American Express: Integrate Your Personal and Professional Life in Three Steps

We asked Wharton professor and author Stew Friedman how employers could integrate their personal and work lives to find a productive and comfortable balance. Tough as it is any time, balancing the two can be a huge challenge in a recession when challenges seems to spring from every corner.

After all, work isn’t everything. On the other hand, some of us are more attached to our careers than others. And we don’t all have the same outside commitments or interests.So, how can you achieve your own best mix of the personal and professional? Most important, says Friedman, is to articulate your goals, get feedback and clarify what matters most to you. He offers the following tips:

  • Describe your legacy. “Write a short piece, one page or less,” says Friedman. “Fifteen years from now, what legacy do you want? What impact do you want to have on the world?” Take a little time and write down where you want to be in 15 years – professionally, personally, spiritually, financially or in whatever way you see it.
  • Learn what people expect of you. List the 10 most important people in your life. Note what each one expects of you and how you’re doing at meeting their expectations. “Ask yourself how these expectations affect one another, so you begin to see your life as a system,” says Friedman. Then, have a conversation with each one. “This is the part of the process that tends to frighten us,” he says. “Most people approach these talks with trepidation because they are afraid of what they will hear.” But the good news is that most people’s understanding of what others expect of them is not quite accurate. “We tend to overestimate,” says Friedman. “People don’t expect as much from us as we think they do. In my experience eight out of 10 people discover that what others expect from them is a little less than what they had presumed.” Armed with a realistic sense of what people expect from you, you’re likely to have more time and energy for your own pursuits.
  • Talk with trusted friends. Discuss what is important to you. “Ask what small changes you can apply that are doable, practical and small,” Friedman recommends. For example, walking away from your business to pursue a full-time career as a songwriter might not be a good idea. But devoting one morning a week to your music may enrich your life. “Small is very important, because it is in your control,” says Friedman. “This is the best way to build confidence and competence in creating sustainable change.”

After taking these steps, you should have a compelling image of an achievable future. Then, translate that future into an action plan that will get you there. “This builds competence and confidence,” Friedman says, “to help us overcome the inertia, the inhibitions, the guilt and fear that hold us back from doing what we really want.”

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American Express: Integrate Your Personal and Professional Life in Three Steps. Knowledge@Wharton (2009, October 22). Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/american-express-integrate-your-personal-and-professional-life-in-three-steps/

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