I recently saw an executive coach. I wanted to see what job or career path would be suitable for me after this episode of ill health and “insanity”. I anticipated going through industries, jobs, and positions to find one that fitted my personality, my goals, my strengths and my aspirations. I found no job, but instead a reinforced revelation that it is paramount I work on my “balance model”: to put less emphasis on “achievements”, but distribute my time more evenly towards “self”, “social” and “fantasy.”
The first time I met Andrew, my coach, he wanted to talk first about me, my relationships with friends and family. I was a bit taken aback as I thought we were going to talk about my career but I’m learning to keep a much more opened mind and so I followed his course. He asked me how close I was to some of the people I listed as important on my list in a survey I had completed for him prior to our meeting. I wasn’t sure where it was leading. Then he asked again, how I would characterize my friendship with Mook Lo (alias). I said “err, we are best friends from high school and we played basketball together…?” Then as I was prompted, I understood what Andrew was trying to get at.
Although I valued Mook Lo as my forever-best friend, I did not put in the time and effort to continue cultivating the relationship. Of course we saw each other in HK or elsewhere every time I returned for a business trip or holiday, and we went on trips together a few times. But I believe it wasn’t until I got ill that I started to talk to Mook Lo more frequently. And only through talking to her in the last 2 years did I realize she went through an equally tough time, if not more, 2 years ago, to which I was completely oblivious that she was crying herself to sleep every night after the Financial Crisis.
I literally owe my life to her. She was up in Beijing end of 2009, and back then I still didn’t know how sick I was. She wanted to meet up, but I cancelled on short notice, citing drowsiness from my migraine medicine. The next night I was about to cancel again but she trudged her way and barged into my apartment, demanding I talk to her. After a few hours talking, she declared me in “deep sh!t” and that I’d better go see a psychologist again. And since then we talked almost everyday via email or whatsapp or on the phone, even if it may be a simple “hi are you alive today?”. She was the first one I went to after I overdosed on pills and needed help.
And whilst chatting with Andrew, I had a eureka moment about something I probably already knew theoretically – I had spent all my time on achievements and as a result, had less time to cultivate my relationships with people. I must have mentioned previously how much importance I placed on achievements. Indeed, it was perhaps my full force focus for as long as I can remember. Whilst I might know a lot of people, many of them I didn’t have a quality relationship with. I also sacrificed my health obviously.
This reminded me also of the “Balance Model” my shrink discussed with me as we worked our way through cognitive behaviour therapy. Envision 4 quadrants, on each axis we have 2 opposite forces: “Self – Social”, and “Fantasy – Achievements”. Given 100%, I was told to estimate what proportion of my time was spent on the 4 different behaviours:
-“Self” signified anything that had to do with my own well being, health, spiritual, me-time, etc;
-“Social” meant any activity that involved other people, making friends, networking, etc.
-“Fantasy” referred to day dreams, goals, aspirations, whether achievable or not; and
-“Achievements” pertained to those activities that I considered to get me somewhere, be it career, learning a new language or skill.
I placed about 85% on the “Achievement” scale, and some 10% on “Social”. Leaving only about 2% each for “Self” and “Fantasy”. Assuming the Balance Model is one key to achieving a healthy, happy life, then was it so hard for me to predict my own collapse 2 years ago? Maybe if I had taken a step back to look at the whole picture I could have caught myself before tripping myself over.
Theory says that if each quadrant had the same measure of emphasis, one achieves balance. The point really is not to have a strict 25% in each quadrant, but to maintain some sort of equilibrium between the 4 main aspects that make up life, and supposedly makes us happy. Andrew surmised, if my relationships improved, I’d be happier and the rest would follow. I have not proven him right or wrong yet, as I am still working on it, but what he says makes some sense, no?
After all, at the end of our life’s journey, who stands beside us next to our death beds – our family and friends, or our companies and school certificates?
We all have our individual challenges. My challenge now is to improve on everything else but my achievements. In fact, I don’t think I’m ready to go back to the workplace yet anyways. Who wants to work with someone who disappears from the office every now and then for a few days because of migraines? Give me some time to get my health back in the place I’d like it to be. Give me time to achieve a bit more balance in my life before I launch my next “career”.
Till then, would all headhunters please leave me alone.