The goal of Work-Life Integration is to live your life so all the best parts are simultaneously front and center. You shouldn’t have to choose between one awesome thing over the other. But what happens when one of those things goes down the crapper? Does that put all of the awesomeness in jeopardy?
Things Fall Apart
The last month was the worst month of my V1.0 career. And of that month, the last week was the worst week of my V1.0 career. And of that week, the last 2 days were the worst 2 days of my V1.0 career. When you consider how much of my life focuses on V1.0, that’s depressing.
I’m generally a happy guy and I am proud of the success I achieved. My secret is embodied in this quote (Sorry if you already know this. That’s the price you pay for being one of the two people who read this blog.):
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”
That quote by François René de Chateaubriand is my standard response to the people who tell me I have too much fun at work and that I am too serious when I play. It is the basis for everything I’ve done to enjoy being Davey H V1.0 and what I want to help others to do when I am a V2.0 Health Coach. So how can a guy who’s dedicated to Work-Life Integration “maintain” when the work part sucks so bad? If I draw no distinction between my work and my play, and my work is a clusterflap, shouldn’t all of my life be a clusterflap (I don’t know what a clusterflap is but Davey H won’t work “blue”)?
I don’t really have a good answer to this question. Here’s how I tried to cope.
As bad as the last several weeks have been for me, it’s worse for many of my colleagues. I had some difficult meetings the last two days. Empathy is a critical feature when you’re the bearer of bad news. Many people confuse the word “sympathy” with “empathy.” Sympathy is the act of feeling sorry for someone. Empathy is seeing another’s point of view. People who read my posts about how I live (perhaps too closely) by rules know that I’m a bit “on the spectrum.” For people like me, demonstrating sympathy is difficult. Empathy, however, is a process that is “systemizable.” And if I can systemize it, I can make rules for it.
Empathy helps put things in perspective. Perspective often brings hope. Hope may not be a strategy, as my colleagues often remind me, but you can’t be happy without it.
Sometimes the collateral damage that occurs when you’re having a bad day/week/month is worse than whatever caused those bad times to begin with. Examples include ignoring or snapping at loved ones. Or, impatience with strangers. Or, brooding at colleagues. But if none of these folks have anything to do with your problem, why take it out on them?
To “be present” is to compartmentalize what’s going on now from what happened before or will happen next. It means I should give my full attention to the person I’m with and the situation we’re currently in, without distraction.
Being present goes hand-in-hand with empathy. I’m not truly putting myself in another’s shoes if I’m thinking about my own problems. This means I have to “let go” and focus on the here and now. I owe it to the person I’m with to be fully present. By the way, being present takes some ninja skills when you’re passing out bad news in rapid fire succession.
Even though mindfulness is a hot topic, its definition is pretty vague and highly personal. My not-original version depends on my ability to be present. It means being non-judgmental, non-assuming and therefore curious. Being mindful requires accepting what-is and ignoring what can’t be controlled. For me to be mindful, I can’t try to make something become what it can’t become. I just, with apologies to Paul McCartney, have to Let it Be.
The last few weeks remind me that it isn’t easy to achieve Work-Life Integration when some aspect of that life is a shit-show (oops, Davey H went “blue”). I still think that the key to happiness, fulfillment, prosperity, and a long life is embedded in that Chateaubriand quote. Because when one part of your life has got you down, you still have all the rest to prop you back up. During this time of sadness, anger and frustration, I am propped up by my family, my friends, and my clients.
If you are ever in this situation, the solution may not be the same. But I assure you, there is one.