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Leading A Deliberate Life

For most people work/life balance is at best an elusive ideal, and at worst a complete myth. But I’ve learned, after recovering from many of life’s bumps and bruises along the way, if I make deliberate choices about which opportunities I’ll pursue and which I’ll decline, I’m less likely to lose myself, my loved ones, and my grip on a successful career. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided to make a change in my life. My new/current mantra is “be deliberate in everything I do”.

If I’m deliberate in everything I do, I won’t be able to run on autopilot, which will require me to be present in all conversations and actions, instead of daydreaming or missing a step (literally). If I’m deliberate in all I do, I’ll experience life with more depth, more intensity, and more vigor. I’ll feel more in control of my life, rather than allowing life to control me, my actions and my feelings.

This new mantra wasn’t always my Mode of Operation (MO). In the past, my MO has always been based on sayings like “the early bird gets the worm,” “hard work pays off,” “be first to arrive at the office and the last to leave,” “lunch in front of my computer will help me get ahead of the game,” “my family will understand why I’m not there,” and so on, and so on. But at what point do your hardworking habits stop being productive and start taking a toll on your health, your relationships, and your career? At what point will you experience burnout in your work environment and in your personal life?

Are you a high achiever? Well, if some of your colleagues refer to you as the “Energizer Bunny”, “Brown-noser” or the “Tasmanian Devil,” you’re probably a high achiever! They basically see you as someone who can run circles around everyone else, someone who doesn’t know how to push the pause button during work hours, someone that can complete multiple things at the same time, or someone who was taught that everything else can wait except your job. That definitely describes me! I’ve always been a high achiever who measures myself against the amount of quality work I can get done in a day. Unfortunately, if you’re a high achiever, burnout is just around the corner!

Burnout is one of those hazards in life that high achievers should watch out for. Unfortunately, because of their “I can do it all” personalities, they rarely see burnout coming. They’re so focused and passionate about what they do, they tend to ignore the fact that they’re working extremely long hours, taking on exceptionally heavy workloads, and putting enormous pressure on themselves to be the best friend, the best sibling or the best spouse they can be. Something has got to give, and burnout is typically the result!

Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. When in the midst of full-fledged burnout, you’re no longer able to function effectively on a personal or a professional level. Burnout doesn’t happen suddenly, it creeps up on you over time like a slow leak, which makes it difficult to recognize the warning signs. Instead of waiting until you’re feeling ineffective and detached, create a new mantra for yourself.

You can start by taking a page from Thomas Freedman’s book “Thank You for Being Late.” Press pause to take a breath, ponder, reflect, and slow down. Take time to tell your family and friends how you feel. Spend quality time outside work to experience something fun and exciting. Be conscious of your actions and how your actions or non-actions affect the people around you. Be willing to go the extra mile for someone who is hurting or sad. Reflect on what is important in life, considering how you can improve your life and the lives around you. Measure the implications of your actions, and set a goal to take control of how you feel.

Can we continue to work hard and lead a deliberate life? Sure, we can. If we’re deliberate in our intentions, our actions, and our goals, and if we focus on what’s right for our life, we won’t fall into the agony of a lifetime on autopilot. Just go for it; lead a deliberate life. You’ll love your new life; I know I do!

M. Kathleen Luke-Markee, MBA