387: Conversation with Dr. Rob Pasick on “Balance” in “Unbalanced Times”

s all of this necessary?”
    Millions are asking this question right now.
    Hundreds of thousands of families losing their homes across America right now are sorting out what’s essential to carry into their next phase of life.
    Americans cleaning up from storms and floods at the moment are evaluating what to throw away and what to save.
    And the millions who still are employed — and still are enjoying the blessings of warm, safe homes?         They’re juggling life’s turbulent demands at stress levels in the red zone.

    Today — we invite you to join a discussion on these issues with Dr. Wayne Baker at the www.OurValues.org landing page. Please, check out what Dr. Baker is sharing today and add a comment. You can make a difference in another reader’s day simply by adding a helpful thought.
    PLUS — right here today — we’ve got a Conversation With one of the top authorities in this field: Dr. Rob Pasick, leadership coach for Fortune 500 executives as well as grassroots entrepreneurs. Rob’s newest book is called “Balanced Leadership in Unbalanced Times,” because his hopeful message takes a new approach to this basic question.
    What’s necessary in a good life? Rob’s answer is: We need all phases of life — work, family, community, values and health. You may be stressed-out right now trying to juggle the latter four spheres of life with long hours of overtime at work. But the key to your success and well being, Rob says, is realizing that all these spheres need to be — and can be — balanced. (Also, check out Rob’s own Web site!)


     DAVID: You certainly got the title right for this new book. What we need is “Balanced Leadership” and these definitely are “Unbalanced Times.”
    ROB: We came up with this title six months ago, when times were looking unbalanced already. Now, six months later, the book is out and our times are — well, they’re so unbalanced they’re almost tipping over.
    We’re all walking on very shaky ground. What people need to remember is that, even though there are lots of rocks and slippery spots that can trip us up, we’ve got to keep getting up and moving forward.
    DAVID: One of the helpful things you point out in your book is that we need to re-evaluate even the most basic assumptions about our lives. For example, it’s not easy to know what “moving forward” looks like, anymore.
    ROB: So many things we all took for granted are no longer sure things. That’s difficult.
    DAVID: For example, we can’t assume we’re going to have a lifelong career anymore.
    ROB: Absolutely. People have been talking about this for some years, but now most people are finally coming face to face with this reality. Even if you’re someone who started off on a career path with a well-established employer and it looked like you were going to pursue this particular work for life — now, you’re likely discovering that you’re really in business of yourself. You’re a free agent. We’re all becoming free agents.
    People who get that message and begin to understand how it affects our lives are the people who are best suited for this new age of life and work.
    Each person has to start thinking of himself or herself as almost an individual brand.

    DAVID: A personal brand?
    ROB: You need to ask yourself: What’s your unique talent? Where can you make a unique contribution? That’s what you’re going to be paid for in the future — not just for showing up at an office somewhere with some degree you’ve earned.
    This is a new situation in the world of work for most of us.
    DAVID: How about many years ago, when people learned individual crafts. Is that similar?
    ROB: Yes, there were eras before when successful people developed individual crafts — but what’s different is that, in those earlier eras, things didn’t change that rapidly. You didn’t need to worry too much about change. If you developed your craft, you probably could depend upon it for a lifetime.
    DAVID: OK, I see what you’re saying. Now, it’s also the pace of change that’s a problem. Your unique contribution may be a something of a moving target.
    ROB: About 10 years ago we were asking: Are we nearing the end of our capacity to absorb change? This was 10 years ago and we look back now and say: Woah! Those were the easy days!
    Today, change is even more dramatic, faster — and often it’s immediately global in scope. Now, even if we have a craft, we have to think about how things are changing globally in our line of work.
    DAVID: So this is where your “balance” concept comes in right?
    ROB: Absolutely. You may think the answer is to pour more and more effort into your work — that one sphere of your life that is very important. But that’s not the answer. The real answer begins with a very steady ruder within our lives so that we can begin to maneuver in this turbulent environment. That’s what I mean when we talk about balance. We have to start by knowing where our center is. We need to understand the elements within our lives on which we will not compromise. We need to identify the rocks that keep us steady as we go.
    DAVID: Give us an example. Your book explores dozens of strategies within these various spheres of our lives. But spell it out in one area for us here.
    ROB: OK. Let’s take health. People think: Well, that’s a steady part of our lives right? But it isn’t really. You know all these different special diets people keep trying? Well, a new study came out recently that said the basics in a diet are calories. We really should be counting calories. What we thought we knew about health and what our doctors were telling us — may be changing again. We may be going back to counting calories.
    Change is coming at us in all areas of life — even in what we assume will keep us healthy. It’s getting harder and harder to critically evaluate all this information in all these phases of life.
    So, in this new book, I try to step back to rely upon solid, basic recommendations. That’s important. I want to be scientific about what I’m telling people. The things I’m recommending — they’re based on real data. I’m a psychologist and I look to the data that seems to be reliable and I’m telling people: Here are some principles you can follow that will be sustainable over time.

    DAVID: You say there are five spheres of life — five balls we’re juggling — that should wind up in some kind of balance, if we’re going to live an effective, happy life and feel that we’re doing some good in the world. So, describe the five spheres.
    ROB: These aren’t just five balls we’re forced to juggle. These can be five pillars that can balance our lives. This is true, not only in business, but in our communities and in all phases of life. We’ve already mentioned our work, which is one of the five. We’ve mentioned health That’s No. 2.
    Then, family is another pillar, another essential sphere of life. Integrity is a third pillar. This area of “integrity” includes the values we live by, our reputation as a person, our principles. Then, the fifth is community: our neighbors, friends, the people living around us.
    DAVID: I think one of your  most powerful insights is that people tend to place all their emphasis — in anxious times like these especially — on the phase of life that’s probably the one we can adapt most easily, right?
    ROB: Right. Our work.
    We become so stressed from trying to juggle all these balls that we contribute to this unbalanced situation. We tend to put more and more effort into the one sphere that’s actually the most replaceable: our work.
    Think about this. If we let our health collapse, then it’s much more difficult to make any kind of recovery. It’s easier to find another job than to come back after our health has collapsed.
    When we get stressed out about work, we also tend to let family lag behind, don’t we? But, I’ll tell you: Finding a new job is easier than going through all the destructive things that happen when we neglect our families. People find themselves drawn toward maybe having an affair. We can wind up facing divorce. If we’ve messed up and we’ve neglected our children, then there may be no way to go back and recover from that. When we’re stressed over work, a lot of people tend to neglect family first — when that’s actually one of the most important spheres in our lives.
    Community? That’s also very difficult to restore, if we allow community relationships to fall apart.
    And integrity? Get into drinking or addictions and develop behaviors that wind up publicly violating our integrity? That’s very hard to recover from. Much more difficult than finding a new job. 

    DAVID: These things all tend to form a sort of orchestra of bad choices, right?
    ROB: People think that the first thing they need to do in times like these is — work a lot harder. Harder and harder. And soon their health begins slipping. They’re sicker for longer. They may never have missed much time at work and suddenly they’re out for a week or two. Their families go on vacation and they feel they can’t possibly leave the job for that week of vacation. They send the family off and they stay home to work even harder.
    Stress is rising. People are worried. I’m seeing this pattern again and again.
    DAVID: You’ve got a different vision of how our communities should work — how our lives should work. That’s what impresses me most about your book and your whole approach to our troubled times.
    You’re saying: Community may be endangered, but community really matters. Family matters. Balance matters.
    You’re saying: The new global economy is forcing us all to be free agents — to make our own plans and think for ourselves — but none of this makes any sense if we’re not balancing all phases of a good life. I suppose you could have written another of those books with a title like: 10 Steps to Winning.
    But, your book is about making choices that bring new balance to our world. I like that idea. I would say it’s a deeply spiritual idea.
    ROB: I work with top executives and I work with everyday people and the people I meet and work with are very compassionate, very concerned. Even executives who are running companies that are in serious trouble right now — they’re not bad leaders. They’re not bad people. They’re feeling extreme stress over how all of this is affecting their employees, their shareholders, their customers, their communities.
    Let me put it this way: We don’t want to flash forward 10 or 20 years and envision our children saying about us, “You know, Dad — or Mom — never recovered from the meltdown of 2008-09.”
    DAVID: You’re saying we need to realize this is a transformative period and take hold of this deep rudder in our lives — these core principles — and start sailing in these new waters.
    ROB: Yes. This may be a time when we should slow down and spend more time with our children. You may have a great opportunity to do that if you’re suddenly laid off.
    And we need to think of ourselves as leaders. We need to develop a personal plan. Like it or not, we’re all becoming free agents and we need to take control.
    DAVID: Just leaders?
    ROB: A lot of people do tell me: “I don’t need to be a leader.” And I say to them: “No, we all need to be leaders now.” And we begin that process by carefully examining the truly enduring qualities in our lives.
    That’s where we recover our strength. It doesn’t come through quick tricks or fast solutions. It’s a process that takes a while. It’s something we want to sustain as we move into this new world.

IF YOU FOUND THIS INTERVIEW HELPFUL, please come back on Tuesday for Cindy LaFerle’s moving “Fragile Season,” an inspirational story on a similar theme.

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