The First Step to a Richer Life

Did you know that having lunch with a new colleague at work every week can improve your marriage and make you a better citizen? Or that writing a novel can make you a more productive, committed IT director and a better father?

These are just a couple of the thousands of examples I’ve seen of business professionals at all career stages taking fruitful steps toward becoming better leaders by having richer lives.

One of the best way to get started is to shake things up a bit. One kind of smart experiment is to try changing where and when you get things done. Work at home one day a week. Or shut off your BlackBerry several evenings a week. You may be surprised by how what seem like small changes can have a positive impact on many areas of your life.

Consider Kenneth, who was new to his community. He worked in a financial services company, with the goal of becoming a senior executive. He joined a nonprofit board that involved his fiancée, who was interested in community service. Working on this board connected him more closely with his sister, a special education teacher. His firm saw his joining a board and extending his network in the community as an asset for the business. So joining this board was good for his career, his family, his role as a citizen, and his soul.

Kenneth’s decision to join that board may seem like a much bigger move than working at home or switching off the BlackBerry. On the other hand, the idea of spending a few nights eating dinner with your family may seem like an enormous shift in how you work and live. Everyone is different, so anyone looking to experiment will try something different. Whatever kind of sustainable change you’re trying to create, you have to look at what really matters — and who really matters — and then undertake intelligent experiments like what Kenneth did for a month or two. Think about things you have the time to do and can control. When I talk to people, months and years later, about what they took away from this process, however, I hear less about the impact of a particular experiment than about growth in their capacity to lead change in all the parts of their lives. Why? Because they now see how the different parts are so closely related. That’s really the point.

Have you been able to kick-start an important change with an intelligent experiment, perhaps like the one Kenneth tried, that had a positive impact on all four parts of your life — work, home, community, and self? Let us know. And explore my Harvard Business Review article on the topic and two self-assessment tools associated with it.

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