Discipline for Success
Work-life balance is like an age-old unsolved mystery or mathematical equation. Converging descriptions by Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster, we could define work-life balance as the equilibrium between the opposing or divergent influences of personal life and career work. Can someone accomplish a healthy “balance” between these two realities and experience meaningful business results? What would that require of leaders?
Proverbs is considered the book of wisdom, addressing questions of values, moral behavior, the meaning of human life, and right conduct. If we look to Proverbs for wisdom about how to be an excellent worker, we don’t find validation for the concept of “hard work” or a prescribed number of workhours per week. But we do find dozens of references to “diligence.”
Diligence is defined as the steady, earnest, energetic, devoted, and painstaking effort to accomplish an undertaking. If God has given us 24 hours a day purposely, desires us to live life with abundant joy, peace, and purpose, and has appointed us as stewards of His resources, a critical undertaking for us is to apply diligence to how we allocate and invest our time. An otherwise undisciplined pursuit of “success” can be a catalyst for failure.
First Things First
Many business leaders think because of their position, they are supposed to make every provision for business needs first. Then they address other needs with the time that is left. This can oftentimes result in financially successful but relationally deficient families. Each blessing and responsibility carries a call for diligent discipline to align our priorities with God’s. What are His priorities?
A strong structure is built on a firm foundation. As Christians, we believe that God’s Word is the solid rock on which we build our lives (Matt. 7:24) and where we find direction to prioritize:
- Seek His Kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37), and worship nothing else above Him (Exod. 20:3).
- Love and respect our spouses as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:22–28), devoting extra time to the things of the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32–34)
- Work as if working for Him (Col. 3:23)
God doesn’t work against Himself. When we consider our priorities as God has revealed them, we remember He didn’t provide us with families to diminish our relationship with Him or a business to steal time from our families, etc.
Do Less, but Better
While God’s priorities are the same for us all, there is no “one size fits all” work-like balance formula. The next step toward a healthy balance is the individual discernment of how to invest our time specifically in each of the categories above and beyond. This discernment pertains not only to the things that we should do, but also the things that we shouldn’t. As we grow and extend ourselves into commitments, we must allow God, the gardener, to prune our branches not bearing fruit (John 15:2). We can think of elimination as a helpful subdiscipline of diligence—to say “yes” to what is essential and “no” to what is a distraction. Author Greg McKeown describes this as “Essentialism”—a disciplined, systematic approach to make the wisest possible investment of our time and energy to operate at our highest point of contribution. As demonstrated in the figure below, McKeown writes “An Essentialist produces more by removing more instead of doing more.”
The three E’s to apply the essentialist method are explore, eliminate, and execute:
- Explore: Evaluate which activities or efforts make the highest possible contribution toward your goals. Identify the various aspects of your life, determine their condition, and prioritize (i.e., faith, marriage, family, self-care, friends, career, finances, recreation)
- Eliminate: Actively disengage from the nonessential activities.
- Execute: Create a system that makes getting the essential things done as effortless as possible.
As we pursue self-awareness, we might find that one area of our life is suffering due to the flourishing of another. We can’t quietly ignore mediocrity but must move from awareness to action. What nonessential pursuits in your life are robbing you of the essentials? Where do you sense God is trying to prune to bring more fruitfulness and balance to your life?
Not every “great opportunity” is good or from God
We are often our own worst enemy in filling our plates with nonessentials, but we must remember there is a very real enemy who opposes us and seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. We must guard against seemingly good opportunities if it comes at the cost of biblical priorities. If we have a price, the devil will pay it, including disguising traps as blessings to lure us into compromising our relationships with God, our families, and our ministries.
The creators of Younique, a gospel-centered, life-design process, recognize our special assignments from God can be both knowable and nameable. They compare a life focused on the desired destination with the targeted force of an arrow. Being intentional—both about what we do and how we do it—ensures that, at our life’s end, we will hit the bull’s-eye. As one of the tools to help us determine what we are uniquely created and positioned to do (our individual bull’s-eye or “sweet spot”), they designed the following Venn diagram, which poses three questions that we can ask ourselves.
Achieving work-life balance is difficult in isolation. Join a group of peers near your who will help you find harmony as an effective leader.