This is the first in a series of guest blogs I’m calling the “Specialist Series.” I’ve asked some of the brightest people and freshest thinkers to share their expertise on the work they do that is of interest to my readers.
My guest blogger this month is Mary LoVerde, a speaker, author and personal coach on life balance and creating connection. One word I think describes Mary is “vivacious.” Her eyes sparkle, her conversation is uplifting and she continually expresses appreciation for the journey she is taking. She has a background in healthcare but the course of her life changed when she began re-examining her priorities and living her true calling. Like the best experts, she speaks about what she has learned from life experience and practice.
In addition to her work she is a competitive ballroom dancer. She is the mother of three terrific children and has been a long-time and dear friend to Darla and me. I’m pleased she is kicking off this series.
I wanted Mary’s insights because I’ve always been a bit skeptical about life balance as it is traditionally advocated and presented. Mary brings a fresh perspective to a common topic.
Are people still interested in life balance or are the really pursuing something different?
People are more interested than ever before in finding a balance, but in a new way. In the last decade the idea of work life balance was to get “it” all done. But of course, many of us have learned the hard way that no one ever gets it all done, though many people literally die trying. I am not against the wonderful strategies of managing, organizing, delegating, prioritizing and simplifying. Everyone needs to use these. But I believe that if these strategies were going to balance our lives, they should have worked by now. We are all busier and more stressed as ever. We do need a new approach to the problem.
So how do you define life balance?
I’ve researched the answer to this question for over 20 years. My answer boils done to three words: Connection creates balance. That means connection with yourself, your family, friends, clients, co-workers, the strangers you meet, your community and your God. When we get stressed or feel out of balance it is because we have become disconnected from something that is important to us. Many of our strategies- for example, going faster or doing two things at once, actually disconnect us. The old life balance question was, “What do I need to do?” The answer is a long overwhelming list that often paralyzes us. The new life balance question is, “With whom shall I connect?” Sometimes it will be yourself and you shut off the light and go get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes it will be work, as you pour yourself into an important project. Other times it will be going to the school play, calling a friend to get some good advice or sitting in front of the fire with your spouse and a glass of wine at the end of the day. There is no need to feel guilty for not doing something else. You are doing exactly what you should be- connecting to keep your balance.
What role does connection play in your work?
Connection is obviously an important business strategy. Right now, of course, everyone is concerned about the economy. The concern is justified, but here is what we historically know: Business comes back. It’s a cycle and prosperity opportunities return. We also know historically what may not come back if we do not pay attention to what is really important in our lives: our health, our marriages/partnerships, our children’s sense of security and our other important relationships. We like to divide our lives into work and home but the laws of the Universe pay no attention to that division. If you want to be ready for the economic comeback you need to do what is necessary to stay whole and connected to the reasons why you work in the first place.
What keeps people from connecting?
They have the wrong definition of how to stay in balance. We are rewarded for being overscheduled and overwhelmed. The more miserable we can make ourselves through sleep deprivation, lack of exercise and a healthy diet, the more we convince ourselves we are getting closer to balance. But the benefits of this approach are short-lived. People need specific strategies, such as pause rituals, innovative ways to connect with their elders, plans on how to keep the romance alive in their relationships, or tapping into what they are passionate about. etc. We need to shift from the to-do list- which is helpful to organize our thinking- and real connection- which makes our lives richer and more productive.
How would you suggest someone go about improving the quality of his or her life and connections?
Adopt a new motto, “When you can’t keep up: connect.”
Then ask the new question: With whom should I connect? Really listen to the answer. I offer a free internet show each week with specific ideas on how to stay connected with what is really important.