A Research Paper created by Pamela Speder
(Leadership Coaching, UNITED STATES)
Taken from the Foreword of Simple Abundance is a quote by Margaret Young:
Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.
Through my experience, I have found that helping clients identify who they are, what their purpose is, and what drives them is one of the most important aspects of coaching as it is the foundation, or “core”, of who they want to be and where they want to go. Clients truly understanding their core and making choices to ensure alignment between their values, goals and actions can be extremely transformational, moving them forward in a way they may have not known possible, allowing them to reach their full potential. My experience as an organization development leader and consultant has shown me how critical a similar process is for organizations – defining the vision, mission, values, and priorities and ensuring these are the compass in all decisions and behavior is key to overall success. Just as businesses need to take many things into consideration when developing their core, individuals also need to consider their whole self, including body, mind and spirit, when developing theirs.
Making choices, and decisions based on our core can be difficult especially as we are faced with so many competing demands in our world. The tendency to be “on” constantly and ever accessible due to advances in technology have significantly changed how we live. We are also dealing with cultural influences, including our desires or the expectations that we can have it all and do it all which add pressures and stress, leading to unhealthy habits and a lack of balance.
The Human Element, an organization and leadership development consultancy, includes this important concept of alignment in their tag line, “align, develop, grow”. The first step in their Discovery Coaching Model is to Align, which involves “creating awareness through assessment, gaining a deeper understanding of your values, your drivers and your purpose, and exploring
what it takes for your priorities, your goals, and most importantly, your actions to be in alignment.”
Of course, this effort requires balance, the one thing that people are often lacking, even when they seem to have it all. Having a sense of balance means knowing that there is adequate space in our lives for what we value most. It requires a constant and rigorous analysis of whether any one part of our lives is taking over any other important part. It also requires releasing our attachments to life situations or people that are not in alignment with our authentic self. But if we don’t know our core, we won’t know what to balance. One of the most common quests of human beings is finding a healthy balance, but is it realistic or even possible? Perhaps one can strive to work toward balance at any given time throughout their lifetime? Perhaps balance is not a destination, but a journey of balancing, not a journey toward balance, but an ongoing process, a process resulting in true abundance? Perhaps balance is really just a result of understanding who you are at your core and the associated choices you make and therefore, if you are true to your core, you will have a strong sense of balance?
Understanding that each person’s core is unique as well as their formula for moving forward is important for effective coaching to occur. In an effort to share an example of an individual’s unique journey with profound learning, I will share my personal story.
A Personal Perspective: My Core Discovery & Balancing Act Journey
As I share my core discovery and balancing act journey, I will highlight some of the powerful concepts that I encountered along the way. Looking back on the last decade of my life, it is so clear now that everything happens for a reason and that God had carefully planned this journey for me in the most perfect way.
Ten years ago I was thriving in my career, was just about to be promoted after being at my new company less than a year, one of several promotions that would follow, part of the reward for fully giving my commitment and talents to my career, to the company and to the people I supported. In my corporate career I traveled about 50-75% of the time for about ten years, including long international travel while working extremely demanding schedules, being accessible and available whenever needed. The company culture certainly influenced much of this behavior, but I also learned that my work ethic, my drive, the high expectations I had for
myself and the associated choices I made (or didn’t) were just as much to blame. I met my husband-to-be on an airplane traveling for business (as I mentioned, God had carefully laid out this plan) and we both wanted to start a family after getting married. It became quite apparent; however, that I would have to make different choices in my life before taking that step as it was clear that my actions were not in alignment with my “core”. Words of wisdom from General Electric’s previous Chairman and CEO, Jack Welch certainly rang true to me:
There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.
In Balancing Work & Life, the reader is asked in the race of life, what kind of race are we running, a short one or a long one? The short one is described as a sprint, characterized by speed and quickness whereas the long one is illustrated as a marathon, characterized by endurance. He goes on to say that if we live life more like a sprint, we will burn out long before the end of the race and asks “Who would willingly live a short, fast-paced life”?