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Over the last few weeks, I have seen literally dozens of articles about “millennials.” I’ve spoken to a few people who describe themselves as such, making a point to remind that their generation is different, special, like none that have come before them, and here to change the world. Much of what I read is about work, and the stuff about millennials normally contains something about how they value life experiences over work, and that they don’t care as much about money. We shall see.
I also continue to see more and more articles about “work-life balance.” But you aren’t seeking work-life balance, at least not as it is described in much of what you read.
Sometimes life gets in the way of work. Your children are going to need you to miss work when they are ill, when they have school functions, and for a host of other reasons. You are going to have to deal with elder care issues. You are going to want to drive your kids to college. Your house is going to need repairs, and so is your car. You might also be ill and need to miss work.
Life is going to get in the way of your work. It is inevitable.
Sometimes work gets in the way of life. Your biggest client is going to give you a request for proposal during a week where you have family commitments. The big opportunity you have been chasing is going to present itself while you are on vacation. You are going to get a call you’ve been waiting for during the time you have blocked from your family, and you are going to need to take it.
Work is sometimes going to get in the way of life. This is also inevitable, and maybe more so today, with our constantly on, constantly connected lifestyles.
Everything in life requires that you make trade-offs. If you believe that your work comes after your personal life, you are trading off the results you need to provide the best life possible for you and the people you care about. If you believe that your personal life comes after work, you will neglect the most important people in your life.
So people talk about work-life balance, meaning they want to prefer their personal life over their work life. They don’t want work to overtake in importance things like friends, family, and experiences. This isn’t balance; it’s preferring your personal life over your work. This isn’t only the wrong answer, it’s the wrong question. The right question is “How can I have an exceptional work life AND an exceptional personal life?”
Without exceptional work, you will be less fulfilled than you should be. You are here for some purpose, to make some contribution, to make a difference in some way. As it turns out, the more value you create, the more money you make, and the more freedom you have in your personal life.
Without an exceptional life, there is no reason to work. There is no reason to work if doing so deprives you of all of the experiences that make a up a happy and fulfilled life. The more fulfilled you are in your personal life, the more you bring your best self to your work.
Exceptional By Design
Instead of believing that work comes before everything else or that everything else comes before work, start with idea that you are designing an exceptional life. You want an exceptional personal life AND an exceptional work life. After all, they’re both important parts of your one life.
What does your perfect day look like? What does your perfect week look like? It’s important to plan these things. Now answer, “What does you perfect life look like?”
What commitments to your personal life do you need to make and put on your calendar so that you achieve massive positive outcomes in that part of your life this week? Now answer, “What does your perfect personal life look like?”
What commitments do you need to make to work to produce the results necessary to be fulfilled in that part of your life? What goes on your calendar here? You know the drill, “What does your perfect work life look like?”
How do you eliminate the negative meaning you attach to events when work gets in the way of life or when life gets in the way of work? How do you frame this up so that all of these events are taken in the context of designing an exceptional life?
You don’t want balance, if balance means you don’t produce the best outcomes you are capable of. You want to outperform when it comes to work, and you want to outperform when it comes to your personal life. You want to put these things in the context of your longer-term goals, and work towards those. The goal is an exceptional life in all areas.