The world is changing rapidly, requiring us to change with it. Sometimes the ever-increasing pressures on our home and work life can make it difficult to see where we are going or why we are going there. When was the last time you took a few hours, or even a day, to reflect on your professional endeavors or quality of life? It seems almost selfish to think of doing such a thing doesn’t it?
Successful professionals (leaders and non-leaders alike) share a common practice of periodically stepping away from the daily grind and taking a mental inventory of where they are. Think of it this way – the daily grind is a pin-point of light, stepping away allows you to expand that focus to a flood light, throwing into sharp relief the things that are working and those that are not. This period of dedicated reflection (be it an hour a week or a multi-day annual retreat) allows these individuals to be present for their jobs and personal life in a way that gets lost if you are not giving yourself the space needed to re-gain your focus and balance. From the CEOs of successful multi-nationals to your family doctor, many successful professionals know that “showing up” requires you to plan time to “step away”.
So how do we accomplish this? In looking at your schedule it is likely a myriad of meeting bookings and reminders; in an informal poll I took this week 4 out of the 5 professionals I spoke to had time double booked 1-4 times during the week in their calendars and less then 1 hour per day of unscheduled time during the business day. This is the reality of today's’ workplace and we feel less and less empowered to say “no” to all the meetings and events we are scheduled to attend. Yet there is hope. I point to those that have constraints that transcend work schedules or who are acutely self aware of their need for balance, and create responsible space for it. We work with these individuals every day; you will find them present at your workplace if you look. These are the individuals who leave work “on time”, who shut off their smart phone at night and who are clear and transparent about their availability without seeming to say “no” to things yet are considered great at what they do. How do they manage it?
Motivation comes into play. An example can be found in a single parent to three wonderful and active children. Having lost her spouse while the kids were quite small she doesn’t know any other way to operate to make it all work – boundaries are key. She is also one of the most effective people I have ever had the pleasure to work with, which points to why she is very successful at her profession. She is present for her kids, they have not missed an opportunity to play whatever organized sport they were interested in or pursue hobbies. She is present for her profession, which is apparent in her effectiveness and enjoyment of her career. This individual developed a picture in her mind of the kind of life she wanted for herself and her family after the unthinkable happened, she planned it out step by step, through trial and error, until she found the balance that works. Not only is she incredibly resilient, but she is flexible too. When asked to do something at work that conflicts she is quick to offer alternatives that work (win-win). She knows how to say “no” without saying “no”.
I provide this example as a new way to think about things. Hopefully the majority of us will never have to face the unthinkable, but many of us would like to think we could rise to the challenge if we had to. Why wait? If you really want to “show up” for yourself, your family and your career take the time to look at things in a different light and do this not every once and a while but on a regular basis. Step back and take a longer view, the results will speak for themselves.
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I believe in giving back to others in many tangible ways. When I learn something new, or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website. You can always find my latest blog entries here, on Face Book or Linked In.