How in the world did Sheryl Sandberg find time to write her newly released book, Lean In? It probably helped that she and her husband can afford to hire staff to do pretty much anything they need done. In her book, Ms. Sandberg encourages women to “lean in” to their careers, to stop holding back, to be confident, go for it, break that glass ceiling, just like she did. That’s probably great advice for anyone — not just women — who want to succeed as Sandberg has in the corporate world. But, before you take off again, you might want to stop and ask yourself, “Is that what I really want?”
Is it really possible for any woman or man to sacrifice nothing in order to to have it all? Do you really want to have it all? Stop! Slow down. Take a moment to check out the web site for Havidol® (you can click on link above). If you’ve got a spare minute, take the quiz — the Zing Self-Assessment Tool — to make sure you’re doing this right. Clue: If you’re well rested and happy, you probably aren’t.
We psychotherapists love to see clients with Havidol®. Attorneys are some of our favorites. They’ve worked hard to get mostly A’s in college and excellent LSAT scores so they could compete to get into top law schools which then led them to join prominent law firms. They’re bright, articulate, insightful, responsible, manage their time well (translate: they show up on time), have plenty of money and probably great health insurance too. And, many of them, despite having achieved their dream, are miserable. The same is true for many corporate executives, physicians and other highly accomplished people. Why? Along the way to achieving their dream, they never stopped long enough to take the time to observe or ask others what it’s really like to actually achieve it and to ask themselves if that’s really what they want.
To put it bluntly, they’re too busy living their dream to live their lives. And, that’s what makes them stressed, anxious, depressed, exhausted and lonely. It robs them of time to sleep and time to spend with their families and friends.
Their kids, if they have time to have any, may become “portfolio kids” — raised by them in short snippets of time, often competing with a Blackberry or similar device. If their kids are lucky, they’ll be tended to by a nanny or housekeeper. If not, then characters on television shows and whatever they can find on the Internet will function as virtual “babysitters.” These are the kids whom parents eventually bring to us to “fix” them because they eventually have symptoms or act out as a result of parental neglect that they’ve experienced while having been given everything else. Often, they have been surrounded by an enriched environment of private schools, camps, luxury homes, vacations and other benefits of material wealth. The only things they lack are time with and attention from a parent.
Busy couples face a similar challenge. Their really only true relationship “issue” may be that they don’t have enough time or energy to give each other the attention they need. As a result, the relationship suffers.
Both couples and their children often experience improvement as a result of therapy simply because the therapy appointment becomes a time they commit to spend with each other. Wise and usually well resourced couples and families — including those who are not presently experiencing a crisis or serious conflict(s) — will do couples or family therapy before having dinner together one evening a week or every other week. This strategy works well for them because their commitment to couples or family therapy provides them with the structure and accountability that they need to succeed in extracting themselves from the “rat race” in order to spend quality time together. Even attentive parents who show up at every soccer game, chorus or dance performance find it difficult to spend “quality” time with their children because their kids’ school and extra curricular events have become so packed with activities, goals and relationships that compete for their attention.
In his book, Healing the Shame That Binds You, John Bradshaw writes that we have become “human doings” when, for our own good health, we need to give ourselves permission to be human beings. It’s been years since I read Bradshaw’s book. But, after watching a “60 Minutes” interview of Sheryl Sandberg and reading a few reviews of Lean In, I’m more inclined to re-read Bradshaw’s book than to buy Sandberg’s.
I see the impact of the epidemic of busy-ness on the work that we do and the lives that we lead. And, so, I have to ask — are we really leading? Or, are we actually following instead? We’re struggling to do more and more in less and less time. We’ve become master multi-taskers. But, are we really better as a result? Is that really possible? Can we produce the quality work that we could? Can we we live the kinds of lives that we want? Or, have we reached a point of diminishing returns? If only we could slow down. Our health, our work, our families, our lives and our world would be better off.
Now, although I am an optimist, I’m also a realist. So, I know that, for most people, slowing down isn’t going to happen. Some people literally can’t afford to slow down. Others who can afford to either can’t or won’t because, if they lose that competitive edge, then they risk losing that place in space they’ve worked so hard to reach. But, what if that’s baloney? What if slowing down actually helped? What if slowing down made you even more competitive? Even if we could produce better work, who would have the time to use what we produce? Like this blog — who has time to read it? Chances are, not the people who need it most.