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CEO Best Practice: Life Balance

Executive Tools

  • Executive Summary
  • Self Assessment Checklist

Expert Practices Articles

  • Life Balance: An Elusive Goal
  • Tools to Build a Balanced Life
  • Introspection: A Path to Balance
  • Success: The Archenemy of Life Balance
  • Living With Success

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Life Balance: An Elusive Goal

What makes it so difficult for entrepreneurs to achieve balance? In addition to the 70-hour work weeks and constant demands on your time, our experts identify the following:

  • Social approbation/material rewards
  • Myth of success
  • Addiction to playing hard games
  • Confusing job success with life success
  • Lack of clarity

In addition, say our experts, most entrepreneurs feel a real obligation to do the things they do. Combine that strong sense of duty with the chorus of approval from society and it becomes very difficult to devote much time or attention to becoming a whole person.

The really hard part, says Eigenbrod, involves moving the whole issue of life balance from a noun to a verb.

"In reality, there is no such thing as life balance, only an ongoing process of life balancing, which involves identifying what fits for us to do now and having the courage to pursue it," he explains. "Ultimately, the process of life balancing has to do with striving to live congruently with what is either already in us or just beginning to emerge."

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Tools to Build a Balanced Life

Once you have a solid foundation in place, use the following tools to continue building balance into your life:

  • Volunteerism. When you give of yourself, it automatically benefits other areas of your life.
  • Take more risks. To start getting more balance in life, take one risk per month in four broad areas -- physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.
  • Learn to let go. Feeling balanced includes the ability to give up control for acceptance.
  • Nourish the wellness triangle. Living a balanced life requires nourishing the mind, body and spirit.
  • Lighten up! The moment you begin to take yourself too seriously is the exact point at which the balance scales begin to tip precariously to the wrong side.

To top off your life balance efforts, Williams recommends paying attention to the following areas:

  • Manage your time effectively
  • Practice relaxation and/or stress reduction techniques.

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Introspection: A Path to Balance

According to Sutton, people who achieve balance in life tend to engage in some kind of introspection on a regular basis. Specifically, they step back from the day-to-day stuff and ask questions like:

  • Why am I doing what I'm doing?
  • Am I happy doing it?
  • What meaning does my role as a CEO/entrepreneur have for me?
  • How much longer do I want to do this?
  • What do I really want from life?
  • What do I care about in life?
  • What did I care about five years ago and what do I care about now?

The process of introspection can take on many forms. The key is to identify a time, location and technique that works for you and use them on a regular basis. Whatever approach you take should include the four elements of safety, solitude, structure and significance. To enhance your introspection process, Sutton recommends the following tools:

  • Identify the important events of your life. List 10 or 15 of the most important events in your life and reflect on how they affected you at the time and how they currently impact the way you think and act in the world.
  • Identify your primary "necksnappers" (life events that really get your attention). Write down four or five necksnappers that have shaken up your life. Then identify the lessons the universe was trying to teach you.
  • Measure yourself as human being, not a human doing. Learn to care for the four compass points of your life -- mind (business), heart (relationships), body (health and fitness) and spirit (connection to God/universe).

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Success: The Archenemy of Life Balance

Although success in our culture brings a host of rewards, such as money, status, freedom and opportunity, it also destroys the very institutions that helped to create it, which leads to the loss of structure, meaning and identity. When you reach the top and attain most or all that you ever wanted, the only question left is now what? When faced with that question, entrepreneurs tend to do one of three things: get back into the business in some fashion, submerge themselves in travel or look to give something back.

"Although different, each of these approaches represents a retreat into the known, and the known always feels more comfortable than the unknown," explains Eigenbrod. "Plus, it answers the critical 'now what?' question. The trade-off is that you put yourself right back into a when-then operational mode, and the cycle starts all over again."

If success strips away your structure, meaning and identity, and if doing the same thing over and over again doesn't work, the only solution is to create new structure, meaning and identity. This requires a new set of tools, including:

  • Letting go versus control
  • Risk taking (on a personal level) versus risk avoidance
  • Staying in the moment versus a future orientation
  • A mindset of abundance versus a scarcity mentality
  • Opening yourself to possibilities versus focusing on specific goals
  • Cooperation versus competition

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Living With Success

"Prior to success, structure provides meaning, which provides identity," he explains. "After success, you have to reverse the process. Identity informs meaning rather than creating it. In return, meaning informs identity. Together, these two combine to generate "inklings," which ultimately lead to a new structure."

The first step in this process involves "getting current with your life," which requires you to acknowledge that you have achieved most or all of your goals, take inventory of what success has given and taken away from you and get comfortable with your net worth. Once you get current with your life, new meaning begins to emerge through the practice of five basic steps:

  • Make sense out of your life. Take a hard look at what has happened in your life and how you got to where you are now. Ask."What used to be true about my life but no longer is?" and "What is true now that didn't used to be?"
  • Mind what matters. Know what matters in your life. What used to be important to you but no longer is? What do you consider really important now? Why?
  • Know the difference between your work and your job. Your job consists of how you make a living. Your work involves what you were put here on the planet to do.
  • Enlarge the view. This requires identifying your purpose and calling. Your work includes your calling, your gift and the nature of the contribution you need to make.
  • Ask, "What fits to do next?" Finding meaning and identity after success requires figuring out what fits to do not tomorrow, but today.

As you begin to explore new avenues of self-expression, information will start to surface from inside yourself that will lead you in certain directions. Eigenbrod calls this information "inklings," which he defines as "your heart's thought."

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