The term work/life balance is one we hear a lot in business and is in danger of becoming something of a cliché. The reality is that as business owners we regularly run the risk of work becoming an all consuming obsession to the detriment of our health and our personal enjoyment. It’s easy to forget the reason we became involved in business in the first place. Sometimes you need to revisit your objectives to help stay clear on your purpose in life.
Unfortunately it can often take a major life incident to make you realize what’s important in life and refocus on your core objectives. Many people struggle to answer the question of their main purpose in life or even what makes them happy. The question we often ask kids - “what do you want to be when you grow up?” - is one we never get around to answering ourselves. The result can be feelings of disillusionment and a lack of purpose.
The first step to dealing with this is to realize that your business is a vehicle to assist other areas of your life - not an end result in itself. It can provide you with a sense of purpose, pleasure, a feeling of belonging and helping others, and of course with the income you need to achieve fulfillment in your personal life - whatever that may be.
Before you even begin to set goals, budgets or objectives for your business you need to frame it from the point of view of your larger personal mission. As simplistic as it sounds, answering the following can be a step in the right direction:
What makes you happy?
What would you like to do more of?
What would you like to do less of?
What would you like to start doing?
What would you like to stop doing?
What’s stopping you from achieving any of the things listed above?
What would be the definition of your perfect day?
Who do you want to spend more time with?
What do you see as your perfect situation in one year?
What do you see as your perfect situation in three years?
What do you see as your perfect situation in five years?
If you could do anything you want what would it be?
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
If you had $10 million what would you do with it?
When it comes to the end of your life what would you like said on your tombstone? What would you hope to hear in a eulogy?
Any study of successful people that has been conducted, and by successful I don’t just mean the rich and famous, invariably comes back to them establishing a strong “Why” as to the reason they do what they do. They have an overriding purpose behind their actions which drives them on towards achieving their objectives.
It reminds me of the story of the three men laying bricks. When the first one was asked what he was doing he replied “Laying bricks.” The second one was asked and he replied “Building a wall.” When the third one, who was moving much quicker and clearly enjoying his work, was asked he replied, “I am building a cathedral that will stand for a thousand years!”
Purpose is the fuel that will drive you forward and the clearer that purpose the stronger the fuel will be.
It would be very easy to read the questions above and not answer them, but I want to challenge you to take an hour out of your day and sit down, working your way through these questions. It may be something you should complete with a loved one - not only will some of their goals need to align with yours, but they may be able to provide you with some intuitive insights into some of your own answers that you may not be able to see for yourself.
Take the time to do this exercise. It may be the best hour you spend this week.