Forget Being A Workaholic: Why Balance Is Key To Living A Life Free Of Regret

Forget Being A Workaholic: Why Balance Is Key To Living A Life Free Of Regret

Okay, I admit it: I’m a bit of a workaholic. I love what I do, and on a consistent basis, I unwind after a long day at work with my laptop, only to find myself working again.

All of us are guilty of being some sort of “-holic” these days. Whether you’re addicted to work, Netflix, Facebook, the gym, the party scene or whatever else, all of us have things in which we indulge a bit too much. But, who is at fault if we do what we love all the time?

It makes sense to do things that make us happy, right?

After years of following the fun for so long, it seems that the keys to happiness aren’t found in doing only the “happy” things. Rather, the keys are in balance: equal parts pleasure and pain, in all areas of our lives.

The most interesting people in the world are the ones who have been through the whole gamut of life experiences. These are the people who have had it all, lost it all, then worked through the pain and worked through the pleasure to build themselves up again.

The truly happy people of the world have figured out that balance is the true path to happiness, and they take care not to get too caught up in addictive things. They’ve realized that one cannot and should not allow one area of life to rule all others.

For the rest of us, however, the path to happiness is a difficult one. We may love doing one thing and think we’re on the right track, but after a while, we move on to yet another thing, into which we inevitably get sucked.

In life, finding balance starts with owning up to what we really value, and to be honest, that isn’t so easy. None of us literally values just one thing, either; we value many things all at once — career, friends, health and adventure, to name just a few. How could we honestly be happy if we valued one above the other?

Therein lies the kicker. Life for a Millennial is not just about figuring out what we love and what we don’t love. It’s about navigating the balance between all things and all values. Once one area supersedes another, we begin to seesaw out of control, and before we know it, our faces are down in the dirt and we’re wondering what the hell happened.

In psychology, our value system is the single-most important factor for determining thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It’s these values that lead us to seek out or avoid experiences that shape our views and our attitudes, especially in regards to happiness.

Whatever you value, you typically do, often at the expense of your other values. You may value work, like I do, and spend a lot of time achieving purpose through your career. However, doing so will only get you so far. You have to make room for other things you value and not let them fall by the wayside.

The core issue here is how the balance of your values enhances or diminishes your quality of life. Any imbalanced pattern puts the path to happiness further outside your grasp.

In recent years, a nurse and her elderly patients at a terminal care facility put together a captivating study about regret. The study asked dying people what they regretted most about life. (See the infographic here: Top 10 Regrets Of The Dying.)

As these people are quite possibly in the best positions to answer this question, the study was downright eye-opening and showed us just how important balance really is. Each of the top 10 regrets held personal values at the core of living a happy and fulfilled life.

The top two regrets had to do with where they spent — or in this case, did not spend — the majority of their time.

The number one regret among the elderly was that they were never brave enough to pursue their dreams and instead, settled for what others expected them to do. In other words, they ignored balancing passion and personal growth at the behest of their other values.

Coming in at number two was never making time for friends and family. Excessive dedication to work can often lead a person to spend less time with their loved ones. This is one area of balance that might not only hurt you, but others, as well.

Life can definitely be a double-edged sword, and where one thing can get you, another thing canreally get you. So, do yourself a favor and cut out some of your “holic” tendencies. Indulge in more things you value, but never get around to doing.

Introduce some true balance to your life. Go to the gym; take your loved one on a date; get out into nature with your friends or go on a vacation. If you need to spend a little extra time at work to get that promotion because you value hard work, then absolutely go for it.

One day, you will find yourself at the end of your life, only to realize that you never really lived, and you were never really happy.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It



4 Things That Can Make You a More Inspiring Leader


Most bosses worry about how they’re perceived by their employees. Are they too nice? Too strict? Overbearing? Passive-aggressive?

Thankfully, if managers sense that something’s off, these things seem relatively straightforward to correct: There are prescribed strategies for becoming a fair, attentive, not-too-nice-but-not-too-mean boss.

But being inspiring is a different story. It’s a trait that seems intangible; something that can’t be improved upon. You either are or you aren’t—right?

While some managers may seem by nature to be more inspiring than others, I tend to think that it’s not exclusively innate. It’s just a matter of finding out what traits in a leader push employees to strive to be better—and incorporating them into your own day-to-day management style. Here are a few of those things:

1. Someone Who Works Harder Than Everyone Else

When I worked at a startup and looked to my boss, the founder of the young company, I wanted to see someone who was desperately hungry for the company to succeed; who was willing to do what was needed, whenever it was needed, to get the work done. There would be days when she would already be in the office when we got in and would stay for hours after we left.

And that made the rest of the team want to work just as hard.

Does this mean you need to work crazy hours just to show your team that you work harder than them? No. But they should be able to clearly see your dedication to your work and the success of the department and company—because they will pick up on it and follow your example.

2. Someone Who’s Enthusiastic About What They Do

Just like employees, bosses can go through stints of burnout. Just the other week, I was talking to my boss on the phone, and he couldn’t seem to get through a single sentence without a big dramatic sigh as he talked about how overwhelmed he was.

But hearing about how much work you have, how frustrated you are with your boss, and how you just can’t take it anymore isn’t going to inspire your employees to be enthusiastic about their own jobs. In fact, it’ll probably do the opposite.

Employees want to be able to look to their managers and see that they love what they do—that even amid frustrations and heavy workloads, they’re passionate about their work and enjoy what they do on a daily basis. That kind of enthusiasm is infectious. It reminds employees of why they’re there and what they’re working toward.

3. Someone Who Sets the Bar High

The best leaders know what their team members are capable of—and then push them just a little bit further.

At first, this can be frustrating to employees. They hear a challenging goal and theirfirst thought is that the expectations are unrealistic and the manager is simply being cruel to assign something so unattainable. But a truly inspirational leader will then provide a way for the employees to achieve the “unachievable”—by providing the guidance, coaching, and resources necessary to get to the finish line.

In the end, when employees see what they’re truly capable of, they’re inspired to continue working for those hard-to-reach goals—knowing their manager is there to back them up the whole way.

4. Someone Who Doesn’t Ignore the Problems

We’ve all had that one boss who tolerates the underperformers for a little too long, who treats the employees who don’t do quality work (or much work at all) the same as the employees who go above and beyond.

Or, there’s the boss who allows sub-par work to pass through his or her hands. “This isn’t exactly what the client wanted, but we’ll just have to go ahead and submit it,” he or she says.

But the inspiring leader is the one who pays attention to the issues and doesn’t tolerate mediocrity. She addresses low-performing employees so that her team is as strong as possible; he sees—and points out—when assignments don’t meet the mark and explains how to make them better. The inspiring manager says, “I have high standards, and we’re going to do whatever is necessary to produce work we stand behind and can be proud of.”

“Be more inspiring” can seem like an unattainable goal—and one you don’t have much influence over. But when you know what your employees find inspirational and work toward embodying those things, you can boost your inspiration factor big time.

Photo of chess piece courtesy of Shutterstock.


What Consultants Do

Consulting is one of the most nebulous fields out there.

The big firms — Bain, McKinsey, Deloitte, and others — are well known, but few people seem to have a basic understanding of what, exactly, it is that consultants do all day.

To find out, we talked to Tim Tierney, a third-year consultant at Deloitte in Boston, who took us through his typical Monday schedule:

4:30 a.m. — Wake up and head to the airport.
Tierney takes a cab or a car depending on what’s easier. Deloitte covers all transportation expenses while he’s on the road.

6:30 a.m. — Catch the flight.
Usually the Monday morning flights are at 6:30 or 7 a.m.

9:00 a.m. — Flight lands, hop in a car to get to the client.

10:30 a.m. — Arrive at office, get coffee, and start work.
Tierney says he spends the first few hours on site making “multiple coffee runs,” sifting through weekend emails, and reviewing material before meeting the client.

1:30 p.m. — Break for a half-hour lunch.
Lunch can be hit-or-miss depending on where you’re working. “I was on a project in Columbus, Ga., at this bank, and Columbus is in the middle of absolutely nowhere,” Tierney said. “So we’re going to fried chicken places, and that’s the only option.”

2:00 p.m. — Begin the day’s meetings.
From 2 to 4 p.m., Tierney says he’d meet with the client to get a better understanding of their job and their company. He calls these “walkthroughs” and says they give you the “nuts and bolts” of the project.

4:00 p.m. — Catch up on emails again and meet with the team manager.
Consultants spend the next few hours reviewing what they’ve learned, making sure they understand the client, and coming up with a game plan. When they’re not doing that, Tierney says, they’re busy preparing PowerPoint slides and fixing details like font size in existing presentations.

7:00 p.m. — Grab drinks and dinner.
Assuming he’s not swamped with a project (and needs to eat at the office), Tierney says he and the team will usually go out for drinks and dinner on Deloitte’s dime. “That’s always fun, especially if you’re on a good team,” he says.

8:00 p.m. — Head back to the hotel.
On a normal night, Tierney gets back to the hotel around 8 and tries to find a gym. If he has a rental car, he also sometimes drives around the area looking for a movie theater or something fun to do.

Rest of the night — Do a bit more work, and then get some sleep.
Most consultants will log on and do another hour or so of work back at the hotel, Tierney says. That includes checking emails, fixing proposals, and doing some internal stuff that Deloitte calls “partner development work.” He tries to get six hours of sleep before getting up to do it all over again.

In general, consulting involves working on team-oriented projects to resolve problems (management, financial, or other) for clients. Projects tend to last for three to four weeks, and because they’re typically conducted on-site, consultants are on the road for most of the week. Some firms, like Deloitte, allow employees to work from home on Fridays.

Tierney got his job at Deloitte after graduating from Boston College in 2011, landing a starting salary of $60,000. He routinely travels all over the country to work with clients. Overall, it’s a travel- and hotel-heavy lifestyle. Tierney says he spent so much time on the road his first year that he didn’t even bother to find an apartment in Boston.

Because consultants have to fly home for the weekend, Deloitte and many other firms will also allow employees to take the amount of money their ticket home costs and put it toward a trip anywhere else. Last year, Tierney says he used that allowance to fly to France for the Monaco Grand Prix and to Milan for the city’s fashion week.

That’s the glamorous side of consulting. The day-to-day itself is far less exciting.


Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation – Nilofer Merchant – Harvard Business Review

I find myself, probably like many of you, spending way too much time in front of my computer. When I do face-to-face meetings, my colleagues and I typically met around some conference table, sometimes at an airport lounge (nothing like getting the most out of a long layover), and quite often at coffee shops (hello Starbucks!). But that means that the most common denominator across all these locations wasn’t the desk, or, the keyboard, or even the coffee. The common denominator in the modern workday is our, um, tush.

As we work, we sit more than we do anything else. We’re averaging 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping. Sitting is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And, everyone else is doing it also, so it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not okay. In that way, I’ve come to see that sitting is the smoking of our generation.

Of course, health studies conclude that people should sit less, and get up and move around. After 1 hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as 90%. Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism affecting things like (good cholesterol) HDL levels in our bodies. Research shows that this lack of physical activity is directly tied to 6% of the impact for heart diseases, 7% for type 2 diabetes, and 10% for breast cancer, or colon cancer. You might already know that the death rate associated with obesity in the US is now 35 million. But do you know what it is in relationship to Tobacco? Just 3.5 million. The New York Times reported on another study, published last year in the journal Circulation that looked at nearly 9,000 Australians and found that for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11%. In that article, a doctor is quoted as saying that excessive sitting, which he defines as nine hours a day, is a lethal activity.

And so, over the last couple of years, we saw the mainstreaming of the standing desk. Which, certainly, is a step forward. But even that, while it gets you off your duff, won’t help you get real exercise.

So four years ago, I made a simple change when I switched one meeting from a coffee meeting to a walking-meeting. I liked it so much it became a regular addition to my calendar; I now average four such meetings, and 20 to 30 miles each week. Today it’s life-changing, but it happened almost by accident.

My fundamental problem with exercise has always been this: it took time away from other more “productive things.” Going to the gym to take care of me (vs. companies, colleagues, family) seemed selfish. My American-bred Puritan work ethic nearly always won out. Only when I realized I could do both at the same time, by making exercise part of the meeting, did I finally start to get more exercise. This is one of those 2-for-1 deals. I’m not sacrificing my health for work, nor work for fitness. And maybe that’s why making fitness a priority finally doesn’t feel like a conflict. It’s as easy as stepping out the door and might require as much as a change of shoes.

And, yet, it’s true that some people will turn you down. Probably 30% of the people I ask to do these kinds of meetings say that they are not fit enough to do a walking meeting. I had one person tell me afterwards that they got more active for an entire month before our meeting, so as to not embarrass themselves on their hike with me. I don’t judge the people who won’t do a hiking meeting, and in most cases will choose to do another type of meeting with them (lunch or whatever) but I am also reminded of James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis’s research from their related book, Connected. They observed that obesity spreads according to network effects; if your friend’s friend’s friend who lives a thousand miles away gains weight, you’re likely to gain weight, too. And if that extended friend also loses weight, even if you’re not in the same city, you’re likely to lose weight, too. My goal is to be someone who socializes the idea that physical activity matters, and that we each matter enough to take care of our health.

And after a few hundred of these meetings, I’ve started noticing some unanticipated side benefits. First, I can actually listen better when I am walking next to someone than when I’m across from them in some coffee shop. There’s something about being side-by-side that puts the problem or ideas before us, and us working on it together.

Second, the simple act of moving also means the mobile device mostly stays put away. Undivided attention is perhaps today’s scarcest resource, and hiking meetings allow me to invest that resource very differently.

And, finally we almost always end the hike joyful. The number one thing I’ve heard people say (especially if they’ve resisted this kind of meeting in the past) is “That was the most creative time I’ve had in a long time” And that could be because we’re outside, or a result of walking. Research certainly says that walking is good for the brain.

I’ve learned that if you want to get out of the box thinking, you need to literally get out of the box. When you step outside, you give yourself over to nature, respecting its cycles and unpredictability. It keeps me more awake to what is happening around me by experiencing the extreme heats of summer, or the frigid power of winter. It makes me present to the world around me instead of being insulated from it.

To keep this commitment — to myself and to others — I’ve marked off certain times on my calendar for these meetings. I block off two morning appointments (when I can take a shower afterwards) and two end-of-day appointments for hiking meetings. I try and schedule these slots before scheduling “regular” sitting meetings because it means I have no excuse to not move that day and it helps me be more awake during the day or less zombie-like (and still-thinking-about-my-inbox) going into the evening. On the rare days when someone bails on a hike last minute, I typically still head out for the time, and I find myself hearing even my own voice more clearly.