I often encounter entrepreneurs who tell me they could achieve greater success in their careers, but they don’t want to sacrifice balance in their lives. What they seem to be saying is that success comes at too high a price. Recently, I started working with a 46 year old who earns $700,000 a year and has stalled out. When I asked him why he was not growing, he told me that his family was more important than his business. He felt that there would be too many personal sacrifices required in order to take his business to the next level. This is a common misconception that has its roots in dichotomous thinking i.e. the tendency to think in either/or terms. The underlying belief is that you cannot be really successful and live a balanced and full life. In my experience, this type of thinking is quite common and inaccurate. It is true that balance requires equal measure and to achieve equal measure across all areas of your life will be difficult. However, some of the most successful entrepreneurs manage to thrive in business and avoid personal sacrifices. These entrepreneurs have practiced self awareness and clarified what they value most in their lives.
Often, the source of the belief that success and balance in life represent polarities or opposites is rooted in our early life experience. The 46 year old entrepreneur is a good example. His father was a very driven man who seemed to be constantly working and unavailable to his family. As a result, the advisor has been very motivated to be different than his father. One of his unexpressed fears is that he will become like his father if he strives to become as much as he can be. His situation reveals how much of our behavior is shaped by childhood experience. To a large extent, the lessons we learn as children determine our basic beliefs about the world. As children, we are a ready audience, but not an informed one. What we observe or are told, affects what we believe. My client grew up with the belief that in order to be very successful, he had to be unavailable to the most important people in his life. As children, we do not have the insight to recognize the lessons we learn are not always true. Only as an adult, can we unlearn these lessons.
As human beings, we all want to realize the fullness of our potential. We want to push as big a rock as we are capable of moving. For my client, the awareness of these limiting beliefs freed him up to clarify what is really important in his life. With self awareness, he realized that it is important to him to be truly successful. However, this success is not simply measured by income or achievement in business. It includes a happy marriage and family life, physical, mental and spiritual health and the freedom to do what he wants in his life. Self awareness is power.