In “The Balance Myth” (here) I discussed the need to pursue “harmony” in our lives instead of “balance” and the fact that balance is not only unattainable, but also undesirable if you want to be successful in business, life, and relationships. Being methodical and deliberate in pursuing harmony will lead you to make priority choices that are in line with your values and what is important to you and to those you love. I assert that value-based decision making and ruthless prioritization will lead to greater harmony in your life for you and those around you.
This subject resonated with many people and I subsequently did a podcast with Broc Edwards on The Balance Myth. It was a transparent conversation regarding what has worked for me over the years and what has not. I don’t always get it right, and I am aware that my choices impact others. You can find links to listen to it here.
To recap the key points from the original article:
1) Balance is unattainable. It is mathematically impossible for the vast majority of people.
2) You don’t have enough hours in the week. Your 168 hours are spent.
3) You have little discretionary time.
4) Balance is undesirable. Giving everything a balanced priority is a formula for failure.
5) The most successful people in any field give an extremely high, unbalanced priority to their goals. They are willing to sacrifice other things to achieve their goals.
6) The most successful people in any field tend to love what they are doing. Their choices often do not feel like a sacrifice to them.
7) The quest for harmony is a very personal one. You will always have to fight for it.
The foundation for finding harmony is knowing your purpose and knowing what you value. You will usually not find purpose without a deep understanding of what you value. Family, faith, career, helping others, and fitness are in my values list. The more I can connect what I value to what I do, the more harmony I will discover. The more what I value and do aligns with the values of those I love, the more harmony I will have in those relationships. It sounds easy, but harmony with self and harmony with others are difficult to achieve. Both Life Circumstances and Prior Choices conspire against us.
Many books have been written on the subject of finding your purpose. Having a simple purpose statement for your life is helpful. I said last time that mine is, “To make a profound difference in every activity with which I am involved.” This statement is my initial filter for every opportunity that comes my way. If I can’t make a difference, then I will say “no” to the opportunity. Like everyone, I want my efforts to matter.
Purpose, however, is more complicated than you think. I believe most people discover their purpose by accident. I don’t hear of many cases in which someone wakes up one day and suddenly knows, “My purpose is to ___________.” In other words, they don’t understand on the front-end of an opportunity if they will discover purpose in it. They start a task, project, job, career, educational path either because they enjoy it or because they feel like they have to do it. I believe that most people discover purpose through both a process of elimination and by making choices over a long period in alignment with what they value. A job turns into a career. A relationship turns into a marriage. An idea becomes a business. A talent grows into something bigger. An educational path leads to other opportunities not previously considered.
As you seek harmony between what you are doing and what you value you discover purpose. It is the cognitive and emotional dissonance between values, tasks, and responsibilities that create the misguided desire to seek balance. Think about the times you have discovered the most joy and fulfillment in life and what things led to that sense of well-being. Did you find them because of balance? Most likely not. You most likely had what others would call an unhealthy focus on your goals and desires. Falling in love, starting a business, going back to school for a graduate degree, pursuing an athletic goal or other endeavor requires tremendous focus and concentration. “Balanced” allocation of resources will not get the job done.
You will have to make difficult choices to achieve alignment of your values with what you do on a day-to-day basis. Even harder is aligning your values with others. How do you make these choices? Some choices you’ve made in the past are affecting your present. You may have to make significant life changes to begin to achieve harmony. Work first from your values, and then, if you’ve identified it, a sense of purpose. Let this direct your prioritization and the changes you make. Don’t try to change everything at once. Start small, make a change, and then go to the next. These changes may be a longer-term project to align your life with your values and purpose but are well worth it. You will also have to be diligent in protecting the harmony you create. Many things will compete for your attention and will disrupt what you are trying to do.
As you can see, there are benefits to an unbalanced life. Focus on the things that mean most to you. Neglect the good in favor of the best. Do what matters to you. Spend the time to assess what you value most and manage your priorities to what you value.
What do you think? If you think I’m on point (or not!), I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. This blog is one way I try to invest in others and to encourage character-driven leadership in life and business. If I can help, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, I am running the 2019 Boston Marathon with the Pedro Martinez Foundation Charity Team and would very much appreciate your support! If you would like to help support PMF’s fantastic work you can find out more here.
For more information about this blog, please visit www.leadershipfirsts.com.
By Alan Buttery