What domains of practice enable us to do is shine a light on a particular aspect of our lives.
Suppose a person did not recognize these several domains. She might say, “There is only one domain in life, and that’s the real world.” So what?
That “real world” might mean different things in different cultures. In America I think it’s safe to say it means being vocationally successful. And yet a person can be vocationally successful and one day wake up to find herself lonely, unhealthy, stressed out, and searching for meaning.
A domain serves as a kind of lens that brings into focus an area of life that might otherwise get overlooked in the highly competitive world we live in today. If there is only the real world, it’s easy to keep doing those things that make that needle the real world measures us by go higher and higher, until one day the oil light comes on and the engine seizes.
Dividing one’s life into domains and somehow observing or measuring what’s going on there is like having the dashboard on the car to tell you whether all those systems that keep the car going are functioning properly.
I learned this the hard way. I would usually come to realize that a certain aspect of my life wasn’t functioning properly by some catastrophic failure.
It’s like that old Fram oil commercial, “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” It is so much more cost effective to regularly change the oil in a car than it is to wait till it dies on the road from lack of oil.
I consider a domain to be a subset of my life experience where a certain set of rules, relationships, or skills obtain that either don’t obtain or are of diminished importance in another such subset.
I have divided my life into nine of these domains of practice: spirit, mind, body, emotion, family, society, profession, personal finance, and household.
- I define spirit to be those ideas and processes I associate with meaning making, purpose, and faith.
- By mind I mean those cognitive processes by which I come to know and understand the world.
- By body I mean the physical vessel that I associate with me.
- By emotion I mean the interface between the mind and body, and the social sphere I move in.
- By family I mean my immediate family of spouse & children (including step) as well as extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
- By social I mean those relationships with people beyond family members of people I know, such as friends and acquaintances, as well as those larger communities and cultures of people that I may not know that I live and work with, yet which I may influence and am influenced by.
- By profession I mean the means or intended means of one’s livelihood. The skill associated with, or required by such vocation.
- By personal finance I mean what a household does with the money it has earned, inherited, or borrowed.
- By household I mean the maintenance of the living environment, the preparing of meals, and activities related to the care of children that are not directly interpersonal (that is, a conversation or letter written to a child, or a date with a child where conversation or personal interaction is the primary intent I would categorize as family).
I believe I came to recognize these nine domains because I do care about whether I am competent in each, and because I have recognized some kind of skill deficit in that domain that did not carry over from some other domain in which I was already competent. Your list might be different from mine.