If the title of these latest blogs have caught your attention perhaps it is because “work - life - balance” might be translated in your mind as: I need to work less. Is that the goal? If all we are is being obsessed with how many hours we put in for work, grumbling about how we get distracted by work phone calls, texts or emails (and what it does to our heartburn) then we are in big trouble. There isn’t a lot of hope for you to find that elusive balance.
ideally your “work” should be something that is in alignment with who you really are as God has made you. Most of us grew up with the phrase ringing in our ears that “you can be whatever you want to be.” But that’s not entirely true is it? Now I’m not talking about certain prejudices or discrimination keeping you down as real or true as that might be. No, I’m talking about how you are made and how that limits you. You won’t see Shaquille O’Neal riding a horse as a jockey and you probably won’t see a jockey as a pro basketball player either. Whether it is a physical trait or a degree of talent or some other measure, there are things that we are made for and other things that just aren’t a good fit. It only makes sense that we try to find some alignment when searching for a career or a job or a job change. But whether we are the one hiring someone or we’re the one being hired, we violate that rule all the time.
When we begin working at a certain job or role we often discover that there are things we need to do that we didn’t know about. Or we discover that something we dislike or know we are not good at is required or requires more time that we thought. In some instances we end up putting out a lot of energy doing something that is just a bit “off” for us. Now THAT my friends is the formula for burnout. You see, it isn’t the overtime that burns us out but rather it is too often doing the things that just aren’t a good fit for us.
Burnout happens because doing what we are not necessarily good at is exhausting! Then how come we evaluate people by what they don’t do well and tell them they should get better? Sure, there are ways in which people are lazy or don’t try hard and need to get get it together. But there are also times when part of a job description just isn’t a good fit. In my first job out of college I was installing accounting, invoicing, inventory, payroll and other kinds of software in small businesses. The computer stuff was a breeze. I could do each of the software packages. But I hated accounting. I could do it. I got “A’s” in high school and passed college accounting for my marketing degree but it took a lot of focus to get it right in the job. Plus I was away from home a lot in that first year of my marriage. Soon I was rethinking my career and it wasn’t long until I was off to seminary. Yet it wasn't the accounting or travel so much as it was believing that perhaps God had given me some gifts for ministry that I should manage better for Him.
That’s the point of work - life - balance: finding that place where your strengths, passions and obligations intersect. Mick Ukleja and Robert Lorber make this point in their book entitled “Who Are You? What Do You Want?” If you want to avoid burnout and you want to enjoy what you are doing, then your job or career should be something that is in high alignment with how you are wired. Certainly every job contains things you don’t want to do or don’t like. Sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up and do it without complaining. Then again if we are smart, we will seek with every passing year to operate more and more out of our strengths.
In the words of church consultant and author Reggie McNeal, “The best way for you to make an impact for the kingdom of God is to get better and better at what you are already good at.” His point is that we often downplay or don’t even recognize what we are good at and assume that if it comes so easily to us it must be the same with everyone. Not true. So if we are good at it already, and we barely have given attention to it, just imagine if we put forth some effort and actually tried to get better? Talk about being good and making a difference!
Is your thinking starting to change? It’s not about improving your weaknesses as much as it is improving your strengths and living into them more and more. Do you even know what your strengths are? Have you asked people what you are good at? We can be self deceived! It might be very enlightening to talk to some people who will have the guts to tell you the truth about what they see in you and what they don’t!
The Gallup organization has the Strengthsfinders assessment and Markus Buckingham (formerly with Gallup) has the Standout assessment and I’m sure there are others. According to Strenthsfinders my strengths are: Strategic, Responsibility, Futurist, Relator and Learner. What are yours?
Yet knowing is only the first step. The next step is knowing what you will do about it. Will you risk exploring how your current job can be adjusted to more accurately align with your strengths? Will you risk exploring needing to change jobs if necessary? Why or why not? Once you know, it will be difficult to continue to do the same thing and be the same person. The difference may be avoiding burnout and becoming even more productive, fulfilled and energized about what you do. What do you think about work - life - balance now?
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Scott Gress is called by Lutheran Counseling Services and partners with the FL-GA District of the Lutheran Church as an independent contractor. He specializes in Leadership Training, Consulting, Coaching and Coach Training. Contact Scott to continue the conversation or experience a free sample coaching session. 561-542-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org or scottgress.com
"Helping leaders be more productive - less controlling"