Confessions of a Workaholic


“Hi, Nancy!  How are you?  Busy?”

“Actually, just right!”

That’s my response when someone asks me how I am.  If you’ve been following this newsletter for the last year, you know that I set a goal in 2013 to accomplish more by doing less.  I wanted an unhurried pace of living that would enable me to serve clients, spend time with family, and focus on what is most important.  I’m a little surprised and a little in awe that I’ve achieved it.  Now I don’t want to mess it up. I know I could, because I have red shiny ball syndrome.  Each new idea or concept can take me off my plan and path.

I have been a workaholic all my life – working long hours, achieving goals, and taking on new challenges.  But over the last few years, things other than achievement and work began to have more value in my life.  So last January, I made a commitment to back off my pace.  It wasn’t easy or simple.  In fact, I’m confessing my struggles to you.  I hope in doing so, it encourages me to stay the course and gives you the courage to try the same.

1)      A voice in my head still tells me I’m not doing enough.  I’m learning to override that voice.  I have my values posted in a frame on my desk, and my values vision statement in the same frame.  When that nagging voice goes off, I look at those values and remind myself that right now I’m living values intentionally.  It feels good!

2)      As my time started to be less programmed by work, I started to fill that spare time with volunteer opportunities.  About 4 months in, my husband challenged me.  I told someone I’d done well in prioritizing my time.  He said I’d just shifted emphasis.  He was right.  I had to make some tough decisions about what to say no to

3)      I’ve struggled with fear.  “What if” questions pop into my head.  What if my clients interpret my new approach as negative?  What if I’m perceived as lazy?  What if revenue takes a hit?  I’ve had to keep my eyes focused on what was most important and not let fear keep me from trying a new approach.

In my book, The Dichotomy of Power, I wrote “If we face fear, embrace, fear, overcome fear, we can lead with courage.  We can live with integrity.”  2013 was a year of putting my words into actions.  The benefits have far outweighed the costs.  No more chasing red shiny balls.

Celebrating 60 Years of Marriage

This past weekend was my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary.  We didn’t expect them to make it.  My dad, now 91, had been given 30 days to live last Christmas while in the hospital.  The doctors said he went downhill so fast, they didn’t expect to stabilize him.  He has congestive heart failure and his kidneys aren’t working well.    As he says, “I proved them wrong.”   So Saturday, we had Christmas on the Farm – an open house to celebrate 60 years of marriage.

A lot of people don’t make 60 years.  In fact, when Bill and I say we’ve been married 31 years,  we get expressions of surprise.  It’s a sad world we live in when long marriages are rare.  So celebrating 60 was a way of showing our kids, the grandkids, and friends that it can be done.   Dad and Mom love each other deeply – he’s there for her in the early stages of memory loss, she’s there for him when his arthritis starts screaming.  It’s what marriage is all about – trust, love, and perseverance .  Congratulations Mom and Dad – you are incredible role models.

Finding Your ‘True North’

Is the life I’m living worth what I’m giving up to have it?
    Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have – lots of times! It’s not easy, but I nearly always end up going back to my ‘True North’ and that enables me to reorient myself and get back on track.
    If you are looking at a correctly calibrated compass, it will always point north. No matter what direction you turn, the compass will remain true to north – True North. For me, ‘True North’ is the deeply-held values that form the foundation for how I live my life and the choices I make. They define my “rules of engagement” when I interact with the world. When I find myself asking the question above, I go back to my core values and align myself to what’s most important in my life – my True North.   
    Several years ago, I spent a lot of time writing my values vision statement. I prioritized the values that were most important in my life and defined those values with specific examples, thus, making my Core Values. From there, I was able to etch out what those values looked like in my daily life, again, with specific examples – this became my Values Vision Statement.
    I keep both of these in a frame on my desk as a reminder of what’s most important in my life. I’m sharing my Core Values and my Values Vision Statement with you as encouragement and in hopes that you’ll do the same.
Core Values
Faith – standing firm in Christ, seeking the things of God first
Integrity – matching my actions to my words and promises, holding myself accountable and making amends as quickly as possible when I fall short
Gratitude – taking time daily to be thankful and appreciate my blessings
Family – having quality time with Bill, kids, grandkids and extended family
Love One Another – seeing all people through Jesus’ heart and eyes, respecting all
Courage – mastering my fears through trust in God
Generosity – sharing my resources, time and talent with those in need
Creativity – innovation, play, balance, finding joy, weaving
Values Vision Statement
I will put God first in my heart and life. This is evident when I spend time in rest, quiet, in prayer and when I love others, treating them with respect and compassion. I will walk with integrity, matching my actions with my values. I will spend quality time with Bill and create opportunities to be with family. Whatever happens, I am thankful for all I have been given. I will share my time, talent and treasure to help people grow, deepen and reach their full God-given potential. I will trust God for holy courage as I live out His calling on my life with joy and creativity.

Saying One Thing, but Doing Another

I love teaching Leadership Perspectives at Lipscomb University’s Graduate School of Business.  The class does a deep dive into self leadership, completing self assessment in numerous areas, identifying their core values, and then applying what they’ve learned to their life – personally and professionally.  My January class just submitted their reflections paper – and Chris Mitchell gave me permission to post his convicting opening paragraph.

While sitting at the kitchen table contemplating how I would approach my personal reflections paper, my wife, Susan, interrupted my train of thought with an idea she had in regard to my class schedule.  Since we recently found out that she is pregnant with our first child, we are trying to position ourselves to best manage the whirlwind that is about to be our life.  Given this new information, we have accepted that I will miss up to three classes this year.  I had already mentioned that I might miss the last three classes of the program, because that would work out better for my company’s education reimbursement program.  Knowing this, Susan proceeded to note the three classes she thought I should miss and why.  The classes were a bit sporadic and her reasoning was tied to a family wedding, our baby shower, and some other family related activities.  I asked her if those events were important enough to her to lose $4000 in education reimbursement for each class.  She told me that she didn’t want to miss the events, and I again asked her if it were worth losing the reimbursement.  She looked away from me and said, “I guess we just value different things.”  I felt like my Leadership class has just flashed in front of my face.  Here I was preparing to explain how family is one of my core values, and I was putting money first.  Although I know what I value, have I been living my life representative of those values?  Do people look at me and think I place importance elsewhere?  Or worse, do they hear me say one thing and see me do another? 

Great, thought provoking questions for us all.  Appreciate your honesty, Chris.