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Secrets of Success

A Life in the Balance

By now we know the litany. Overworked, unfulfilled professionals struggle to find equilibrium in their lives. For many the office has become a black hole of time–a never-ending assembly line of professional demands. We know about the divorce rate (or empty marriages), the missed school plays, the vacations on which the spouse and children are accompanied by the cell phone and laptop.

We watch as these professionals stumble from task to task–their world an endless procession of meetings and client demands. We watch as they neglect other parts of their lives complaining that there is no way out.

Not all adults buy into the notion of having to make a choice between having a life or having a career. Some attempt finding other organizations in the same field with more “family friendly” values. No more late nights. Humane schedules. For some, this works. For others, the disintegration continues.

The explanations are predictable. “I have to work this much–everyone else does.” “With the money they’re paying me, they expect me to be here.” “I’m working hard now so that in a few years I can relax.” “I have to work this much to protect the lifestyle I’ve created.”

Some cannot or will not take it. They quit. Quit their job. Change careers. “I’ll do something else for a living. Maybe I’ll make less money but at least I’ll have a life!” Sometimes it works. Sometimes.

How we love the notion that we can change the problems within by changing the externals in our lives. That’s not the problem. We are the problem. Individually and collectively, we are the problem.

I’ve consulted with organizations for twenty-five years. I’ve watched hundreds of people struggle to find the balance in their lives they long for. Let me share with you what successful ones know:

They believe balance is possible. If you live your life according to what others deem possible, you’ll never accomplish anything. Believing your life can be more is the first step to changing it. Being crystal clear about what you want is also important. (When you are totally committed to what you want in your life and why you want it, you will always figure out how to do it.)

They take what they believe in seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously.
People have important jobs, but most are not curing cancer, closing the hole in the Ozone layer, or ending world hunger. The smart ones know the work is not going anywhere and they go home. They do not make work the centerpiece of their identity. They keep their sense of humor which allows them to have added perspective in their lives. This in turn allows them to focus on what is really important in their lives.

They understand the pitfalls of the careers they choose. A billable hour culture discourages efficiency and rewards long hours (which translates into more billable time). A job where you’re on call all the time makes planning difficult. Work that includes a lot of travel can turn your spouse into a modified single parent. These jobs are a balanced person’s nightmare. If you are in culture that won’t change, you may need to consider a career change.

They focus on what is important. What would you rather have–a new job or a new family? Many professionals have seen their marriages fall apart because they spent more time in the office. In addition, longitudinal studies indicate few children escape without some emotional damage when their parents divorce.

They put their time where they say their values are. No comment.

They trade time for money. A smaller firm with less pressure and less money may be the answer. Less money means less stuff. That’s okay. You’re not taking it with you. You never saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul.

They believe in the concept of “enough.” They know how to leave the office (that’s enough for today). They don’t try to be perfect (the job is good enough). These feelings allow them more time for non work-related activities.

They follow activity with inactivity. They rest when their bodies tell them to. It could be said many adults take better care of their cars than they do their bodies (except their car is probably overdue for an oil change). No place is worth getting sick over. No place. If the smart ones find themselves working in an environment that taxes them beyond their physical abilities, they leave.

They stop trying to have it all. You probably don’t want it all anyway. Focus on what is important in your life. If the house was on fire, what’s the one possession you would grab? (If you said your briefcase, you’re excused from reading the rest of this article.)

The Point

Balance comes about when you adhere to these basic life principles:

* Relationships are more important than money, power or prestige.

* The parts of life we do not attend to are really not as important as we say they are.

* The areas of our lives that we ignore will get worse and eventually die.

Tough words about a tough subject. Think about what has been written here. Invest your time wisely. You have a life in the balance.

1 Comment to “A Life in the Balance”

  1. This inutcdroes a pleasingly rational point of view.

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