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How I’ve Succeeded in Creating a Work/Life Balance

How I’ve Succeeded in Creating a Work/Life Balance

The other day someone told me the word well-being is replacing the phrase work/life balance. It makes sense seeing work as part of our life; there is not life, and then work as a separate entity. To me, well-being means living life with more balance and awareness. In order to feel enriched and fulfilled in our lives, I believe we need to have the four fundamental human needs in balance: physical, social, mental, and spiritual.

In Stephen Covey’s book First Things First he describes these needs by the phrase, “To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” “To live” addresses our physical needs such as food, shelter, and health. “To love” falls into our social need to belong, give and receive love, and relate to others. “To learn” includes our mental need to develop, grow, and become the best version of ourselves. The desire “to leave a legacy” is our spiritual need to make a contribution to this planet and have meaning and purpose to our lives.

Seeing as how all these needs are vital, focusing on any in either excess or lack reduces our happiness in life and leads to imbalance. Imagine if you spent 80% of your waking time just attending to your physical needs of eating, sleeping and exercising?  You may be healthy, but would would be missing out on your need to connect with others and expand your mind. If you spent most of your waking time focused on your mental needs you may become smart and financially abundant however, your relationships and health would suffer.

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After learning at 17-years-old that the key to a happy and fulfilling life is balance, I made it my life mission to achieve this and see if I really could have it all at once. By setting my priorities and staying focused, I was able to achieve most of the things I wanted in my life by the age of 30.

While building a professional career in marketing and design, I traveled to over 42 countries, lived in 5, spent 15 hours a week engaged in sports activities, competed as a triathlete on the world-stage, studied to be a yoga teacher in an Indian ashram, meditated with Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, built close connections to people around the world, and became a qualified personal trainer.

Here are some of the guidelines I set for myself to accomplish all this and stay focused on balance and well-being.

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1. I created my own success formula.

We all have different gifts, talents, and things we are here to achieve. There is no standard model of what makes someone successful unless it’s in alignment with their own principles and guiding system. I noticed early on that those individuals who most people called “successful” had material wealth but were failing when it came to health and relationships; they may have been “successful,” but they also were not happy.

So I decided to look at my values and passions to determine what a successful life meant to me. I then addressed each fundamental human need and wrote out what activities and goals in each area I needed to focus my time on to feel successful. My main physical goals were to be strong and super fit; my mental goal was to reach my full potential; spiritually, I wanted to experience self-actualization and help others do so; and socially I wanted to connect deeply with others.

What physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs do you need to fulfill in order to be successful in your own unique way?

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2. I set priorities.

We only have a limited amount of energy and time, so choosing where to focus our energy is vital for a successful life. Once I made my list of goals for each fundamental need it now came down to keeping the first things first. I knew I couldn’t say yes to every offer that came my way; I had to make choices and feel good about doing so.

For my physical needs, as I had the gift of endurance and an abundance of energy, it became important for me to work out at least once a day. I made it my priority where ever in the world I lived to go to the gym, run, cycle, swim, or do yoga once or twice a day. This meant I had to say no to some social activities. For my mental and spiritual needs alongside my career, personal growth and self-actualization was a major driving force in my life, so I dedicated my evenings after working out to these activities as well as some vacations.

3. I eliminated time-wasting activities.

I often got asked how I had the time to do so many things at once. I remember when I was at university, as a full-time student I worked a part-time job 15 hours a week, exercised 3 hours a day, read a ton of personal development books, plus had a thriving social life. The secret is to eliminate time-wasting activities such as watching TV, surfing the web, checking Facebook, complaining, gossiping, reading trash novels, and other mind-numbing activities. If you calculate how much time you spend engaging in these non-beneficial activities, you will have a lot more time up your sleeve.

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4. I limited my work hours.

In order to gain proper rest and make time for my sporting pursuits, social activities, personal growth and traveling, I set a limit to only working up to 40 hours a week. Although deadlines occasionally extended this, I knew that if I continually worked more I would be choosing work over life. Not only do studies show that people that work 50 hours a week are no more productive than those that work 40 hours a week, I was also observing the health and social decline of my friends who worked late evenings and weekends.

Engaging in activities you enjoy and that bring you fulfillment provide you with energy and drive when you are working, to be more productive. This way you can get more done then just say someone who is burnt out and poor in health. The secret to balance is about quality not quantity.

5. I set up my week. 

In order to stay focused and on track with your goals, it’s important to do a weekly review and planning session. Every Sunday, I would look at the list of activities I needed to do to keep in balance and schedule them in for the following week. I scheduled in my exercise, meditation, work, personal development, social time, and spiritual growth activities. I then kept to the plan 90%, to allow flexibility for last-minute situations. Having this regular routine and schedule also helped keep me grounded.

6. I meditated daily.

Meditation brings us the clarity and energy we need to keep steering our lives in a more purposeful direction. It provides us the rest, guidance, and calmness we need to stay balanced. Meditation can also be viewed as a mental shower that washes away our subconscious junk. Just like we wash our physical body daily to clean it, our mind also needs to be cleaned daily.

Although a regular meditation practice took me a few years to develop, the effects have been life changing. By starting my day with meditation, I set my energy and intention for the day to stay focused on my path. A morning meditation practice also helps you handle any challenging situations that may arise that would otherwise through you majorly off balance.

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Kelly Weiss

Purpose-driven business + lifestyle coach

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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