Provision #425: Stop Digging

Laser Provision

To achieve Work / Life Balance we can start by stopping. We can stop the mindsets and practices that get us into trouble. This does not mean that we have to abandon our core values or principles. But we do have to adapt to our changing environments. Columnist Molly Ivins reminds us of the first rule of holes: “When you are in one, stop digging.” When it comes to Work / Life Balance, this rule is indeed the first rule to heed.

LifeTrek Provision

Welcome to the start of our Work / Life Balance journey. We are going to start by stopping. Often we think of stopping as something that isn’t our choice, like having to wait for someone else, or sitting in our car at a stop sign or red light. The kind of stop we are considering here is one we consciously choose to make. So sit back, relax and enjoy the start of our journey that begins with a stop.

Tim Gallwey introduces the idea of taking a STOP in his book The Inner Game of Work. STOP stands for Step back, Think, Organize your thoughts, Proceed. There are short and long stops and we will be taking both of these on our Work / Life Balance Journey. Bob Tschannen-Moran reflected on Tim Gallwey’s STOP by saying, “It is the STOP before the journey that enables us to go with confidence” Click.

As we take our first STOP, I’d like you to consider your current mindsets around Work / Life Balance. A mindset is a set of habits or attitudes that determine how you respond to any given situation. It’s like a fixed idea you hold about a situation that either helps you or hurts you in that situation. However, a mindset is separate from the actual situation and that is why two people respond differently to the same situation. Another reason is that our mindsets can eventually become outdated, no longer helping us but instead hurting us in the same situation.

An example of this is the mindset that many people in my parents’ generation had toward work. Their mindset said they should finish all of their work first, and then play second. This is a noble attitude toward the principle of hard work, but is a mindset that would not serve them well if applied to today’s work situations.

Today, we live in a world of unprecedented demands on our time. Our current day mindset naturally says we should try to work harder and faster to get it all done, but that doesn’t seem to be working for us anymore. Although hard work is a good principle, if we tried to get every bit of our work done first, we would be destined to fail at both work and play. We would experience frustration and conflict wanting to get it all done and feel good about it, but in reality not being able to get it all done every time.

But does that mean we shouldn’t be passionate about what we do? No. Passion is what inspires and guides us. Passion sometimes leads us to have seasons of natural focus such as starting a business, having a baby, or working hard to meet a project deadline at work. Passion is a great driver of behaviour, but the opposite driver is fear. Unchecked mindsets can lead to fear that can distract us from our source of passion.

But what if there is no passion? What if there is a sense that we are missing something, a sense that perhaps we are not even doing the work or living the life that we truly want? Perhaps this is true, or perhaps we would encounter the same problems anywhere we went? How do we find out? What can we do? The answer begins in our mindsets. When our mindsets become open to possibility, we discover new actions to take. If we take these new actions, we start to experience new and different results.

Our mindsets must first evolve to match the world around us. A common Work / Life Balance example is between men and women in our society. It is normal today for women in our society to work full-time, as their partners do, but continue taking on the majority of the domestic duties. This example mindset shows attitudes and habits that do not match with today’s world. There are many others I am sure you could think of. While not always easy to change, you will be surprised at how the smallest adjustments in your mindsets can yield huge benefits in how you feel about your Work / Life Balance.

If you are thinking, “I am not about to discard all of my current habits and ways of doing things” rest assured, because you don’t have to. However, on our Work / Life Balance journey we do have to align our mindsets with principles that work for us and move us closer to our ideal Work / Life Balance. Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great captures the essence of this idea when he says, “Yes, the world is changing, and will continue to do so. But that does not mean we should stop searching for timeless principles•certain immutable laws of organized human performance will endure.” I agree with Jim and suggest that this requires us to gain some new ideas and try some new things. And that may include some things we need to stop doing.

Jim goes on to explain that his research showed that companies and the people in them who launch dramatic change programs usually fail to make the leap from good-to-great. These kinds of transformations never happened overnight. There was no magic program, no lucky break, no amazing innovation. Instead, the process of good-to-great involved a steady building of momentum to a point of breakthrough and then beyond.

During our Work / Life Balance journey, we will learn and apply skills that align with enduring principles • skills that work if you use them. Skills that may take your Work / Life Balance from good, or even not so good, to great.

The first skill is to STOP. Stop doing things that don’t work, stop expecting they will work. Embrace the idea of possibility. Become open to new ways of looking at, thinking and feeling about situations. This is how I started my Work / Life Balance journey. I have personally stood on the edge of burnout while at the same time moving from Australia to the USA to accept even more responsibility at work and at home. I realised I had a decision to make. I could work even harder and faster, risking burnout and losses both personally and professionally, or I could challenge my mindsets and learn to take new actions that allowed me to succeed. I took the latter option and succeeded.

Charles Darwin’s famous “Survival of The Fittest” is often misunderstood. People think it means that the strongest and fastest will survive. What he actually said was, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” Our first stop, then, is to Stop Digging.

Stop Digging was inspired by Molly Ivins, the American News and Political writer who reminds us: “The first rule of holes: When you are in one, stop digging.” It is great advice for all of us. Work / Life Balance is deeply personal, however, and my story may not match yours. You don’t need to travel to another country to experience trouble with Work / Life Balance.

It happens quietly with stay at home mothers, and with people at the top of companies, those at the bottom and everyone in between. It happens with married people and single people. Increasingly it happens with younger and even older people, and it turns out that Old Dogs really can learn new tricks. I checked with Oliver Beverly (, my dog trainer, and he assures me they can • it just takes a little longer.

I invite you to come along on the journey to discover and achieve your ideal Work / Life Balance. It is a journey where you will learn, discover and then apply the learning. Together we will discover some of your mindsets on Work / Life Balance. Your first STOP is to embrace the possibility, and even survival, created by challenging and adapting your mindsets.

I encourage you to question the steps we take along the journey, but be careful not to discard an idea because it requires you to step out of your comfort zone and take some action. That is where you will find those outdated mindsets and within them the first key to your ideal work / life balance. Remember, it is your choice at any time to change your mindset for one that helps rather than hurts you. Learning to Stop Digging is the first step.

Coaching Inquiries: Where could you Stop Digging first? Which old mindsets are holding you back? What new tricks could you learn to get better results?

This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.

If you or your company would like to talk with LifeTrek about coaching, Email Us or use theContact Form at our Website to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob.

Are Justice and Mercy that similar? Some of your examples seemed more connected to the latter (although not adverse to the former). Just wondering as I embrace. (Ed. Note: I see Justice and Mercy as two sides of the same coin. Remember Micah 6:8, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.”)

I’d like to say how much I appreciate reading LifeTrek Provisions each week. I’ll miss Bob’s words of wisdom for the next several months, but wish him well as he takes a break from this gift of love. I’ll look forward to getting acquainted with Mike and hearing what he has to teach us about Work / Life Balance.

Over the past 3 or 4 years I have been reading your weekly Provisions here in Bogot•, Colombia almost without exception and I am grateful for your insights and food for thought and change.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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