Great Leaders Live Balanced Lives
The following is an excerpt from One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (you can get your copy here). This post focuses on having a balanced life and the importance of keeping things in perspective. If you’re burned out, you’re worthless. Here’s an example of how I keep myself in balance and the obvious question to you is “how do you keep yourself in balance?”
It is easy to get wrapped up in your work. If you have chosen your profession well, you are darn good at what you do and take a great deal of satisfaction away from doing it well. Unfortunately it is easy to forget that there are other people out there who want some of your time. Your family and friends need your attention. There are also other passions worth pursuing outside the office. Taking part in activities you enjoy will keep you centered and add meaning and fulfillment to your life.
Unless you have a mechanism to tear yourself away from the office you might find yourself trapped in the mindset of “I’ll do (insert enjoyable thing here) this weekend when I’m off work” or “I’ll do that when I retire” or “I’ll get to that someday.” Someone who reads my blog shared a great maxim on this point: “Someday is not a day of the week.” We would all do well to keep this in mind and act accordingly.
My great-grandfather adopted a quote as his maxim to remind him to live life. He always said “Enjoy life now because you’ll be a long time dead.” He did not coin the phrase but he used it frequently. The saying has made its way through a few generations of my family as something we say on a semi-regular basis. Regardless of how it is phrased, the key point is we must have balance in our lives which entails living our lives while there is still breath in our lungs.
Without a frequent reminder to do what you truly enjoy and have passion for, you might not notice your life slipping by.
This reminder will help you balance your choices between work and life. Failing to have that reminder and abide by it has profound consequences. You run the risk of waking up one day only to find you have missed hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to be happy. The sooner you write a maxim to remind you to keep balance in your life and pursue your passions, the less likely it is that you will miss those opportunities and the more likely it is you will enjoy your life.
My maxim for reminding me to enjoy my time away from the office is “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work.” Sure, I read it on a bumper sticker somewhere a long time ago. It is not original but it does have a significant emotional effect on me like all good maxims should.
I love to fish. It is not about whether or not I catch something. The act of being on the water and taking in the natural world around me is what I enjoy. Fishing helps me decompress from the stresses at work and reminds me to appreciate my time away from the office.
I have not only applied this maxim at the end of the work day – I have applied it during the work day. On one occasion, it had been a particularly harrowing week. It was filled with progress reviews, steering committees, meetings, and ridiculous “reply all” emails. By Friday afternoon I was close to my wit’s end.
It was a beautiful April day. My work was “done” by all rights. It was time to catch my breath. I went out for lunch and when I returned to the office, I realized I had my fishing pole in my car. As I looked at my tackle, I remembered “a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work.” I grabbed my fishing pole and my tackle box and walked to the lake on our office campus.
The lake was surrounded by several buildings containing my colleagues. I started fishing. I began catching fish – nice ones. I lost myself in the afternoon sun and breeze. I was out there a solid two hours. I finally took a break from fishing and looked at our offices. Many of my colleagues were lining the windows watching me with incredulous looks on their faces.
I packed up my stuff and went inside. One individual who saw me fishing said “Are you crazy? You’re going to get fired.”
“Why?” I asked.
“You were fishing! It’s Friday afternoon!”
“Yeah. So? My work is done. I’m ahead of schedule on most things. I needed a little time to decompress.”
“Am I? Let me ask this. . . I was outside recharging my batteries, basking in the beautiful weather, and enjoying a great afternoon of fishing. You were in here answering email and working on spreadsheets. Who’s the crazy one?” He didn’t say another word.
Then it happened. A few people packed up early. They said they were going to head out and spend time with their kids, with friends, or at the gym. The perspective on what was important spread quickly. In this instance my maxim not only changed my behavior but the behavior of those around me. I like to think I helped put the world back in balance that day if even only a tiny bit.
How do you keep yourself in balance? What are your reminders to get out of the office and go do what you love? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
– If you’re serious about achieving more balance in your life, grab yourself a copy of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. There are plenty of suggestions in there for how you can make living a balanced life part of your personal leadership philosophy. CLICK HERE to get your copy.
Timely post Mike. I’m actually working on a piece on burnout. Thanks for the points in the right direction.
My favorite quote from Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. in the early 90’s is “No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office.” Thanks for the great reminder.
Wouldn’t it be great if more organizations rewarded people for efficiency, effectiveness and contribution and who practice work/life balance?
I totally agree with your post! I love to attack the Imperial Sand Dunes at Glamis, CA with my ’87 Honda Quad, and ride my Seadoo on Lake Mojave. I schedule many times throughout the year to make my trek to the dunes or the Colorado River to RIDE!! Being outdoors riding and seeing wildlife brings enthusiasm and re-energizes me!
GREAT lesson to learn early in your career! I have been so out of balance before and learned the lesson the hard way.. Someday is not a day of the Week is the MANTRA in my office 🙂