Either/Or vs. Both/And

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When my sister Sharon talks about her early Insurance days, she can’t help but laugh.

“I was pregnant with my second child,” she remembers, “and I walked around town, knocking on doors asking people if they were interested in buying Renters or Life Insurance.”

Sharon was transitioning into a demanding and exhilarating insurance career. She quickly went from selling insurance door-to-door to managing an established and successful agency.

Her family grew, and so did her professional responsibilities. As her influence began to grow professionally, so did her community involvement. There came a point where Sharon had to decide how to balance her multi-faceted life. Balance boiled down to two approaches:

Either/Or

Both/And

Many business professionals have an unspoken loyalty to the Either/Or fallacy. Consciously or subconsciously they believe a person can be either successful or sane, but not both. Although anything valuable has a price tag and success comes at a cost, many leaders intuitively conclude true success comes only with enormous sacrifice.

Fulfilment, I’m discovering, comes from finding the right balance among family, friends, work, health, community involvement, etc. In other words, true happiness comes from living a Both/And reality; understanding we can experience both professional achievement and joy personally.

Balanced living takes time, intentionality and effort. But I am slowly learning it is doable, and it is worth it. If you find yourself seeking a more balanced, Both/And life, I’d like to suggest a few ways to get started:

Give yourself time to think.

There was a time a few years ago when my busy mind almost drove me crazy. Spurred on by stress and personal problems, my thoughts raced around and around like a car’s spinning wheels. I had trouble sleeping and could hardly focus. After this experience, I appreciated the ability to mentally process well.

A busy mind and intentional thought are not the same. Like my example above, a busy mind leaves you exhausted. But similar to how a good, healthy meal gives life to your body, intentional thought feeds your soul.

I know a man who regularly carves out time for uninterrupted thought. He will go to his backyard, sit in his favorite chair and just think. This man gives his mind space and time to process his life and his priorities.

I believe this is key to living a Both/And reality. By taking the time to think about where you are and what is important to you, you gain clarity for the way forward.

Make space for what you love.

My brother Keith runs a busy restaurant in town. Keith’s work is demanding and he has a never-ending list of problems to solve. Anyone who knows my brother knows how hard he works and how well he does his job.

Aside from being an excellent manager, Keith is an incredibly gifted musician. He has spent years honing his skill, and his talent evident even to the untrained ear. Under Keith’s leadership, the restaurant has become a go-to place for people who love good music. Keith and his band play regularly, and they have a blast doing it.

My brother doesn’t neglect music for his management duties, nor does the restaurant suffer due to his passion for music. He has figured out how to marry the two so they are mutually beneficial to one another. Keith’s integration of work and passion is rewarding, not only for him, but also for the people who visit the restaurant.

What do you love to do? What are you passionate about, and how can your passion benefit other areas of your life and the people around you?

Maybe you love giving gifts. Figure out how your company can be a gift to your local community. Or, maybe have a knack for painting. Teach your children how to create art and make beautiful memories together.

Today, begin to make space for what you love.

Practice presence.

During her early insurance days, my sister Sharon learned the art of being present. She had every opportunity to go too far in one direction – work, family, community involvement – but she understood something that has taken me years to learn:

“As a mom – I had to realize that when I was at work, I worked. When I was at home, I was home,” she says.

Wherever she goes, Sharon strives to be all-there. You can see the fruits of this commitment in her relationship with her family, the success of her business and the influence she has with her community.

When we practice presence, we capture the joy of each moment and we are “fully present” with each person.

Transitioning to a Both/And outlook does not always happen easily. We are creatures of habit who have long-established and deeply entrenched life patterns. Changing requires clear thinking and discipline.

Change is a process, so I encourage you to be equally persistent and patient as you think, make space for what you love and practice presence!