We hear a lot today about the benefits of discovering work that is deeply fulfilling.
But what about the disadvantages?
This is just one thought LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner addressed this weekend as he delivered the commencement address at his alma mater, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In his speech, he highlighted the advantages of exercising compassion in the workplace, but he then related a story that emphasized the need to do so out of the workplace as well.
A few years ago, as Weiner was walking to his car after a long day at the office, he reflected on a satisfying day. But the satisfaction was fleeting as he started thinking about getting home to his wife and two daughters. It was then that he had an epiphany of sorts:
"For as hard as I worked to be compassionate at the office, I was not always as compassionate with my family," he realized.
"By the time I got home on some nights, I'd be so spent that after putting the girls to bed, I had little left to give. So, when my wife, who also was tired and had had a busy day, wanted to connect, or talk about important stuff, I would reflexively say it had been a long day, I was exhausted, and could we talk about it some other time. In other words, I was doing the exact opposite of being compassionate with the one person who mattered most."
If you have a job that you love--or even one that you hate--you can probably relate to that feeling. Often, we give so much time or energy to others (like at work) that we are no longer willing to give those invaluable resources to the people who are most important to us. We take it for granted that they will understand, and that we can make it up to them the next time.
Then, the next time gets shifted to another time, and, the next thing you know ...
Your most important relationships are only shells of what they used to be.
Or what they should be.
So, how do you make things better? There are a few things you can do.
For one, you might set a mandatory quitting time, at least for certain days of the week. On those days, you set your alarm for 5 or 5:30, or whatever time works for you--and set an appointment with your family. You then treat that appointment the same way you do your most important meeting or a doctor's appointment. It's set in stone, non-negotiable.
Or let's say you come home to your spouse and you've had an especially draining day. Unfortunately, so did he or she. Neither of you feel in shape to offer compassion to the other; in fact, you're both craving it yourself.
In this situation, you might say something like: "I'm so sorry to hear you had a tough day; mine was really bad too. Can we just take some time to relax (or exercise, or enjoy a meal together)? Maybe later we can go for a walk and talk about it all."
This type of response clearly states your own needs while kindly addressing the needs of your partner. And while it only takes a few seconds to say, it can greatly affect how the next few hours, or even days, play out.
These are just two emotionally intelligent strategies that can help you find balance between work and home. (I outline many more in my forthcoming book, EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence.)
Above all, the key is to take time to set the right priorities--and then to work in harmony with them.
"It's taken me a long time to realize what makes me happy," Weiner told the new graduates. "Simply put, it's looking forward to going to work in the morning, and looking forward to coming home at night. The only way I can do this is by practicing compassion in both facets of my life, and not taking anything or anyone for granted."