Living the Integrated Life

What type of life would you rather lead? Review the two lists below to make that determination. Continue reading beyond the lists to learn how...

Start leading an Integrated Life!

7 Signs of Living the Integrated Life

  1. Low Stress

  2. High Energy

  3. Fun

  4. Low level of internal conflicts

  5. Meaningful friendships

  6. Clarity of direction

  7. A sense of personal control

    Vs.

7 Signs of Trying to Live a Balanced Life

  1. Feeling pulled in many directions

  2. Compartmentalizing your life

  3. "Plate Spinning" Syndrome

  4. The allocation of time is about keeping other people happy

  5. Not fully present in your current activity

  6. Always feeling hurried

  7. All is well if it all works according to your plan

The diverse amount of things begging for your attention can make you feel like a plate spinner. Once you get one responsibility moving in the right direction you rush over to another that is starting to get a little wobbly. It comes as no surprise that many "new year's resolutions" include bringing better balance to our lives.

Being a leader does not lend itself to a life that is conducive to balance. Recent studies show that over 51% of small business owners work 60 hours/week, and 8% put in 100 hours/week (the equivalent of 14 hours/day). Beyond the time demands of the business, 57% of entrepreneurial leaders work on the holidays, and 30% have not taken a weeklong vacation in over 4 years. Furthermore, these numbers are increasing from research in previous years. The challenges of leadership are consuming a bigger piece of the pie, leaving less for the other plates we would like to keep spinning.

It is easy to see why we get so many clients calling us at Awake Consulting & Coaching asking, "How do I get some balance in my life"? I will tell you that balance is very difficult thing to achieve. Have you ever tried walking on a balance beam? Professional gymnasts train for years to walk gracefully on a straight beam. The challenge to balance is keeping the demands on one side of your life (professional), equal to the demands on the other side of your life (personal). Rarely, if ever does it work that way in the life of a leader.

In an effort to sharpen the distinction, what follows are some principles that lead to a more integrated life. If something strikes a chord with you, may I suggest you give us a call to explore how we can implement some of these principles in your life? I am convinced that integration is a lot easier and less stressful than attempting to achieve a mythical balance.

Be sure your leadership is who you are, not what you do.

Being a leader is not a plate you work to keep spinning. You lead because it is a natural expression of the person you are becoming. Your passion, your vision, your character, your health, your maturity is what allows you to grow as a leader and to exercise influence in the lives of all the people in your life. The time you take nurturing these attributes pays dividends in your family, your friendships, your community, and in your business. When trying to achieve balance, it is easy to slip into thinking every arena is in constant need of your leadership fuel, but you have neglected to fill the tank.

Time invested in reading, reflecting, learning and listening fuels the tank and equips you to lead, not at a fixed appointment but at any moment. These same activities are the very behaviors that model leadership for others. The recognition that leadership is not a task, but a way of being, promotes awareness that in any given setting you may be filling your tank, and contributing at the same moment.

Your "yes's" come from clarity of your deepest values.

The best way to achieve better balance is to simply say "No" more often. One reason leaders have a difficulty saying "no" is because they are offered so many attractive invitations to say "yes". Sometimes ego can cause our chaos, and sometimes it is a desire to contribute, either way our interest to impact the world can be counterproductive when we are spread thin and unsure how to manage time.

Beyond the simple encouragement to say "no" more often, allow me to encourage you to have a clear criterion for when to say "yes". Integration begins when everything that you are involved in is connected to clearly defined personal values. If you are attempting to balance something that is important, but not necessarily connected to values you embody at home, at work and in the community, then you are attempting to not only live your life but also the lives of the people around you. This can be compared to living an out-of- body experience. Once your time commitments are rooted in clearly defined values, your leadership more naturally reflects who you are. By saying "yes" to things connected to your core values, it affords natural opportunities to include your relational world into your professional world.

Include all your relationships in your mission.

The most pressing competition that exists in our lives is the demand between family and work. If it is not family, it can often be friendships. In days of old the way most entrepreneurs overcame this struggle was to have family members work in the business.

When I was 15 and my dad bought a lumber business I learned about the hard work of marketing, and became cheap labor by passing out flyers car to car. My memories of those days are filled with laughter, not resentment. I have another buddy who still has hostility toward his family because of the forced labor in the family business. What is the difference between the two experiences? I vividly recall the vision casting my father employed to get my buy-in to the marketing effort. I pounded that pavement, executing a low level task seeing how I was helping to build the family empire. I had no interest in building supplies, hardware or construction, but my dad tapped into my curiosity about attracting people to a new business in town. To finish the story, my dad's business lasted 10 months, but the value of the experience pays dividends to this day. I do not resent the investment of time my parents put into an unsuccessful business venture, I was thrilled to be a part of the adventure.

I am not advocating that every leader should employ their spouses or children, but keep in mind the first principle. Your leadership is not part of what you do, it is a reflection of who you are. Therefore, look for ways to incorporate significant relationships in your mission. Your mission may involve your business, but it may include a bigger picture like the community, the customer. Use various business opportunities to spend time and cast vision.

In summary, instead of balance, I suggest a leader seek to integrate the diverse aspects of their life. Instead of having different parts of your life compete for time and attention, seek to have them feed one another. I know what I am suggesting may be a finely nuanced distinction, but from working with leaders with complex demands on their life I can tell you, the healthiest leaders integrate more than they balance.