4 Ways To Feel Yourself Back Into “Balance”

So You Can Experience What Matters Most

Just about everyone talks about wanting more “work-life balance”. What you don’t hear much talk about are practical tools and approaches for getting it. That’s unfortunate because there are many.

I’ve written a number of posts about Nash and Steven’s  model of enduring success, a more realistic model than “balance”. Unfortunately, I’ve never had an easy way to know which of the 4 categories they say matter most that I needed to be focusing on. Focusing on in the moment.

After reading Eric Barker’s new book Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, I’m happy to say that’s changed. His feeling-based heuristic for knowing where you at with these 4 at any given time is both simple and effective.  I know because I’ve put it to the test, both on family vacations as well as at work.

4 METRICS THAT MATTER MOST

These are the 4 metrics found to matter most in achieving enduring success:

  • Happiness (feelings of pleasure or contentment about life).
  • Achievement (accomplishments that compare favorably against goals others have striven to achieve).
  • Significance (sense of making a positive impact on people you care about).
  • Legacy (a way of establishing values or accomplishments to help others succeed).

The challenge is that while these are important for everyone, the quality and quality are going to be different for each person depending on your gifting, goals, and stage of life.

The bottom-line: if you want to achieve enduring success or something akin to “balance”, then you need to be contributing to some degree to all 4 on a regular basis. Given the variables and variability in each individuals, you might think it impossible to come up with a formula….and your right.

HOW TO KNOW

So how does Barker say you know when it’s time to focus on something that contributes to another area instead of just plodding along, drifting or driving?  By paying attention to key emotions or feeling associated with each of the Big 4:

  • Happiness= Enjoying, Pleasure, Contentment
  • Achievement= Winning, Success, Thrilled
  • Significance= Counting (to others), Connection, Loving
  • Legacy= Extending, Reflective, Fulfilled

When you sense you’ve almost had enough, or just enough in one category then switch and link to another that you sense you could use more of. That’s it.

While simple, it will take some initial self-reflection work to get started if you haven’t give some thought to life-planning or your SEI is in the tank.

IN SUMMARY:

  • Know the 4 Key metrics of enduring success and what currently contributes to them for you.
  • Practice pausing and learning to recognize the key feelings and their variations associated with each category.
  • Once you sense you’ve gotten to good enough or “just enough” in one category, “switch and link” to an activity in another.

The reality is that you can harness your feelings and use them as a decision-making indicator to help you decide what’s important to focus on next that leads to your enduring success.  It beats trying to see if things are balanced enough in your life, because they never will be.

There is certainly more detail to be had. If you really want to take a deep dive, pages 239 – 251 of Barker’s book as well as Nash and Stevenson’s original HBR article will serve you well.  If not, the approach above is a great start.

Question: How is the typical model of work-life balance currently serving or sabotaging you? What are you doing to get life more aligned with the way you want it to be?  

 

How To Escape The Overwhelm

3 Steps To Set Yourself Free

Choice is a good thing until you have too many and it isn’t.  Especially when those things have to do with what you have to do. Deciding then becomes difficult and leads to The Overwhelm. The psychological term for it is “Decision Fatigue”.

I love flexibility..…it’s one of my core values. Unfortunately, I often let it get out of hand and it gets the best of me.

I’ve learned the hard way that freedom and choice, without context and criteria, can quickly leave you in a puddle of Decision fatigue. In short: overwhelmed and unable to move anything on your agenda forward, let alone the stuff that matters most.

Peter Drucker said that looking back from a historical perspective, the most important change seen won’t be technology. Instead, it will be the unprecedented volume and level on which people had to self-manage…..and were totally unprepared to do so. Unless something changes, that doesn’t bode well for the accomplishment, work-life balance and sense of calm everyone is seeking these days.

So what’s the answer to escaping The Overwhelm that’s overwhelming us?

Before answering, keep in mind 2 key reasons we get overwhelmed in the first place (according to an Essentialist philosophy):

  • Too much social pressure
  • The idea that you can have it all.

Unlike yesteryear, the number of external voices and choices we have today is unprecedented as are our expectations, which have become inflated beyond all measure. The other is timing- we think we can have all we want all at the same time. Why not? Social media has lowered the bar for access, increasing the things that compete for our attention and constantly feed us illusions.

The result? Trying to cram an increasing number of infinite things into a discrete, limited and already overflowing schedule.

The impact? The Overwhelm.

Now, how to get out of it:

  1. First- Prepare. recognize and embrace the fact that you’re going to have to say “No” to some good opportunities. In fact, as you become more successful you’re going to have to say no to some really great opportunities. Easier said than done; it takes a cultivated attitude of the heart and mind.
  2. Second- Pause. Take a deep breath, squeeze or open both hands widely, or take some action that will center you attention. It seems moving your physiology is a key to interrupting your pattern in the moment. It provides a window to put a pause between stimulus and response.
  3. Third- Propose. Ask yourself the key question “What’s  most Important Now?”….as in, right now.  Write down all the other important stuff  on a list for later.  Then, take an immediate next step toward it, even if its as simple as shutting off your phone screen.

The result? Focus

The impact? Eliminating The Overwhelm.  And making progress on your priorities. Even…if….only….small.

You certainly can’t change all the stuff competing for your attention. You can change your mindset and what you do about it using three simple steps.

So,“What’s  most Important Now?” (WIN) for you?  Take a deep breath, and then take the next small step…..right now.

Who Are The Trail Guides On The Road To Happiness?

Perhaps just as important as mile-markers on the journey to happiness is a guide. As it turns out, we have a lot more guides available to us than we think….the elderly.  It’s interesting to me that as much as our culture seems to worship youth and stereotypes the elderly as lonely and less happy, the body of evidence says otherwise:  Older people tend to be happier as a group.  Why?

It appears these folks have some important things to tell us about how to be happy.  Listed below are 5 things a larger group (~1,500) of older people (aged 70 – 100+) had to share about life lessons that they would like to pass on to those coming behind them. These are from Eric Barker’s post with some additional tweaks and commentary:

  1. Don’t stay in a job you don’t like.
  2. Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones. Selecting a profession based only on the potential for financial gain is perhaps the biggest career mistake you’ll ever make, while a sense of purpose and passion for one’s work almost assures satisfaction.
  3. Don’t give up on looking for a job that makes you happy, stick with it. Those who know the most say persistence is the key to finding a job you love.
  4. Make the most of a bad job. If your job situation is starting to hint at or actually makes a giant sucking sound, why waste the experience?  Many at the top of their field now wouldn’t have gotten there without the growth gained while in the fertile soil of a a bad job…..some time really fertile soil.
  5. Emotional intelligence trumps all others. A high level of interpersonal skills is the real currency of success, especially in today’s knowledge economy; technical competence is simply the ante to get in the game.  Even those with the highest technical skills are likely to fail if they lack emotional intelligence.

Everyone needs autonomy. Career satisfaction is often dependent on how much autonomy you have on the job, especially in creative, heuristic type work.  Look for opportunities that give you the freedom to make decisions and move in directions that interest you, without too much control from the top.

In addition, what these elders didn’t say was deafening: If you encounter any of the four mile-markers below, you likely heading in the opposite direction from your happiness destination. When you begin to experience these, find an exit or make a U-turn, FAST:

  • Trying to work as hard as you can to make money to buy the things you want.
  • Thinking it’s important to be as or more wealthy than the people around you.
  • Striving to have more than others.
  • Choosing work based on your desired future earning power.

Interesting…all the factors above relate in some way to Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, which are key elements that give us our Drive or internal motivation.  The other thing to take note of is that unlike mile-markers related to time, these all deal with things that are within our control.

If you’re interested, you can find a lot more sage advice from the same group of elders I mentioned above in Karl Pillemer’s  book “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.” If you don’t have time for the book, Eric Barker’s excellent post  not only condenses that main point of the book (ie. those listed above), but gives some additional direct commentary.

Finally, if you not only want to know more but really experience the most from the happiest among us, simply go ask an older person you know and respect. The beauty that is not only what it will do for you, but the gift your interest will give them as well.

Who are some of the notable happiness trail-guides you’ve had in the past? Just as importantly, who is one you need to engage with now?

3 Reasons for The Bareness of Busyness And 3 Ways to Overcome It

Busyness is worn as  a badge of honor these days. It’s the medal everyone now wants to win along with the award for who got the least amount of sleep. Do a quick mental check and see if you’ve fallen into that trap or know someone who’s there now. Been there done that? I know I have.

Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, calls it the disease of non-essentialism.  Non-essentialism is the idea that if you can fit it all in then you can have it all.   In his podcast interview with Michael Hyatt, he lists the three main generational sources that have given rise to that notion. These have persisted, integrated over time and have now  culminated in this affliction that’s killing us:

  1. Industrial Revolution- The notion of factory and belief that f you can just create a system that’s fast and efficient enough, you can have…….whatever.
  2. Post World War II consumerism– Greg calls it the panem et circenses, which is Latin for bread and circuses. Perfectly understandable for the time: people were rebounding from being on the brink of a world-wide, dark abyss into a world of plenty and financial success. The problem is that the party never ended and nothing was moderated…it just got more intense.
  3. Hyper-connection– Brace yourself: this phase occurred in the last 10yrs. That’s right, around 2005. I thought I was tech-savvy having a flip-phone back then. Now many of us carry around smart devices that have exponentially more computing power than what was used to put people on the moon! We no longer just have information overload, but opinion overload as well. In addition to indiscriminately giving people permission into our lives without even realizing it, our mental space and attention get trespassed on often (think of your e-mail in-box here).

So what’s the cure?

  1. Stop and create some space- take a 1/2 a day or whatever you need to get clear on what’s important to you, who you are, who you want to become, where you’re going and where you want to end up. That’s regularly scheduled space. The other kind of space you need is impromptu “pause” space for decision making. That is, putting a pause between any stimulus that makes a demand of you and how you respond to it.  From a practical standpoint, this is where most of us get in trouble. We have a hard time saying “No” because we really don’t know what our powerful “Yes” should be.
  2. Start thinking  differently. No, you can’t have it all so be intentional about the trade-off. Don’t kid yourself; everything costs you something and involves a trade-off of some sort. Although intentionally choosing which trade-offs to make is hard, it’s easier if you’ve done a good job in step 1 above. That’s because you’ll be in a position to decide according to your priorities. Then, the powerful “why” that undergirds your priorities will not only help you say “Yes” or “No”, but it’ll help pull you along as well.
  3. Lather, rinse and repeat the above regularly. My 1 hour morning ritual first thing in the morning  and 1/2 day thinking time once month are minimums for me.

So what’s the cost (of not doing it)?

Most likely, ending up with more regrets in your life than you want.  Bonnie Ware found that in her work with the dying, their top two regrets were:

  • Living a life that others expected of them rather than living out what they felt called to do in their inner most being.
  • Spending too much time at work and not enough with family and those that mattered most. In a word: self-imposed relationship poverty. (ok, that one stings me)

So what is it you need to do right now in order to put yourself on the path to getting the life you want? 041 BarrenBusyLife IIA life, that at the end of it, will be full of satisfaction and few regrets?

You can listen to the entire podcast episode Disciplined Pursuit of Less to hear the whole thing and get more detail. I think the show tag-line is appropriate to quote here: “Your life is a gift. Do what matters”