When I first came up with the idea of the Circle of Impact two decades ago, I was responding to the patterns of behavior that I saw in people and organizations. In a real sense, their problems originated in the way they thought, the way they related to people, and the way they organized their world.
Out of that perception came the notion that there are three aspects of our lives – ideas, relationships, and structure – that represent the connective tissue of who we are and the world that surrounds us. I called them, The Three Dimensions of Leadership. At that time, I did not actually know how they were connected. I just knew they were. I could see it. It took many years to fully understand how fundamental a perspective I had discovered.
One of the realities that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed is the degree to which our culture has shifted in the type of consumerism which it promotes.
I remember back in the early 1980s listening to a NPR interview with a guy who had written a book about modern marketing philosophies. I remember it to this day because of the shift that he had noted began to take place during the 1960s. He described how for much of the 20th century marketing had been focused on shaming people into buying products.
Then a shift occurred where consumer product marketers began to promote products by telling people that they deserved to have it. Every time I think of this interview I remember the old McDonald’s jingle, “You deserve a break today…”.
In 1899, sociologist Thorsten Veblen published The Theory of the Leisure Class: An economic study of institutions. His research marked a growing phenomenon of people separating their personal life from their work life. Veben was the one who coined the often used term, “conspicuous consumption.” His research marked a growing tension between personal life and work life. This tension is at the heart of the quest for balance.
The balance between life and work, I’ve come to conclude, is an impossible standard. It is a measure of time and activity level rather than a measure of the value of either our life or work.
Ask yourself the following questions.
1. How do you know when there is balance between your life and work? Is it a 50/50 split?
2. If you were to achieve balance, what would be different? Is it simply that you would have more time to pursue your leisure time interests?
3. Presently, which side, life or work, is more out of balance? What is it specifically that tells me this?
Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t see what has not been shown to us. Our past experience is not sufficient to explain what we are experiencing right at this moment.
Yet, if we listen and pay attention, we’ll see that we are in transition. We may only know it intuitively. We feel it in our gut.
People tell me every day that they are in transition.
Yet, when I ask them what they mean, they often don’t have the right words to describe it.
They feel a conflict between their sense of being in transition and the social pressure to be strong and cool.
We need to manage our transitions without conversation. When we talk, we need to be guided by a framework that helps us understand where our individual transitions are leading.