Author of ‘Leading the Life You Want’ Talks About Skills to Become Whole

visionInstead of looking at work-life balance, Stew Friedman, author of Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life, recommends looking at integration between work and the other areas of your life.

“Balance is bunk,” says the author. It’s a “misguided metaphor” because it assumes trade-offs must exist between work or school, family, community and self. He suggests looking at four-way wins to improve your life within all four dimensions.

As Friedman describes embracing principles to be whole, real and innovative, we’re going to focus on being whole. This means acting with integrity and respecting that all of the roles you play make up a whole person. 

To achieve this, he says, you must be able to clarify expectations, help others, build supportive networks, apply all your resources, manage boundaries intelligently and weave disparate strands.

One of the most important skills? Knowing how to apply all of your resources — this means all of your knowledge, skills and contacts in the different domains of your life to benefit the other domains.

He explains:

“An exercise that helps you do that is called talent transfer. It involves writing a résumé listing all the skills you’ve developed—say, from mentoring colleagues, to organizing activities for your family, to running a church bake sale—and thinking of how each might be used to achieve different ends.

Organizational psychologists call this a ‘strength development approach.’  Identify your talents, then apply them in new areas, enhancing them further. Another way to do this is to reflect on something that makes you feel good—a work accomplishment, a fruitful friendship, your commitment to salsa dancing—and then consider an area of your life you’d like to improve. How might the skills you used to achieve the former help you in the latter?”

And then to manage boundaries intelligently, you’ll need to practice separation between different roles. This is another key challenge, he says.

Friedman adds, “Say that your job keeps monopolizing your evenings and weekends and interfering with family time.” You can try setting limits on yourself like setting aside two hours every Saturday morning for the next four weeks to work. Or you can implement a policy to banish phones from the dinner table.

Next up? Do the opposite. “Think about opportunities to bring together two or more parts of your life. You might take a child to a company-sponsored charity run or bring a coworker to a block party in your neighborhood.”

After you’ve experimented with a new way to segment and a new way to merge, he recommends jotting down insights about worked worked and what didn’t. This pertains not only to you but to the people around you as well. Take time for introspection: Were you more productive or less? Were you more or less distracted? How did others react? Just some food for thought.