Realizing that I will be a dad soon rocked my world quite a bit. It made me think about my priorities and my goals in life. In the very beginning I had some doubts if being a father is for me at all. After the initial panic I’m still nervous, but more excited about this new chapter in life.
Challenge with work-life balance
Recently I’ve had to face some new challenges, that I hadn’t faced in a long time.
I used to know what I wanted from my life. At least what I expected to achieve in next 5, 10+ years. In this new situation (expecting a baby) it sometimes feels I don’t know what to expect or want from the next year, the next month or even from the next week. I’ve had days when I feel like “I’ve lost my purpose” at work. Chasing my career goals has been such a strong part of my life for so long that it has almost become my identity. Now, when I’m more committed to my family than ever before, it’s challenging to juggle with work-life balance. Welcome to “grown-up world”, huh?!
The divorce I need
PolitiFact.com estimated in 2012 that the probability of a marriage ending in divorce (in USA) is 40%-50%, however I definitely don’t plan on being part of that statistic. As I already hinted, the divorce I need is mental separation between my work and personal life. The biggest hurdle that I have is that I find it hard to focus on work, when I’m at work. I keep thinking about what needs to get done before the baby makes her grand debut; or fantasize what it would be like once she’s here. Whenever I googled the issue, I discovered it’s more common to have hard time letting go of the work issues when at home, but I have it the other way around.
My recent struggles have made me wonder which is more important – my work or my family? Or should I sacrifice my career for my family? I know I might be asking the wrong questions, sometimes it doesn’t have to be either or – life is not always black and white, is it? So far I haven’t been able to figure out a decent solution to a better question – How can I be devoted to both – to my family and to my career, so I can excel in both simultaneously?
When I just started out in sales 10 years ago, I was exposed to Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World”. In his scroll #4 he explores the work-life balance. Og writes: “There is no room in the market place for my family, nor is there room in my home for the market. Each I will divorce from the other and thus will I remain wedded to both. Separate must they remain or my career will die. This is the paradox of the ages.” I never really got it what he meant by it until now.
But take that compartmentalization to its extreme, and you have Arnold Schwarzenegger in “True Lies” – the international super-spy posing so convincingly as an ordinary family man that his own wife grows bored with him. That doesn’t sound like my desired outcome either. I don’t want to be absent father nor do I want to give up on my career (goals) – I can’t see that this would make me happier in the long-term either.
I’ve heard someone say that kids spell love T-I-M-E. As I wrote in my previous post, for child’s development it’s not only the quantity of the time, but more so the quality of time, that counts. The same can be true at work (depending on your job) – it doesn’t matter who many hours I clock in, what matters if things get done or not.
Tips for the how-to
If only divorcing work from personal life was as easy as filing a form, my life would be pretty simple. I’ve been trying to figure this out for weeks, and finally have laid out my action plan. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz discuss 4 principles of full engagement in their 2003 bestseller “The Power of Full Engagement”. The most interesting one, the principle #4 says: “Positive energy rituals are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.” The rituals in this context are specific routines for managing energy and focus.
Researchers say that 95 (!!!) % of our behavior is habitual, and the 5% what’s left, is conscious. If that’s true, instead of being constantly conscious about my actions and decisions, I need to systematically start building RITUALS into my life that allow me to put these desired behaviors on auto-pilot. According to J. Loehr and T. Schwartz, the power of rituals is that they insure that we use as little conscious energy as possible where it is not absolutely necessary, leaving us free to strategically focus the energy available to us in creative, enriching ways.
For me one of these routines can be working out every morning before work, to help me focus on business issues, for example.
So, instead of draining myself of energy with asking useless either-or questions, I’ll focus on introducing some healthy rituals to start and finish my workday. The routines that will help me focus on the work when I’m at work, and be solely devoted to my family after work.
Bonus material! I promised you bonus material every time and today is no exception!
Instead of giving you a nugget this time, I’ll leave you a question to chew on – What ritual do you need to build in your life? Just pick ONE thing and make it count!