To live a more congruent, satisfying and accomplished life with others consider what these three stories have in common:
1. “Train hard, laugh harder” could have been the motto of the U.S. national soccer team when two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Julie Foudy, was captain, “the team’s comic relief and its social conscience” according to a New York Times article that cited her courageous support of women’s soccer and Title IX.
2. Bruce Springsteen famously turned down Chrysler’s multi-million dollar offer to use his break-out hit, his anthem to America, Born to Run in a car commercial and hotly protested Ronald Reagan’s attempt to use it in his reelection campaign because Springsteen was angry about the government’s shabby treatment of Vietnam veterans. Later in life, after therapy to heal the wounds of growing up with a volatile, bi-polar father, he choose to set aside time from composing and performing to be a more attentive father and husband.
3. Only after Michelle Obama felt her children were settled into some sense of normalcy in the White House, did she take on causes, choosing two that related to her core values, advocating specific actions in both. For example, from visiting military bases, over the years, as part of Joining Forces, Obama and Jill Biden heard many times that a big problem for military spouses was the lack of portability of their professional licenses (nurses, teachers, etc.) so they had difficulty finding work in their profession when they moved. They move ten times as much as the average American. Obama became a credible, compelling and visible advocate to change the law.
What ties these stories together is how imperfect people can make courageous choices to accomplish more in all parts of their life by having those parts feed each other rather than foment conflict. They are emblematic of our universal struggle to live a full and meaningful life with others when we often feel time-pressed and torn between what appears to be conflicting needs and desires. In Leading the Life You Want, Stewart Friedman masterfully weaves together six life narratives to show exactly how any of us can live a more richly integrated, meaningful and satisfying life with others.
Friedman cites one of them, global humanitarian, former SEAL and The Mission Continues founder Eric Greitens: “The great dividing line between words and results is courageous action.” Reflecting a core theme in the book, Greitens discovered, “I knew from my experience working with Bosnian refugees and Rwandan survivors that those who found a way to serve others were able to rebuild their own sense of purpose, despite all they had lost.”
Which Way You Look at Your Whole Life Affects How Whole It Feels
What you see depends on which way you look, my friend,former National Geographic photographer DeWitt Jones tells audiences when suggesting that “creativity is a matter of perspective.” That’s akin to what Stew Friedman advocates when he says work life balance is a fallacy. Instead, Friedman describes how the whole of our lives, lived right, can be greater than its parts, rather than a stressful battle for time in living each part. He dubs this approach Four-Way Wins.
How Do You Live The Parts of Your Life Now?
One way to start down this path of holistic living is to do a quick, two-part exercise. First, contemplate the relative importance of the four main aspects of your life now, suggests Friedman, and allocate 100 points between them: “work or school, family (however you define that), community (friends, neighbors, religious or social groups), and self (mind, body, spirit). Second, review our past week and take another 100 points to divide into those four sectors according to how you actually spent your time. Then see how the two compare. You may want to alter how you spend your time to match your values.
As Friedman told The 4-Hour Work Week author, Tim Ferriss, “While the ‘time bind’ so often cited in the literature on work/family conflict is no doubt very real, there is a more subtle and pervasive problem that reduces satisfaction in the different domains of life: psychological interference between them. That’s when your mind is pulled to somewhere other than where your body is.
This happens to all of us. There may even be times when you’ve been reading this and your eyes are on the page but your mind has drifted off. You aren’t focused. Put differently, there are times when you might be physically present but psychologically absent.
If you reduce psychological interference, you increase your ability to focus on what matters when it matters, and you minimize the destructive impact conflicts can cause between, for instance, work and family.”
A key to reducing that cognitive dissonance, according to Friedman, is to “know what matters (being real), help others (being whole) and challenges the status quo (being innovative).
In Leading the Life You Want, Friedman shares practical life-integrating exercises to hone your skills for being real, whole and innovative.
With each engrossing narrative, Friedman weaves in universal lessons from these remarkable individuals, Julie Foudy, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Tierney, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, and Eric Greitens. Some of my favorite lessons include those described in these sections:
Be Real: Act with authenticity, align actions with values, be your values everywhere.
Be Whole: Clarify expectations, manage boundaries intelligently, act with integrity, help others.
Be Innovative: Challenge the status quo, embrace change courageously, act with creativity.
One way to start is to take an 18 question quiz to quickly assess your strength with those skills, and see how you compare with the global average, what great leaders are most like you in this context – and get tips to develop those skills.
Another way to start down this path of a more integrated way of living, where each part supports the other parts rather than taking away from them, is to do a quick, two-part exercise:
First, contemplate the relative importance of the four main aspects of your life now, suggests Friedman, and allocate 100 points between them: “work or school, family (however you define that), community (friends, neighbors, religious or social groups), and self (mind, body, spirit).
Second, review our past week and take another 100 points to divide into those four sectors according to how you actually spent your time. Then see how the two compare. Perhaps you may want to alter how you spend your time to match your values.
How gratifying to see Stewart Friedman’s longtime research, teaching and writing culminate in this book where his mutuality mindset is so evident. I believe his approach fosters the interconnectedness increases frequency of serendipitous encounters and unexpected insights that enable deeper friendships and faster innovation.
A bonus benefit: Leading your life this way spurs you to spend more time with those you respect which bolsters, in you, the traits you most admire in them.