A recommendation commonly shared with financial advisors is to dedicate time working on the business – strategic direction and improving key business functions, as a necessary complement to all the time you spend working in the business – completing important tasks and meeting with clients.
Time spent in the business is far more likely to result in preferred outcomes if you are following the game plan you previously devised while working on the business. Conversely, a loosey-goosey approach has appeal for some, and they chafe at what they perceive as too much structure, but I believe most of us will agree that a deliberate, organized approach will almost always provide more of the desired end results – and with much less stress.
It occurs to me that this idea applies not only to one’s profession, but to life in general. Shouldn’t we be spending time ON our life, rather than just IN our life? What does this even mean?
Well, if the point of working on the business is to develop a carefully considered, intentional design for your ideal work experience, working on your life seeks to create ideal experiences from all possible perspectives: a life that easily accommodates the activities and people you care about most.
Imagine that your days are defined by harmony, fulfillment, vitality, productivity and joy. If you were to grab a recording device and right off the top of your head describe everything that would make your life absolutely perfect, what would that entail? What would you include and, even more importantly, what would you exclude?
Creating this intentional life-by-design might sound like an unachievable goal. There are so many factors to consider, why bother? How would one even begin? This is where a framework comes riding to the rescue. Consider this as that framework: mind, body and spirit.
It’s very common for those of us with busy schedules to compartmentalize. This is when and how I work, this is the time, place and way I exercise, and this is the way in which I connect with something bigger and more magnificent than all of us.
One of the things that fascinates me about our existence is the way these three seemingly disparate functions unite to create the happiest, most energized and most present version of ourselves. Integrating these elements creates a righteous cycle – one that results in a more satisfied, resilient and peak-performing human being. Below, I’ll briefly discuss these three aspects.
I’ve always been impressed by those who are disciplined with exercise regimens. They look so strong and fit! I am not one of those people. I do not enjoy exercise. On the other hand, I get a big charge out of joyful movement. I define this as moving my body in a way that pleases me while at the same time taking in beautiful scenery, enjoying catch-up time with my wife or listening to pump-me-up music or a great book on Audible.
I especially love bicycling. Feeling the air flow past me and the sun on my body as I take in the trees, the river and the occasional skittish deer – all while engaging in low-impact cardio – is just the best. As soon as I start riding, a big smile shows up on my face. My entire body screams “Yes! This is absolutely right!”
To me, the point of these activities, other than simple pleasure, is to maintain strength, flexibility and energy. I don’t have interest in bulking up, but I get a lot of positive feelings from moving – feelings that are less abundant when I’m stationary for long periods. I like to feel toned and trim (well, sort of), limber, alert, connected to my body, energized and confident in my ability to enjoy exploring on foot for long periods when we travel.
Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to determine what joyful movement means to you and develop an implementation plan. If you’re someone who travels a lot either for work or pleasure, focus on activities that are portable or that you can practice in most of the places you tend to be. Otherwise, you get out of the habit, and it’s always difficult to start back up again.
As you’re planning this, think outside the box. Some people really enjoy ballroom dancing, yoga, Pilates, hiking or the new rage, pickleball. And don’t forget cross-continental dog sledding. Mush!
Your Spiritual Life
I wouldn’t presume to suggest any particular spiritual path. It’s a choice as deeply personal as a choice can be. My approach here is to speak to the topic at a very high level, in a way I believe to be universally applicable.
Sometimes we hear of a person’s greatest strength. Viewpoints differ on what that may mean broadly and what it might mean for any given individual. I have conviction that everyone’s greatest strength is the degree to which – through intuition – they connect to the source of all wisdom.
Call it what you may, but I believe there is an entity with the ability to create universes, and that same entity is available to guide and assist us as we journey through life. Failing to avail ourselves of this wisest of wise council seems to deprive ourselves of a fundamental aspect of our birthright. From this source also comes indescribable depths of love and a sense of connectedness to all things.
And right there is the tie-in to your well-designed life. If the objective is to create the most joyful, contented, rewarding experiences imaginable, how could it fail to account for this dimension?
I’ll quickly share a personal aside that may resonate with you. My spiritual path involves daily meditation. Am I 100% compliant? Uh, well…no. But that’s my aspiration! Here’s what I can tell you with certainty. On the days I meditate, I feel more peaceful, grounded and resilient to any emotional and practical roller coaster that I might encounter. A smile more readily comes to my face, frustration or a harsh word, more remote.
During my meditation, I ask for unflappability. Specifically, “No matter what is said or not said, and no matter what is done or not done, I remain peaceful and joyful.” It’s such a simple thing, but its impact can be profound and far-reaching for my life, and impactful for those with whom I come in contact.
I think of mental well-being as including both thinking and feeling, and will address them separately. I saved this section for last because advisors are inherently engaged intellectually. It’s part of the gig. The scope of topics advisors must master is broad, deep and ever-changing. The opportunity here is to be intentional in the way you use your mind for non-work pursuits.
The Thinker. For those who make a career of decision-making, planning, coordinating, creating solutions, leading teams, persuading clients, analyzing trends and developing strategic responses, the idea of redirecting brainpower to more personal areas can feel strange or even worrisome. “This is what got me to this level of success, and now you want me to do something different?”
As an executive business coach, I spend a lot of time interacting with hard-charging type-As: driven, competitive, focused. But what if more success were to be found by doing less, not more? What if the pinnacle of success is achieved through proper allocation of time to body and spirit as well as mind? What if taking your foot off the gas and giving time to all that you truly are as a human being results in the most points on the board? Would that change your behavior and the choices you make?
Of course, there are many activities you can choose to participate in that exercise your gray matter outside of work. What about teaching courses at the local U? Go team! What about mentoring young people? Is there a book waiting to emerge from within you like the creature in “Alien”? What about podcasting, blogging or writing a newsletter on topics that interest you? These are particularly groovy because you can do them at home, or from the Aspen ski chalet, the beach house in Costa Rica or the Tuscan villa you rented for the summer.
But what if none of that interests you? No problem!
Perhaps your yearning for the academic life can no longer be contained. What about pursuing graduate studies in Precambrian geology, the early writings of Proust or the latest advancements in string theory? Why not move to Italy and become fluent in Romance languages or master the historical intricacies of the Italian Renaissance? If you choose this last item, be sure to take me along with you!
What about dusting off the chops you developed when your parents forced you to practice the piano and taking your ability to the next level? Cello? Guitar? Drums? Join a dad band! Like many rock musicians of a certain age, you can also find your voice with painting or photography. See Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell and John Lennon. Rock on!
There are many options for keeping your mind sharp while taking pleasure in learning, teaching and guiding others or expressing creativity.
Feelin’ It. Of course, several items mentioned above include both thinking and feeling, as well as aspects of the spiritual dimension. Mind, body and spirit are very much interrelated.
Experts suggest that the most cheerful and well-adjusted people in retirement years are those who have meaningful connections with other people. It only makes sense that this also applies to those of us who are still working.
This might include finding a new rhythm with your spouse or embracing distant family members in a way that you haven’t made time for previously. Are there rifts with siblings, cousins, former friends and even parents or children that you want to mend? As uncomfortable as this may be at the beginning, how much better will you feel on the back side? How will their lives be improved as a result? I’m no psychologist, but I think most of us would agree that long-standing, bitter feelings are toxic.
Getting better connected can mean joining groups that share a common interest, such as intentional men’s or women’s groups, book clubs or groups that focus on classic cars, photography, wine, gardening or a philanthropy that’s touched your life in some way.
Putting It All Together
I maintain that for each of us, life can be significantly improved by focusing on the nexus of these three facets: body, mind and spirit. Effort expended in each domain enhances your experience of the other two. Maximizing their integration leads to the greatest possible outcomes.
However, making this integration a part of daily living can be challenging. Prioritization, a planful approach and will – especially will – are the greatest tools in your tool belt.
For most of us, incorporating these elements into our busy lives requires that you start small and ramp up over time. Don’t let your overachiever impulses rule the day! It ultimately is a disservice to you if you overreach and then end up quitting due to frustration or injury (he says knowingly).
Here are two helpful tips:
- It can be motivational to see progress or consistency on a calendar or some other easily visible document or app. Record your progress and challenge yourself to keep checking those boxes.
- One of the ways I’ve found to keep myself on track with joyful movement and especially my spiritual practice is to declare to myself that this is the most important thing I could possibly do that day. Why would I not do this? What could possibly be more important?
Give these ideas a try and take note of how your life changes. I’m utterly convinced that consciously and proactively blending your body, mind and spirit will lift you to the heights you deserve.