Episode 183 – Live to Work vs Work to Live
Hello Becoming Your Best family, friends, wherever you’re at in the world! This is your host, Rob Shallenberger, and welcome! I hope you’re having a fabulous day!
This podcast is going to focus on something that’s a little bit different. It’s going to be very much in line with Becoming Your Best and things you’ve heard in previous podcasts, but maybe with a little twist. And, as a reminder, if you haven’t been to becomingyourbestuniversity.com, there are some powerful and free courses there and it really costs nothing to enroll, so if you have family, friends, coworkers, this is a great resource to get some very short, yet powerful courses, for free. It’s becomingyourbestuniversity.com. I just wanted to throw that out there for those who have not enrolled there and looked at some of those free courses.
Alright, so, where is this podcast stemming from? Well, 20 years ago I was in Europe, and I heard a person say something that has really stuck with me through the years. I didn’t know if it was necessarily true or not true, at that point, so I just quietly observed this and that person said, “You Americans, you live to work, while we work to live!” At that point, again, I didn’t know whether he was right or wrong.
Since then, obviously having been in the Air Force, that was an incredible experience, being all over; and then, with Becoming Your Best, having trained and spoken to thousands of people all over the world. So this is something that has always stayed in the back of my mind and I’ve been observing people to either prove this or disprove that statement, not knowing whether it was true or not. In our research, it was interesting because we found that 68% of people feel like their #1 challenge is how to prioritize their time. Hence why, the fourth principle of The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders is Prioritize your time.
So let’s talk about this a little bit more. I mean, this is obviously an issue for so many people and I’m sure that you can relate in some way. There are all these things you want to do, health, finances, with relationships, spending time together, taking care of yourself, weight, just all of these things have to do with time. And really, it comes back to this root cause, are we living to work, or are we working to live?
Now, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that work isn’t important. To the contrary, work is absolutely critical, it’s the life-led. Money is essential to living, it’s kind of like oxygen. We need oxygen to survive. Well, in this current society we live in, we need money to survive. And I love the way my friend Dereck O’Malley said this. He’s the wing commander, which means he supervises the entire base, he’s the wing commander at a place called Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. And I watched a recent video he did on Father’s Day, and he said something that was really profound. He said that the mission will survive without you. However, when you’re there at work, you give 100% to the mission. In other words, you’d be there, you’d be focused, but when your family needs you, be there 100% for your family. The mission will go on, the mission will succeed.
I love what he said there. When we’re at work, let’s be 100% focused, at our very best. Innovative, transformational rather than transactional, so let’s commit 100% when we’re there. But, the question is, why are we doing all of this? Is it living to work, or are we working to live?
One of the best examples I heard, was from a professor and he used these ping-pong balls, and he had in front of the class, this large glass displayed. And he put a bunch of ping-pong balls in the display there. It looked like an aquarium, really, kind of like a fish bowl. So he put all these ping-pong balls in, and imagine into your minds, this is all full. And he asks the class, “Is this full?” And they said, “Yeah, it is. It’s full ping-pong balls.” Well, and then, he proceeded to pour all these little pebbles in, and these pebbles started filling in around the cracks and the crevasses until he reached the brim of what was the empty aquarium. And again, he asked the class, “Is it full now?” And now, they said, with a little more skepticism, “Yes, we think it’s full.”
And then, he took this fine grain sand and he dumped the fine grain sand and it filtered through the cracks. And then, finally, what looked like a full tank, “Is this full?” And they said, “Yes, this time it’s full.” Well, then he took a pitcher of water and dumped the entire pitcher of water until it was just hovering right at the top of the aquarium. And this time, he asked, “Is it full?” They were quite confident, but at the same time not confident, they said, “We think it’s full.” And this time he said, “This time it’s full.”
And then, he reversed this sequence. In other words, he had shown them what it looks to have a full tank, and this time, he started with another tank which was by his side and he filled it up with water first. And he asked, “Is it full?” And they weren’t quite sure how to answer to this one, so he said, “Take a look at this.” And then he dumped all the ping-pong balls in, and all the ping-pong balls floated over the edge, there wasn’t room for them.
This is kind of like life. Maybe you’ve seen with Stephen Covey, the big rock small rock example, it’s very similar. The question is, do we make time for the things that matter most? The big rocks, the ping-pong balls, the priorities in our life? Or, are those crowded out by the small things, the less important things, the things that don’t have a big impact on our life?
Let me just share a couple of stories that illustrate this point of living to work, versus working to live. And just, maybe, introspectively think about where you’re at, how do you feel when you hear these stories? What do you feel like you could do with your time? And sometimes I acknowledge I am right in there with anyone else. We’re all human in this, it’s easy to get lopsided if we don’t take care of ourselves and those we love.
There’s a story that illustrates this well, I’ve shared this before on another podcast, it might sound familiar. There was a father who came home from work. He walked in the door, and it was probably 8 – 8:30 PM, somewhere in there, late in the evening, and it had been a long day at work, 12+ hours. He walked in the door, he opened up his laptop, he was going to fire up a couple more emails to finish off the day. And then, his young boy walked out of the bedroom, he came up to his side, got his dad’s attention, and asked, “Dad, how much money do you make in an hour?” And the dad looked at him, and he was a little irritated by the question. He said, “Well, if you have to know, I make $25 an hour.” And then, the son’s response was, “Dad, can I borrow $25?”
Now, the dad was really irritated, it had been a long day, he’d already had a short fuse anyway, and he said to his son, “Son, go to your room! If you want to earn the $25, you can earn it, but I’m not going to loan you the $25.” Then with that, the son turned around and went to his room. After a few minutes, the dad’s part softens a little bit, and he realized he’d probably been a little too hard on his son. Hence, he got up and walked over to his room, and as he entered his son’s room, he could see that his son had his head down and he was crying. And he apologized to his son, and he told him, “Son, I’m sorry. If you needed the $25, you probably had a good reason for asking for it. I’ll loan you the $25.” And he could see his son’s eyes lit up, he sat up, and he looked at his dad, and then he said to his dad, “So dad, now that I have $25, can I buy one hour of your time?”
This was, I don’t want to call it a breaking moment for the dad, but it was a pivotal moment in his life. He realized what mattered most at that moment, and he completely lost it and started crying and gave his son a hug, and he said, “Son, I’m so sorry!” And from that point forward it was a real change point for him. He realized that he had been living to work and he wasn’t working to live. He was misprioritizing the things that mattered most in his life.
There’s a second story. There’s a company we train, we’ve been working with them for several years and this illustrates the point that you never know when it’s going to be that impact point, that day that changes course for someone, where you can be the catalyst. Well, on this particular day, this lady, during the training, took our circle of peace and balance exercise that’s in our book, Becoming Your Best. It’s in the 11th Principle of “Live in Peace and Balance.” So she took this very simple and quick exercise assessment, that helps us take, basically, a snapshot of our life, as it is right now. Where is our balance? And she realized that, physically, she was completely out of balance. She rated herself a two or so, on a scale of 1 to 10.
Now, instead of sit back and just say, “Well, that’s just how it goes, I don’t have time to change it,” she took the initiative to make a difference, to make time for what mattered most at that point in her life, because she saw where this train was going, and it wasn’t good. And so, what did she start to do? She said, “I’ve got to find a way to make time.” In this particular case, she had a very structured work schedule. And she decided to take her lunchtime, which was a one-hour block, from 12 to 1, and really focus on her own development during that lunch, to flip these numbers from the assessment she had just taken. And so, what she decided to do was go walk for 30 to 40 minutes during her lunchtime. She came up with some positive affirmations that changed her internal conversations, she’d recite those while she walked. At the same time, instead of eating pizza, and donuts, and all of these other things for lunch, that she had previously eaten, she switched up her diet. So, it was vegetables, it was things that were healthy for her. And she only took 5-10 minutes to eat, it was a smaller lunch in portion size, and then she got back and she had 15 minutes left. She’d use that 15 minutes to read a book. Read a book to learn a new skill, whether it’s motivation or leadership or whatever it was, it was a book where she was focused on learning a skill, to be better at what she did, at living her life.
It was interesting because within three to four months, we met her again, and she said, “My entire life has changed.” And that’s no surprise to hear that because when we do those types of things, that’s exactly the result that follows. She looked better, she was physically a completely different person. She felt better, her radiance, her calmness was different. She had so much energy. So this was interesting for us, we actually talked with her supervisor, just behind closed doors, and asked, “Is she still the same as she was before, productivity-wise? Has anything changed with her?”
And he said, “You wouldn’t believe it! Before, she would come in, I considered her a mediocre to below average performer. Often times she was the one who was complaining, there was kind of a negative energy around her. She had gone through a complete transformation! She’s positive, she’s upbeat, she’s fun to be around. And, right now, she’s probably one of the most productive members of the team.”
And this is what can change when we start working to live. And you see that not a lot changed in her schedule. She still worked on the same schedule. But her paradigm, her mindset shifted. And she was more thoughtful and efficient with her time and that completely transformed who she was. “At home”, she said, “I’m a better mom. I’m a better person, I have so much more energy!” And that’s exactly the idea.
So the question is, how can we do that? How do we make the time for what matters most? And I would suggest a couple of things. Number one, pre-week planning. You hear us talk about that a lot, and there’s a reason we do. In my experience, that is the single greatest habit of happiness, of success, of peace in someone’s life. Because otherwise, we’re just flying day to day and winging it. Winging it gets winging results. With pre-week planning, how can that not be transformational?
When someone actually sits down, at the beginning of the week, typically Saturday or Sunday, they look at their different roles, and they’re asking what can that person do that matters most that week, in that role? And that’s going to be dynamic, it changes every week. Now, if you want to take pre-week planning and put on steroids, how about when you review your vision, and your roles and goals, your annual goals, as part of your pre-week planning.
For example, if part of your goals was to average two days a month without the children, if you’re in week three and haven’t been on a date – assuming you’re in a relationship – this is it! It’s time to make it happen this week, or when are you going to do that? See how it gets you very focused? You start working to live at that point. And it shifts the paradigm for us. So, one of the things that pre-week planning will help us do is, schedule our priorities, in other words, those ping-pong balls, the big rocks, rather than prioritize our schedule, the small rocks, the things that matter least.
Here’s a couple of other things that might help, and I’m just going to throw these out there for your consideration. We’ve done podcasts on these, it’s in our training, even some of the courses on Becoming Your Best University are about these. What does your morning routine look like? We did an entire BYB podcast on a Becoming Your Best Morning Routine that’s powerful, it’s exciting and it really gives you vibrant energy. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour a day. You can take longer if you’d like, but that’s about how much time it takes. How about before going to bed? What does that routine look like?
We want to put our subconscious mind to work for us. If we’re going to work to live, then, if the last thing we see is TV before we close our eyes at night, then our subconscious mind isn’t really doing anything for us while we sleep, versus if we’re reading, if we’re doing a little bit of a gratitude journal or high-performance journaling. Another podcast was done on that. Then, we put our subconscious mind to work for us while we sleep, and it starts to go to work on how we can do better in our own lives, in our relationships, even at work. Again, we start to work to live. We get this invigorating energy that flows inside of us. So, what you do before bed makes a big difference, the same with what we do before or just after getting up.
So why this podcasts? When you think about your life, I’m sure you know someone who had something happen to them and it was dramatic and it was sudden and it was not anticipated, and it really threw the people for a loop, who are around that person. Maybe it was a car accident, maybe it was something that happened in their life. We get one shot at this life, and tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone of us, and that’s why we don’t want to say, in the back of our mind, “You know what, yeah, that all sounds good, maybe I’ll start doing this in 6 months. Maybe I’ll start doing this in a year.”
We don’t want to live a life of regret because we don’t know if we have that 6 months, we don’t know if we have that year or that 10 or 20 years. This is the time! You’ve heard me say this on another podcast, I’m such an advocate of let’s not procrastinate these types of things that can have a big impact in our life, because once today passes, we never get it back. So let’s focus on doing the things that matter most.
Just like Dereck O’Malley said, the wing commander said, when we’re at work, let’s be 100% focused, let’s be a great team member while we’re at work. We’ll call that the mission. Be focused on the mission. But after that, let’s be 100% focused with our family, with ourselves. How do we do that? Things like pre-week planning! What do we do in the morning? Where do we do the things that matter most? Annual goals that allow you to step away and have some family time so that you can be 100% focused on you. The whole point is that if we don’t make an effort, in most cases, if we don’t plan the time when it will happen, it tends not to happen and we just start living a life by default.
Hopefully, this podcast has been reflective for you. As you look at your own life right now and you evaluate that, do you live to work or do you work to live? I think we all know people who live to work, and again, I’m not saying not to be focused on that, that is important. But if a person is spending 70, 80, 90, 100 hours at work, what’s happening to the other parts of their lives? And that’s only a question that someone can answer individually. No one can answer that for someone else. I’m just putting it out there, to ask us to look introspectively and ask us, what are we doing to live and how are we focusing on what matters most in our lives?
So that’s part of the spirit of Becoming Your Best. Hopefully, it’s been something that causes a little bit of reflection, out there, and I would invite you just to consider one thing that you can do to better work to live. What’s going to happen after work? Even during work on a lunch break if you have this structured schedule. How about before you ever show up there? What can you do that matters most and brings that energy and vibrancy back into your life? So, this is Rob Shallenberger, wishing you a great and fabulous day, wherever you’re at in the world.