It is common practice in the business world for owners to take time to work “on” their business instead of “in” it, to use frameworks and build strategies in order to achieve specific goals. Whether you are running a stand at a farmers market or hold a seat on an executive board, there is a wealth of business research and writing about the most effective way for you to approach various types of challenges. But what about the challenges we face outside of the parameters of “work?” How can we use similar approaches to prioritize and accomplish the goals we have in our personal lives and balance those with professional aspirations?
It is from this question that the field of Executive Coaching arose— where trained professionals work with companies, executives, and individuals to help guide personal and professional growth. The process borrows from other fields and falls somewhere on the spectrum in between consulting and counseling. Through my experience with executive coaching turnover for over 20 years, and from running executive coaching out of trepwise with a staff of trained instructors, I’ve found coaching an individual is actually very similar to coaching a company. It’s all about taking stock of the current situation, understanding the role you are playing and the context you choose to operate in, and then setting goals and executing to achieve them.
Here are three ways that you can use business principles to guide success in your work life and beyond:
- Restrict self-limiting thoughts
There are many reasons that a business— or a person — can fail to reach their goals. Some of those reasons are outside of our control, like the fluctuation of oil prices or sudden unforeseen health problems. But one thing that we can control is how we think about ourselves and our own capacity for achievement. If there is a component or program that is undercutting the rest of a business, a proactive executive will address it head-on and either remedy the conflict or eliminate the component. When it comes to your own life, identify areas in which your own thoughts are limiting what you are able to do, and address them directly— are they grounded in reality or merely constructed barriers? During executive coaching session I pull from my corporate psychology background to try to identify and eliminate these types of self-limiting thoughts.
- Strive for “Work-Life Fit” not Balance
“Work-life balance” implies that there’s some magic, 50/50 balance to your personal and professional life. For many, that’s not the case. Your personal life and professional life are oftentimes fully intertwined. Understanding these interdependencies and getting away from the mindset of “balance” will help you determine the best way these two components can coexist. By removing this false division you acknowledge that your personal and professional aspirations and responsibilities are competing for the same resources: your time and money. Put your personal and professional goals in the same place. Do you want to cook a new meal at home every week as well as secure five new business clients this month? By tracking everything together, whether it’s in a notebook or on Google Calendar, you have more eyesight on how the two are interrelated. Your life can’t be parsed out into ever-shrinking sections. That’s why our approach to executive coaching focuses on the holistic human being, incorporating personal, professional, and health.
- Use Tools for Self-Analysis
Business books are full to the brim with templates and frameworks to break down and simplify the complexities of the business world. Some of these same tools can be very useful when applied to your personal and family lives. I recommend performing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis and evaluating each personal element in the same way you would for your business. Compare your current skills to your goals and use that to determine where to focus your energies. I also utilize a Predictive Index (PI) Assessment with my clients that attempts to understand their key drivers, how they “show up” in the workplace, how they “show up” in general, and also their management style (how they communicate and want to be communicated to). While self-analysis does have limitations and can be taken too far, in general the more self-aware we all are, the better we are at making the right decisions.
At the end of the day it’s all about living your life in a satisfactory fashion— and slowly working towards the version of yourself or life that you want. It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s all we can do to manage our inbox and remember to pick up the dry-cleaning. But with a little bit of focus and discipline around how you organize your life, personal and professional aspirations need not work against one another — they can both be parts of the holistic journey around becoming a better you.
About the author: Kevin Wilkins is the founder and Managing Director of trepwise, an impact consulting firm whose mission is to use entrepreneurial thinking and approaches to grow and sustain for-profit and non-profit organizations by providing innovative and practical solutions.