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.


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.


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.


  • 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 Keep From Coming Unglued

2 Ways You Lose Your Emotional Grip

Just about everyone has at least one moment they would like to take back; a quick act or word spoken. Whether it’s a few of these episodes or many, like paper thrown to the wind, they can’t be recalled. What you can do is keep it from happening again (and in some cases, again and again).

The trouble is that while most people know they want to react better when they get triggered, they don’t know how.

That’s where having practical framework for gaining insight and understanding of your default reaction mode can be invaluable.  Unfortunately, most of us have little if any awareness of our default reaction mode when our hot buttons are pushed.

The challenge is being able to label how you react so you can then get a handle on it.

That’s why Lysa Terkuest’s podcast (part 1 and part 2) discussing her book “Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions” resonated with me. By breaking down the 15 competencies of SEI into 2 basic categories that everyone can understand, her model can help you quickly to get a handle on where you’re at. And once you know where your at, you can decide what you want to be different and the how to go about the change.

It starts by recognizing that internal conflict occurs when we feel exposed or opposed. One of our hot-buttons is pushed and we get triggered. Easy enough.

Where it gets tough is recognizing our own default reaction patterns and clearly labeling them. The good news is that Lysa’s model provides a tool doing just that; two simple categories, each with two flavors.  The other news here is that doing so requires some reflection and often times honest and painful admissions.  After all, who wants to admit they’re basically a “Stuffer” or “Exploder”?

Which One Are You?

A “Stuffer” is someone who keeps everything to themselves and does all they can to avoid conflict; just pushes it in and avoids. He or she then:

  • Builds barriers- keeps it from happening again by staying away or keeping the other person away. Passive aggressiveness comes to mind.
  • Collects Rocks- “retaliation rocks”, specifically.  Behind the sweet smile he or she is quietly finding and storing away everything they possibly can to inflict maximum damage at a later and more opportune time.

An “Exploder” makes no pretenses and has little if any filter. They just go off in an attempt to make “it” go away. She or he then:

  • Blames- spews blame at others like bile and takes no ownership of what happened or how they are reacting.
  • Shames- similar to the first because it involves blame; only this time it’s directed inward shortly after the eruption and results in shame.  If you could hear the self-talk there would be a lot of “shoulding” and “ought-to-have” being said.

The Liberating Truth

Your default reaction patterns are not who you are and you don’t have to be defined by them. The fact that it’s possible to be both given the context is ample proof. For example, you might be a “Stuffer” when it comes to your boss and an “Exploder” with your kids.  Remind yourself it’s something you do and not who you are. More importantly, know you can do something about…if you’re willing.

The good news is that our emotions are indicators, not dictators; emotional smoke signals if you will. Keeping that reality in mind as well as our default reaction patterns can help us react how we want to instead of how we are inclined to. It begins with self-awareness.

How is your natural reaction style affecting the results you’re getting?

Whether your a Stuffer and Exploder, please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts

Key To Emotional Mastery And Symmetry

3 Ways You Can Build Yours

If your emotional fitness was visible to others as an external physique, would it attract or repel?

Because our physical appearance is usually the first thing others notice about us, we give it a lot of attention.  What we usually don’t realize is that our emotional state is probably the next thing people pick up on about us and they usually do it pretty quickly.  The reality is that emotions are contagious and our neuronal circuitry is wired so that they are easily influenced and  “caught”.

Physical asymmetry

Having grown up competing in sports and being physically active, I identify much easier with the physical than the emotional.  Perhaps you do too.

It’s pretty easy to tell a lifter who is well rounded vs one who just focuses on their favorite body region or workout routine. The guy in the gym with bulging biceps, a massive chest and pencil legs is an easily identifiable example of the latter. No question that an upper body workout is more fun and less difficult than lower body but the end result is a bit grotesque. If you want the full package, you have to work on the full package (leg day, anyone?)

Emotional Mastery and Symmetry

Likewise, maximum emotional fitness requires mastery and symmetry of our ability to experience a full range of feelings and virtues, not just the ones we gravitate toward naturally or like. Besides the lack of the visual, what makes things more difficult in this arena is that the mind doesn’t like to hold the tension brought on by contradictory impulses.

For example:

  • If you value toughness you may undervalue tenderness.
  • If spontaneity is your thing, then self-control may be excused.
  • If you value honesty above all else then it’s easy (and convenient) to forget the compassion.
  • Just because you’re bold doesn’t mean you can do away with caution.
  • If “happy land” is your preferred destination, avoiding any hint of sorrow or pain can land you in the opposite location quick.

The list of opposite emotions and virtues that need be held in tension and symmetry could go on, but I think I the point is clear. The real issue is our self awareness of how we’re balanced in this area and our level of mastery with it.

The Key

To be fully engaged emotionally requires the capacity to hold opposite virtues and emotions simultaneously, or anacolouthia. Anacolouthia is the mutual entailment of virtues and accompanying emotions whereby a virtue isn’t a virtue by itself. After all, honesty without compassion becomes cruelty.

Here are 3 ways to build anacolouthia.

  1. Accept the tension that comes with holding opposites- view them as a tension to be managed not a problem to be “fixed”.
  2. Learn to value all the virtues-  discover what proportions work best and see the synergy; don’t choose sides.
  3. Appreciate your weak areas- qualities you naturally oppose or don’t like have their merits; let go of judgement and find leverage instead.

Often the most important things are simple to understand but hard to do. In this case, it’s complex and contradictory as well. The end goal is to build your capacity move freely and flexibly between your own opposites.

If your emotional “physique” were as visible as your physical one, where would you start working asap?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear where and how the symmetry is for you.

The Secret to Building Great Rapport

5 Forces That Attract

What is it about some people that give them the ability to attract and hold influence with just about anyone? Especially when there are others out there who seem to be able to repel just about everyone.  The former is called rapport, also more commonly known as “connection”. The later goes by a number of names (most can’t be written here).

Why is the ability to establish strong rapport so important? Because it’s essential if you want to have optimal influence with people as well as organizations.

While most of us are between the two extremes mentioned above, the reality is that all of us, like a magnet, are capable of either attracting or repelling to various degrees.

Who are the people in your life you’ve seen or known who seem to have a natural ability to attract anyone, even the most disagreeable?  It’s not just about being “nice”. In fact, having great rapport gives you the ability to say hard things to hard people who not only listen, but really feel like you still care for them…..even when the stakes are large, emotions run high and opinions differ.  My dad is like that and has been as long as I can remember.  In fact, he is so good at it that when I was a kid he could shift me from crying to being optimistic in seconds sometimes, or even have me laughing.

5 Forces That Attract

While some people no doubt are naturally gifted at rapport, the good news is that you can grow your rapport by focusing on the following five forces:

  1. Self-awareness- is simply to know yourself as you really are in all domains. It comes from developing a straight-forward understanding of how you experience things and what makes you tick.
  2. Empathy- is simply to see and feel things from someone else’s perspective; to put yourself in someone else shoes. At a more granular level, there are various kinds of empathy as well as ways to effectively leverage it.
  3. Positive Regard- is not just viewing another as a person worthy of respect, but allowing yourself to experience positive attitudes like warmth, caring, and interest about them as well. You don’t have to necessarily like him or her, you just have to keep your personal judgements from interfering with a view from which positive attitudes can flow.
  4. Genuiness- may also be known as authenticity or congruence and relates to trust. It’s not just about what you do but about who you are: open vs closed; owning it vs avoiding it; kind as well as challenging when necessary.
  5. Presence- It’s a way of bringing yourself and being with another with. It is an in-the-moment experience that is bodily, sensory and interpersonal and features a quite confidence and accompanying gravitas.

3 Foundational Traits

While the five forces that attract are extremely powerful and synergistic, they have to rest on a three-fold foundation:

  • Self-control- is required to maintain focus, manage self-talk, making judgments, regulate emotions and find the positives in the other person regardless of their characteristics or situation.
  • Psychological mindedness”-  involves being aware of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of both the other person and yourself, then “reading between the lines” and putting the pieces together.
  • Genuine interest-  means you have the other person best interests in mind and care about them…even when you have to work hard at it.

The ability to establish strong rapport is essential for optimal connection and influence. Is your’s where you want it?

As you reflect on what your rapport building ability, a good exercise is to think of how various people might answer if someone else asked them about it. That would include not only your fans but those who are a challenge for you as well .

Regardless, the good news is that you can grow your ability to build rapport. The other news is you have to work at it.

What would having the ability to build better rapport do for you personally as well as your most important enterprise?

Please leave a comment and let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

5 Differences That Make All The Difference

How To Leverage Your's For A Great First Impression

First impressions are often more important than actual results.  This sounds harsh and unfortunately, it’s the truth.

I’ve meet people who I initially was put off by and I’m sure you have too. In my situation, I was fortunate to get to know some of them better because as it turned out they were not only great people, they were superstars as well; I was just too biased by my first impression  to recognize it. It makes me wonder how many people I’ve dismissed because of a faulty first impression and missed getting to know.  Of course the opposite has been true too…..some people who appear amazing on the surface turn out to be hollow at their core. How can you tell the difference?

The reality is that you and I are by nature judging creatures.  We. Just. Do. It.

Since that’s the case and initial impressions are so important, what can be done about it? Trying to stop being judgmental doesn’t work. Remember, we are.  Instead, we can redirect our awareness and judgements to five key factors, who according to Debjani Mukherejee Biswas, can make all the difference between success or failure the workplace:

  1. “Buzz”- a real but intangible factor of what people know about you from what they read, other people say or your background.  This may be real or perceived.
  2. Appearance- intrinsic physical characteristics, body language, dress, style, accessories, body odor (presence or absence of), fragrances.
  3. Sound- voice quality, tone, pitch, vocabulary, fluency, coherence, as well as the  “signature” of how you carry yourself, such as gravitas or goofiness.
  4. Differentiators- things that stick out and are distinctive. They may be intrinsic like hair style or body dimensions or extrinsic like credentials or dress. It’s what people remember when you leave.
  5. Output- this comes only after the first four have landed and may relate to content, quality, timeliness, and delivery.

Each of us have our own map for how we perceive these 5 factors and are uniquely affected by them.  And it’s important to know how we are affected because they impact how we view others, where they fit and whether they are a help or a harm. They also impact how others view us.  Do you know how these affect you and what judgments you’re currently making around them?

Unfortunately, we’re usually unconscious or sleepwalking when it comes to knowing how initial impressions are made as well as the impact these have on our decisions and the decisions of others. By being self-aware of the primary influencers of initial impressions, you can leverage them for the benefit of yourself, others and your organization. How?

It starts with self-awareness.  First, recognize where your differences are working for you as well as against you. Second, learn to recognize your self-limiting beliefs when it comes to how differences influence your initial impression of others. Both of them may be costing you more than you know either in real-time or in opportunity .

Which of your five key first impression factors do you need to either change or leverage, while being authentic, in order to make the impact you want?

Comments are welcome, even really different ones.