As much as we like to think we are going to do everything in life either perfectly or not at all, this is a naive way to think which is sure to lead to a life out of balance. Here is how we need to think about the balanced life.
- “How much time would I be able to dedicate to this new business and will that be enough to achieve my goals? What would the other areas of my life look like given this level of commitment to my work?”
- “How can I improve my parenting skills this month by spending an extra 30 minutes a day with my kids, and what will I have to give up in order to do that?”
- “I am going to let the food bank know that I have three hours per month available to volunteer and let them decide if they can use me during those hours. This means I have to call my golfing buddies and tell them I am skipping our weekly golf game once each month.”
- “Based on our family budget, what would we have to stop purchasing in order to increase our giving to the church and is everyone in the family on board with that decision?”
Tip #1 – Many books I have read seem to imply that in order to be successful in business you will have to lose a couple marriages in the process and accept being a terrible parent. I think the following might be a more accurate description: If you decide to focus 100% of your emotional energy and available time on your business career then, obviously, you will lose your important relationships. The good news is that you don’t have to do that! Rather, find the right balance by thinking in terms of trade-offs. When you say “yes” to something, you must also say “no” to something else. Too often we say “yes” to one thing without also deciding what we are going to stop doing. As a result, we get overloaded and burned out.
Tip #2 – Accept a broader definition of success. Most people I talk to have one of two definitions of success. The first group defines it in terms of money and career success. For these individuals, family is viewed as a necessary part of life but something that lives outside of the definition of “success” for them. On the flip side, the other group views relationships as their definition of success. So any money making activity is just a means to an end for them. These individuals are usually miserable at work and feel generally unfulfilled for forty to fifty hours each week. As a result, they make less money and, ironically, their relationships suffer.
What if you broadened your definition of success? I believe that there are two types of things which take up my time in life – things and relationships that are important and those that are not important. Success to me is simply spending as much of my life as possible on the important things and balancing these important things into my weekly schedule. I recently restructured our company and didn’t make as much money as I had planned. I didn’t view my life as “less successful” during that time or myself as “less valuable;” it was simply a phase in the life of my business. My relationships are solid. I love working with the youth at our church. So to me, success is made up of many different things. This allows me to weather challenging times without throwing in the towel as I would if I thought success was only about money. I could say the same about relationships. Many times you will lose important relationships, and that can be crippling for you. You must look beyond that to a broader definition of success for your life and keep moving forward.
The events of life are intertwined. To understand this is important if you want to achieve a level of life balance. If I spent all my time reading parenting books and spent every possible moment with my kids, would that make me a good Dad? NO!!!! I would drive my kids crazy, and our family would be broke! If I spent every moment focused on Christina and my marriage, would that make me a good husband? Of course not. Christina has other responsibilities that are separate from mine. For us to each have unique experiences to share with one another when we do spend quality time together is important. If I don’t do some things that I enjoy, I will start to feel frustrated with my life and unfulfilled. That will make me into a grump, and no one wants to be married to, parented by, or friends with a grump! LOL Who wants to be married to someone who is constantly reminding his or her partner, “I gave up everything to be with you.” Or what kids want to hear their parent say, “I gave up on my dreams so I could give you a better life; don’t screw it up!”
Change your definition of success from a narrow focus on either relationships or money to a balanced life focused on the important things as your ultimate goal.
Tip #3 – Make your plan, and then work your plan. All of this may sound great. But at this point you might be wondering, “So, how do you put this into practice?” Practicing comes down to two words – Communication and Schedule. Life is messy, and trying to balance life is even messier! To come home at 5 every day and vegetate in front of the TV doesn’t take a great deal of communication or planning. We have all had days like this. However, at the end of such a day, you won’t feel good about your life. If you want to accomplish something and balance your life, you first need to communicate.
Don’t get stuck in a miserable life because you refuse to communicate. I have talked to people who’ve said, “I worked this terrible job for five years after which I finally had enough and quit.” I think that is SAD!!! Why did you waste five years? After finally quitting, you’re placing yourself in the same situation you would have been in had you quit after the first month when you realized it was a bad job! Some of you need to sit down and have the conversation you have been putting off with your kids, your spouse, your boss, your pastor, your parents or your friends. Get it over so you can all move on with your lives together. We often let these black clouds hover over our career or relationships when a simple one hour conversation would take them all away.
I have found that we often create a nightmare scenario in our minds of events to come when we are honest about our feelings and the true circumstances of a situation. In reality, the response is almost never as bad as we think. Everyone appreciates communication, and you can’t build a balanced life without it. Be honest with the people about whom you care. Let them know how you feel and where you see your life heading. Then talk through how to make it all fit together into your puzzle of life.
Communication should result in a plan. What is going to change? How is your schedule going to be different? What are the trade-offs and how will that upend the life you have created already? Communication and schedule go hand-in-hand. Nothing is more frustrating than having a great conversation with someone who agrees that a big change is needed, but then you both part ways without deciding what that change will look like, or when it will take place. You don’t just need to have the conversation. To live a balanced life, you need to have the tough conversation where actions are agreed upon.
In closing, let me just say that living a balanced life is a work in progress. It is the hardest thing you can do. I have no respect for the arrogant business man who writes his autobiography about how he sacrificed all his important relationships to be “successful.” Dying alone and miserable with a pile of money is not success in my book, and taking risks with nothing to lose is not that hard either. I also believe that hiding behind family or other relationships as an excuse for inaction in other areas is not necessary or fulfilling. If you are not happy with your life, change it! Take action! If you communicate with the people who love you most, you will find that they want you to be happy and successful in every area of your life. They are ready to help you work through the trade-offs to make that happen.
I hope you have a great day in the field!
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