain.

The relational domain involves the web of relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and all others a person interacts with. As the main character, this domain often determines the genre of your story. How would you describe your supporting cast?

The romantic/marital domain is the individual’s experience with their significant partner(s). This domain, because it is ever-present, can become the depository for our hopes and expectations to the exclusion of other domains.

The vocational domain is our relationship to our chosen work. As with the romantic domain, it is constantly in our story. It is not uncommon for it to have outsized influence in our tale due to its connection to other domains.

The financial domain is a person’s relationship to and experience with using money. Everyone has a money mindset; not everyone has considered it.

The recreational domain is the experience of engaging in regenerative activities. It is often overlooked in favor of more culturally prized domains, but these activities allow the individual to be a “human being” and enjoy the world they co-created through their narrative.

Benjamin Holmes notes, “Success is a daily, hourly, and sometimes moment-by-moment demonstration of showing up for yourself and behaving in line with what is most important to you regarding the person you want to be.”

Are any of these domains feeling sparse? Are others being swept off course? It may be time to inventory your Eight Domains to determine whether your values are represented in your energy and actions. The therapists of Benjamin Holmes Counseling can assist.

Stephanie Barca and Benjamin Holmes help clients take stock of their values at Benjamin Holmes Counseling.

[1] The satirical phrase was then embraced by SNL’s Al Franken as Stewart Smalley, a self-help television host whose attempts at inspiration would often go awry. Wikipedia, Stewart Smalley, Stuart Smalley - Wikipedia.

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