Let’s get really honest. What is the deeper truth about why you work so much?
Most executives and entrepreneurs rationalize that they have to work hard. They tell themselves, “It’s for my family.” Or, “It won’t last forever. These are my peak earning years. Now’s the time to put in the hours.”
I was a CEO for a dozen years. I know that executive life is demanding. I know that working long hours is a valuable asset and even a path to feeling satisfied. I also know that there’s a shadow side to working.
If you’re honest with yourself you know the cost of too much work and not enough life. You know too well the regret, frustration and sadness you feel when you miss important events in the lives of family members to be with clients in the Skybox.
Or when weekend work conflicts with your kids’ rare unscheduled time or when your wife stops waiting for you to come home for dinner and realizes vacations are the only time to really connect with you. Or the realization that not exercising is the main contributor to carrying around an extra thirty pounds. There is a way out.
Executive Development and Embracing the Addict
Have you ever wondered why you keep doing something that you know is bad for you? Say hello to the addict.
The addict lives inside all of us. When it takes over, things get out of balance. You are not alone. We are all addicted to something.
The addict operates on a core set of mistaken beliefs. These beliefs comprise part of a bubble that encases you. Your entire experience of the world is distorted because you see it all through your bubble. It’s these bubble beliefs that cause you to over-commit, under-delegate, and reach for more and more.
The three most popular bubble beliefs among high-achieving executives and the real truths about them are described below:
- There’s a Shortage. We think that there is a limited amount of wealth, power, fame, market share. Sure, for most of man’s existence there has been a shortage of what we’ve needed to survive, but don’t let your reptilian brain run your life. There is always enough of what’s important to you.
- Fulfillment Results from What You Do. Getting things done is important but who you are is even more important. Don’t let what you do become your identity. Leadership and life effectiveness come as a result of who you are, meaning the values and principles by which you live and lead.
- Success Leads to Fulfillment. Most successful people think that the more they work, the more fulfilled they will be. The opposite is true. The more fulfilled you are, the more conscious your decisions and the more successful you become.
The Path to Executive Work/Life Balance
The solution to sustainable balance between work and the rest of your life starts with understanding what deeper need your addict is trying to meet. For most of us it’s acceptance. We think that working hard will bring us fulfillment. At best, this strategy may lead to success, power and financial security, but it won’t lead to fulfillment. When it doesn’t address your underlying hunger you keep going for more, more and more of what you didn’t need in the first place.
You will never have balance until you have fulfillment. You will never have fulfillment until you get honest about what’s really missing in your life.
Work on your self-acceptance; work/life balance and fulfillment will follow.
Brian Gast is an executive coach, top team alignment expert, author and speaker. He is the author of the book The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don’t (released October 2012)