Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Archive for January 2016


I will often ask my audience members to raise their hands if they check their work e-mail after they go home at night. At least three-fourths of the hands go up. Just as many say they do it at least twice. At least half say they do it three or more times.

Because of technology, it is possible to work 24 hours a day — and still not be done.

Why do we do this?

It’s hard to pull away from something that does not stop pulling at you, and the world is filled with jobs that will not quit pulling. I just moderated a panel and asked my panelists if the number of hours they work has changed much over the years. One woman said she’s kept the same hours throughout her career: from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., then from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Every day. That’s 15 hours a day. She loves her work.

If you love your work and your hours, keep doing what you are doing. No need to reset.

But if it feels like you are missing something by working too hard or too long, a reset may well be in order.

My Purpose

Back when I was struggling so hard to become a published author, I joined a women’s group that would meet and process our lives. At one gathering, we bandied about our ideas for the topic du jour when I blurted, “I don’t know what my purpose is.”

I had quit my job to write a book, yet I could not find a publisher. If I was not going to be Fawn Germer, the author, who was I going to be?

“I don’t know mine, either,” said my friend Teresa.

“Me, either,” said Pam.

“I don’t know,” said Tami.

One by one, every one of us admitted we did not know our purpose in life. As we went around the room, I felt certain that Bette Haase would be able to enlighten us, seeing as how she had ovarian cancer and was taking chemo. Certainly that experience had shown her the meaning of life.

But when her turn came, Bette shrugged.

Over the next year, we all walked our paths. I persevered and found a publisher. Teresa went back to school to become a nurse practitioner. Tami went back to school to become a nurse anesthetist. Pam got a new job.

And Bette? She kept living. She hiked, she traveled, she laughed.

She was there for my first book signing, a gift of presence that I know drained her. I visited her in the hospital the day before leaving on my book tour. It was the first time she acknowledged she knew she was dying.

When I finished my tour, Bette was starting her decline. I was so impressed by how her family had closed ranks around her. Each of her seven siblings took a weeklong shift in her caregiving. Her son was by her side the whole time.

I wrote her obituary. And when I wrote it, I thought back to the day when we were all stumped about our purpose in life. Throughout her illness, Bette dove into her life.

I remember going kayaking with her to Caladesi Island State Park on a beautiful December day. She dove into that frigid water.

“Are you crazy?” I shouted. No Floridian in her right mind would ever do that, but she did.

“It’s beautiful!” she shouted back.

The way she lived — really lived — taught me the simple answer to our purpose in life.

Your purpose in life is to live your life.

Take Nothing for Granted

Take nothing for granted. The tomorrow you expect may not be the tomorrow you get. No doubt, you’ve heard many times about someone who worked and worked and saved and saved, planning for the dream retirement. Then retirement came, and so did the cancer diagnosis. Or the stroke.

You can’t ignore the future, and you should plan for it. By all means, have a good plan for your life. A plan gives you direction. But be aware that it may be the best piece of fiction you will ever write. Self-confidence is what will keep you moving forward when the plan falls apart.

Live in that “sweet spot” that is somewhere between planning for nothing and planning for everything. You don’t want to spend every dime and wind up retiring with nothing to show for all of your years of effort. Nor do you want to retire with all the money in the world but without the health to enjoy it.

Meaningful Success

Instead of measuring your days by how much you get done, measure them by how well you have lived and how deep you have gone. If you define your day with challenge, hope, people, passion, maturity, growth, learning, development, spirituality, and other such things, you can achieve meaningful success every day. You’ll be happier with a personal checklist like that.

It may not make others happy because there are many people who want to hand you a set of priorities, but you get to decide why you are here. You — and only you — define your purpose.

You are in control. You don’t have to “give” this day to anyone or anything. You aren’t required to relinquish the present to anyone so they can give you some sort of prize later on, like a paycheck or a promotion. Yes, you have to show up for work and do a good job. Yes, you have other obligations in life. You have to pay bills and tend to daily living. But you have a choice in how you do those things.

You are allowed to keep your own emotional space. You can tend to your many obligations. But don’t hand over your emotional growth just because you have so many demands on your time and energy. Your life, your soul, your day is yours.