The Integrated Life

I think I first noticed it about twenty couple years ago.  I was in my home office, on the phone. My daughter, who was maybe all of six years old, walked in the door and stopped dead in her tracks until my call was done. As soon as I was done, she came the rest of the way in and climbed on my lap.

“I was very good, wasn’t I, Daddy?” she said. “You had your work voice on and I waited.”

“My work voice?” I asked.

She went on to explain that I had a work voice, and a voice when I was doing church things and a voice for friends, and a voice when I was talking arty things. “They’re all different.” She said.

I hadn’t realized how different they were, and that episode moved me to look at my larger life. Like most of us, I have a lot of roles. My work alone has several aspects to it – technical consulting, marketing strategy, writing, coaching, teaching. It’s the same in the other parts of my life, be it family or creative or spiritual.

We have a tendency to live these parts of our lives as separate things, moving one to the other with each of them being almost separate lives. That’s the way humans are wired, to categorize things. You can see that even with small kids as they separate toys by color, or type, or how they never let the mashed potatoes touch the peas. And we carry that tendency into our grown-up lives.

So we live differently, or at best with a bit of overlap in our faith and life and work.

It works well enough, but what if, I wondered, what if we did a better job integrating all the aspects of our lives?

I know it works in marketing.  In my work in marketing, I preach the principle of Integrated Marketing. It is one of the basics of marketing. Real Marketing 101 stuff. The idea is that everything you do as a marketer works together, each thing builds one on the other. This intentional working together requires a bit more thought and purposefulness, but the effect of doing it well is that when you do, each thing you do builds on the other things. They magnify the other things you do, making everything more effective.

Teaching a company to think in terms of truly integrating marketing always (let me repeat this), ALWAYS pays big dividends, often without much extra effort or cost, other than changing their thinking and purposefulness.

What if, I wondered, we could do the same in our lives?

I believe we can

It’s been slow going for me, but I have seen it work in my own life. And I have slowly seen it work in the lives of others.

Let me share with you what I have seen…

•    When we better integrate all our roles in life, we reduce the stress of moving from role to role. Life and work become easier, more joyful, less of a struggle. We simply don’t understand how much work and energy goes into building a life of silos.

•     When we better integrate our lives, there tends to be better balanced. This is because we really aren’t balancing anything. We are simply living a life of principles that don’t require balancing.

•      When we better integrate our lives, we become more effective in everything we do. Because everything builds on everything else, in every aspect of what we do, not just in one role or the other.

For me, the big reasons had to do with building a less stressful life and being more effective in the things I do. Often, those two things seem to be diametrically opposed. But they aren’t. Not really. We’ve just built artificial walls in our lives.

I have spent much of my work over the past years in the broadcast systems integration business, helping clients build broadcast and network television facilities.  The challenge in that business is helping chose and engineer a dizzying array of equipment and software into a comprehensive whole that works together as one. When we do it well, it’s a wonderful thing.

Each project is a totally custom project that melds the corporate culture, the technical needs, and the images clients carry in their heads of what they want to be and how they want to do their work.

The same is true of developing an integrated life, where our truest selves shows itself in the things we do and the life we lead.  It’s where we look for the commonalities of all our roles in life, and build on them, slowly cutting out the things that are less true, that we have come to do because it was part of the role. It’s where we change our lives to let our roles, all of them, better match who we are.

When we do it, our goals, principles, values, and behavior fall into line, across all of our roles in life.

Why don’t we live more integrated lives? Why do we live lives where there is some bleed over into the other, but where we keep so much of ourselves hidden away, not living this part of ourselves in a work role and that part of ourselves in a private role, and some other part of ourselves in a faith role?

I will leave you with that question. It is one worth looking at, and as I have learned in my coaching work, it is an answer that is different for each of us. But let me assure you, because I have seen it in my own life, and in the lives of many of my clients – when we integrate our lives better, everything works better. We are happier, less stressed, and more effective.

Be well. Travel Wisely


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