"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." --John Lennon
I just got back from a business trip to East Coast. While I was away several hundred email messages accumulated, in addition to a tall stack of postal mail and a full voice mail box. Had I been here to respond to all of it as it came in, I would have spent much more time doing so. When faced with massive volume, I became much more efficient. I asked myself, "What's most important?" And my clarity and focus were much sharper as a result. When I returned from my trip, what I really wanted was to spend time with my family... not with my email, inbox, or telephone. With great clarity and intent, I deleted much of my email without even reading it.
While on my trip I came across a book titled, "The Superman Syndrome: Why Information Age Threatens Your Future and What You Can Do About It," by Robert Kamm. In his book, Kamm notes that Americans are working an average of six weeks to three months more per year than they did just a decade ago. Additionally, more than 70% of people in offices work weekends and more than 70% of American parents feel they don't spend enough time with their kids. Kamm says that Superman Syndrome is characterized by an inability or unwillingness to throw off-switch... whether on a cell phone, computer, or in our own brains. We are most distracted generation in history of human race. And distracted people make for distracted and unavailable parents -- perhaps one of biggest threats our growing generation faces in 21st Century.
Clients often come to me feeling overwhelmed. They want more control and balance in their lives. I explain that control comes from within. Shedding Superman cape is first step! I tell my clients that they must be willing to bypass external distractions and demands on their time, look inside to their own values and priorities, and then make choices so their focus and activities match these values and priorities. For example, if you truly value your health and your family, but you are working too many hours to take care of yourself or to be home while your family is still awake, then you've lost control of your life.
Kamm notes that commitment to slow down and focus on things that really matter in life must be made at corporate as well as individual level. He states that "the Superman Syndrome is a dangerous workplace success formula that forces men and women to leap tall buildings and outrun speeding bullets -- at expense of personal lives, families, children and even business productivity. This represents a major hypocrisy implicit in nearly every boardroom in America: The belief that we should be accountable to work but not to our families."
This begs question, "What does it matter if you win rat race?" You're still a rat!
Change -- even good change -- is stressful for most people. And today, speed of change is doubling exponentially every 18 months. The deafening roar of change is reason that 70% of illness is due to stress, and top six leading causes of death for American adults are stress- related. It is not change itself -- but our inability to adapt to change -- that creates rub for most of us. We are creatures of habit, and old patterns are hard to change, even when they no longer serve us well. Health care professionals note that we are so addicted to our fast-paced lives that it often takes a life-threatening crisis such as a heart attack or cancer to slow us down. Making changes necessary to leave fast lane behind is not quick, and for most, it is not easy. That's why practices such as yoga, meditation, and working with a life coach have become so popular.
Time to Graduate: Get a Life!
As we approach time of year to celebrate graduations, I find it particularly fitting to share excerpts from a commencement address made by Anna Quindlen. As she began her speech to graduating class of Villanova University in Pennsylvania, this novelist told audience, "My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse two, your life and your work. The second is only part of first."
Quindlen went on to share some important life lessons that all of us can benefit from:
"You will walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at computer. Not just life of your mind, but life of your heart. Not just your bank account but your soul.