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How do we balance our work and life with our rainbow model?

Study guide

Just as we go through different stages of life over time, we also experience different stages in our working lives. Just as our need for time changes in our personal lives, so does our need in our work life. Equilibrium is established when the highest demand in one area matches the lowest demand in another area in terms of quantity. But when demand is high or low in both areas, the balance is lost and we experience dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, depression and many other problems in both areas. This highlights the importance of balancing work and life.

In 1980, Donald Super introduced the theory that career advancement is described in terms of stages and life plans. Super’s major work on career development began in the 1930s, and he authored a book, The Psychology of Careers, in 1957. He modified the theories of the 1980s with the fact that people no longer follow a direct path to career development.

Donald Super called this theory the “rainbow of work and life.” The theory presented in this article is adapted from Donald Super’s own work to further explore modern patterns of life and work.

In this article, we take a look at how to use the rainbow model and find a work-life balance that suits our circumstances.

Understand the model

The rainbow of work and life (see Figure 1 below) is a way of thinking about the different roles we play at different stages of life.

Each of the “life maps” is shown in the diagram with colored rainbow stripes. Age is also shown in numbers around the rainbow. The time we usually spend on each of the life maps is also indicated by dots of different sizes on the rainbow colored stripes.

Figure 1: The rainbow of life and work

Note that the pattern above “usually” matches most people ‘s preferred lifestyles and may not be appropriate for you and the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Before we get into how to make a rainbow of your own work and life, let’s define life plans from Donald Super’s point of view:

Eight roles of life

1. Child

This is the role, time and energy you spend with your parents. This role begins with your birth and continues until your parents die; That is, when you are somewhat in your 50s or 60s. You spend a lot of time in this role early in life, but over time this role diminishes until your parents grow old. At this point, you are spending more time and attention caring for your aging parents.

2. student

The beginning of the student age can be from three or four years old, but depending on different cultures, this number may change. The role of student usually lasts until the age of 16. However, in many countries today, the end of the student age reaches the early 20s. In addition, people are increasingly interested in university education and vocational skills training.

3. Free wing

The English equivalent of the term (Leisurite) was coined by Donald Super to describe the time people spend pursuing leisure activities. Many people tend to spend more time on such activities as a child or teenager, as well as a retired adult.

4. Citizen

This role reflects the time and energy you spend working for the community as unpaid volunteer work. People often participate in the role of citizen as children grow up and the time they have free time.

5. Worker / employee

This role is specific to the time you spend on the job for which you are paid.

6. Parents

This role describes the time you spend caring for and raising children. The role of parents is usually prominent until children reach mid-adolescence, but it can take many years, despite children staying home or getting married late in college.

7. Spouse

This role represents the time and energy you spend on a committed relationship. This role also includes activities that strengthen marital life.

8. Housekeeper

People in this role spend time and energy repairing and maintaining their homes; For tasks such as: cooking, cleaning, repairs and shopping. This role usually begins as soon as you leave your father’s house. (Note that there is no gender discrimination in this role.)

Life stages from the point of view of Donald Super

When Donald Superman introduced his model, the stages of people’s lives consisted of five well-defined stages. Today, people’s jobs prevent them from following predictable patterns, so if you want to use the idea of ​​life stages (which may or may not be appropriate), we recommend that you adapt these steps to your own life pattern.

1. Growth (14 years and under)

This stage of life focuses on physical growth, and it is when ideas about individual growth are formed in the mind. During this period, people begin to discover their talents, interests and abilities.

2. Exploration (usually between 14 and 25 years old)

This is the time when people start learning the different types of jobs available and the ways to succeed in different jobs. During the exploration period, the more you learn, the more committed you become to a few of your choices, and the more limited you become about the jobs you would like to pursue. Towards the end of the exploration period, you (ideally) explore career options based on your skills, talents and interests, as well as your expectations of a job (salary, working hours, benefits, career opportunities).

With that being said, it seems like this is a calculated process, but in reality it is not. In other words, most of our work decisions are in fact weird and unusual. When you have your first experience at this stage, which is usually between the ages of 14 and 25, you will most likely return to this stage at least once in your life, when thinking about your choices; But this time in a more logical and calculated way.)

3. Stabilization (usually between 26 and 45 years old)

This stage of life begins when a person is employed in his / her chosen profession and has become an effective member of society. Characteristics of this course include increased responsibility and job satisfaction.

4. Maintenance (usually between 46 and 65 years old)

At this stage, people maintain their current jobs and participate in activities that promote their careers and keep them up to date.

5. Non-participation (65 years and older)

This is the period when a person chooses to quit his job and eventually retire. During this stage, the focus shifts from “paid work” to roles such as leisure, homeowner, and citizen.


We reiterate that when Donald developed his own supermodel, it was the general pattern of life in industrialized countries; In particular, mid-life is devoted to intense and often conflicting activities related to hard work and child custody, and relatively little time is devoted to leisure.

With foresight and time management, you can balance these plans and achieve satisfaction.

Find work-life balance using models

The rainbow of work and life is a way to think about the balance of your work and life right now and how to adapt it to your needs. In addition, it helps you plan for how your work-life balance will change over the next five years.

We do this with three pie charts. In the first chart, you look at the current balance of your work and life. In the second chart, you look at your ideal balance, and finally in the third chart, you think about your ideal balance for the next 5 years.

After identifying the imbalances between the current pie charts and the charts of your choice, we will look at how to address these imbalances and set goals. Goals that will help you achieve your desired position.

Step 1: Complete the current work-life balance diagram

Using the blank circle diagram, below, determine the amount of time you spend living in each of the eight different roles.

Work-life balance

Figure 2: An example of a work-life balance diagram

Work-life balance

When drawing this chart, try to be neutral. At this point, people’s judgments can easily be influenced by emotions, leading them to think that they are routinely spending more time on roles they do not like.

Step 2: Complete the ideal work-life balance diagram

Using the work-life diagram in Figure 1 as a starting point, think about your values ​​and the things that matter in your life; Also, consider your current satisfaction and dissatisfaction when completing this ideal chart. For example, people who value career advancement may spend more time on the role, and instead, people who value the role of spouse and raising children more.

On the second empty circle diagram, write down the amount of time you are currently devoting to each of your maps.

Work-life balance

Figure 3: An example of a diagram of the ideal work-life balance

Step 3: Complete the 5-year work-life balance diagram

Look again at the rainbow of work and life and think of the changes that you reasonably expect to happen in your life pattern. Then, think about how you would like your life to be in the next 5 years.

On the empty third circle diagram, write down the amount of time you will devote to each of these maps over the next five years.

Step 4: Look at the differences and identify the obstacles and challenges

Compare your ideal charts from steps 2 and 3 with your current situation charts from step 1.

Identify the differences and list the reasons for them. Have you allowed life events to put you in this situation, or are there real factors that prevent you from achieving the balance between your ideal life and work? If so, identify those factors.

Step 5: Set a goal to meet the challenges of Step 4

This is where you define specific strategies for achieving the ideal work-life balance.

Take a look at the differences and obstacles you identified in step 4 and set appropriate goals to get yourself from the status quo to the ideal situation. Just be aware that if you want to make a fundamental change in the balance of your life and work, you must think about this change carefully; Including understanding and adapting yourself to the misconceptions you encounter as a result of change.

Consider this simple example. If you are a hard-working manager and your spouse is pregnant with your first child, this is the best time to develop time management and delegation skills! In more detail, if your ultimate goal is to be a good father, then you will probably need to cut back on your workload and accept that exchange will earn as much energy as your current work-focused counterpart over the next five years. You will not.


How do we balance our work and life with our rainbow model?

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