By now you've probably read, or at least seen, a dozen or so different blog posts and videos about how you should lead a better life in 2018. You'll have been inundated with posts about how to set goals, why you need to be consistent, how to create smart and measurable objectives and what you need to do to lose 25 lbs over the next 2 weeks. My goal is not to add another one of those posts to your inbox but instead, to provide you with a perspective on what's worked for me and what my clients are looking for when they come to be for help.
Human beings are complex creatures. There are many things going on in our lives at any one given point in time. Usually, it's entirely normal that one or more things in our lives is a bit out of whack. It's when things get too out of whack and we begin to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with things on our own, that people usually enter panic mode. In my case, when I decided to make an abrupt career shift last year, my priority immediately became to figure out what to do with my life and to ensure my family was well provided for. As I detailed in a previous post, I went through a profound, transformational journey where I had to dig deep to uncover what I wanted, align it with my skills and experience and recast myself in a new career to ensure that not only was I doing something that was meaningful, but that I could also put food on the table in the process.
However, as I approached 2018 and started to write down my goals and prioritize them, something struck me: I couldn't simply continue to put so much of my energy and focus on my career and my business as I had in the past. Is it important? Yes. Do I have to continue to work really hard at it? Yes. Do I still have a lot to learn? Yes.
But for a split second in time, I looked back over the past 20 years of my career and analyzed the way I had handled every new job I'd had and the amount of energy I had put into it. I looked at my jobs in the context of the other things that are important in my life: My family, friends, health, community and spirituality.
What I saw stopped me in my tracks. It made me think more deeply about 2018 then any year I've ever thought about previously. In every situation where I changed jobs or companies, a pattern repeated itself. I would zealously throw myself into the new job at the expense of nearly everything else. The job consumed me. It became my life. It became an obsession. The success and gratification that I would get, particularly early on in a new role, was the fuel to my fire. It drove me forward relentlessly. The more I succeeded, the more I worked. The more people applauded, the more I worked. The harder it became, the more I worked.
And that was the problem. I worked at the expense of everything else. When I had issues at work the severity of those issues became magnified by the fact that I under-invested in everything else. My marriage eventually collapsed in 2015. Although I networked prodigiously for work, I didn't spend enough time with friends; My children complained that I was "always working." So, as I looked at 2017 and what I'd achieved as a coach with madmork stories, I knew that despite finally having found my groove career-wise, I couldn't continue to run my life the way I had for the past 20 years. I had to make an adjustment in my priorities.
I had to find BALANCE. I had to ensure that I paid attention to other parts of my life that I'd long neglected. This became all the more apparent given what I do: I'm a coach. I want to help people lead powerful and meaningful lives. How could I do that if I can't drink my own cool aid?
Balance has become the key area of focus for me in 2018. For the first time in my life, as I wrote down my goals for the year, my career and job-related goals were not at the top of the list. I chose to prioritize my children and personal relationships ahead of my work. Not only did this feel liberating but it also simply felt "right."
Balance matters because our lives always have parts in them that aren't functioning the way we would like them to. But when we're in balance we're better able to compensate when something isn't going our way. When work is challenging, hopefully we have a wonderful family or partner to come home to. When we're having issues with our partner, we have friends we can turn to for comfort and advice. When our company is going through it's 3rd reorg in 5 years we can look forward to a long bike ride with friends or a boxing session in the gym with our trainer. Think of balance as your backup batteries: When one fails, you have several others to keep you going (Tweet This). The problem is many people focus too much time and energy on their work / career so when that battery fails, they have little to no backup.
How do you work on balance?
There are three tools I use to adjust my life and find balance. First, I identify those areas in my life where I'm underinvested and create SMART goals around them which I add to a document with my yearly goals. So for example, I know that my health is really important to me. So I've created two goals around my health: To bike 2000 miles this year and to do 2 Century Rides (100 miles in a day).
Second, I'm forcing myself to use the same productivity tools for my personal life that I use for my professional life. In my case, that's namely Google Calendar and Asana. If I know I need to pick up my kids, attend a basketball game or a parent teacher conference, it all goes into the calendar. If I know I have to purchase tickets for a movie or purchase something for the kids, it goes into Asana. Crazy? Maybe. Effective? Hell yes. I actually had already begun doing this last year and it's been very helpful. By adding things to my calendar and task list, I don't forget things and I can keep my personal priorities in perspective and make sure I deliver on them.
Asana has been particularly helpful here since I manage my personal tasks the same way I manage my business tasks. I group my tasks under certain headings, add due dates and each day check what's due and where I'm behind. The app on my phone also sends me notifications when things are due so I have a severe guilt trip when I miss something important. I can also break down larger projects into smaller tasks. So if I have to plan a vacation for summer I can add sub-tasks around flights, hotels, activities etc.
I've talked in several of my other posts about the importance of sharing and this is key: You can't expect to hold yourself accountable for your own success. You need to enlist others to your cause to keep yourself honest. (Tweet This). So my third tool is sharing. Sharing your goals and aspirations helps you move from the word "should" to the word "do". You stop talking and thinking about hypotheticals. Instead, you make a decision, share it with one or more persons who will hold you accountable and therefore you're more likely to see it through. For example, in my case when I have a certain insight while working with my coach he will often ask me: "OK, so now that you have this insight, what are you going to do with that?" Once I tell him what I'm going to do, he'll follow up with: "Great, would you be willing to make a commitment to do this and if so, when do you think it would be realistic that you'll get it done?" In another case, I have an agreement with a friend of mine that every two weeks I have to send him a short list of personal tasks that I'm working on to develop my relationships outside of work. That pushes me to think about those things, prioritize them and plan a series of programs around them.
The other thing that's cool about sharing your goals with others is that when you succeed your friends succeed as well. In fact, it becomes contagious: The more you share your audacious goals, the more those who you share them with want you to succeed and urge you on.
So for 2018, that's my hope for you: Identify your weaknesses; Works towards finding balance; Create SMART goals; Use tools to keep you productive in your work and personal life and, finally, share those goals with those around to enlist their support in helping you become the person you really want to be.
Ready? Set? Share!
Have a powerful 2018!
So that's it for me folks. I hope this post has been useful. If it's been helpful please like, share and comment below.
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