I once met a brilliant and emotionally intelligent businessman, husband, and dad, who had built a wildly successful marketing agency. We’ll call him Rich. During a hike, he heard a message come over him as if out of nowhere…
“You’re succeeding in making money but you’re missing the mark when it comes to your family life.”
This realization prompted him to change. He shifted focus, moved to a mountainous area, and restructured his work. This decision brought alignment between his values and actions, benefiting both family and business. Rich’s story reminds us to prioritize true desires over societal expectations for a more fulfilling life.
One of the biggest problems today is the feeling of being pulled in different directions. We strive to achieve everything and more, but things never truly get done. We’re surrounded by messages telling us to work harder, do more, get more, and be more.
Here’s the truth: you have to let go of that mindset. More is not more. More is busy. And busy for too long leads to burnout.
In our last blog we debunked that balance is the answer to the day-to-day struggle of entrepreneurs and top-level professionals who want to live a full life while giving their all at work.
There’s a flaw in the notion of balance. It’s based on what we do. How many hours do I dedicate to work this week to be successful? Where should I fit in family time or this other thing I’ve been asked to do, but don’t really care about. It leaves out who we are and what truly matters to us.
Here are the four things balance is missing:
I believe what we really want is something balance alone can’t give us. I believe we want to live and lead others without regret each day — we want to realize our potential, embody our real purpose, have passion in our work, relish the moments, have positive feelings, enjoy fulfilling experiences, feel connection with ourselves and others, and live in harmony with our soul.
To experience this, we must live, work and lead with congruence.
Congruence is authenticity.
Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic, often speaks of climbing the corporate ladder early on in his career at Honeywell. He became disillusioned with himself and mentions wearing cufflinks to try and impress the board of directors. He tells the story of driving home on a beautiful day. He looked in the mirror and realized he was miserable. He didn’t like the businesses he was in, and he was not passionate about it. Most importantly he didn’t like himself.
George was acting inauthentically to impress others.
This awareness created a personal transformation for him. He switched industries and began acting in a way that felt more congruent with his ‘true self’.
Like George, to bring the true self throughout all roles in our lives - employee, owner, spouse, friend, partner, parent, caretaker - is being authentic. Allowing the authentic self to coexist within all your roles as the “real me”. The true self is like the ‘real me inside,’ ‘saying what you really think,’ ‘expressing your opinion.’ In contrast, the inauthentic self is ‘being phony,’ ‘not stating your true opinion,’ and ‘saying what you think others want to hear’.
Often, in an attempt to contribute positively to the world, we are swept up trying to be like everyone else. Unconsciously we think that’s our answer to having what we want, but we only become disconnected from ourselves and ultimately from others and holds us back from feeling joy and peace. It keeps us stuck. Living aligned with who we are and what we want gives us a sense of freedom and an experience of fulfillment that we desire.
I believe that living authentically is to embody the belief that who we are is enough, and that as we are - we are brilliant and imperfect in unique ways. To show up authentically is to bravely embrace both and allow the world to see who we truly are.
Congruence is alignment.
It’s taking action aligned with true desires and deepest values. Congruence is doing your life – your way.
It’s the continual peeling open to greater expansion, day in and day out, of knowing and expressing who you really are. It’s owning your desires and values to actively design a full life, rather than live empty by default.
It’s confronting head-on the doubt, frustration, and angst felt from mis-alignment and actively deciding for a better way of being that brings freedom, lightness, and ease.
It’s alignment with your soul’s purpose. Fulfilling your soul’s purpose is the biggest, most rewarding success you can achieve in your lifetime.
Congruence is action.
Let’s talk first about what congruent action is not. It’s not about taking action just to stay busy. It’s also not getting everything done. It’s about focusing on the next right actions that are congruent with you and your values so you don’t burn out. It’s choosing every day to break out of the trap of being busy, when the pull to the familiar, overcommitted schedule feels more comfortable.
It’s having goals and desired outcomes in mind, yet staying open while taking steps to achieve the goals without white-knuckled attachment to outcome. It’s staying out of the weeds of judgment, distraction, and daily minutiae and staying focused on the big picture. It’s putting everything you have out there and giving a contribution. The unique contribution only you can make that touches others in big and small ways - yet makes a positive difference. Contribution that changed lives. Including your own.
Congruence the trailhead to get on your true path — and stay there — undeterred by the easy path where conflict, difficult decisions, challenges, self examination and continual improvement are avoided.
When we live with authenticity, alignment and action - we find our congruence.
Congruence naturally gives us balance in the traditional sense of the word… and with so much more. It adds to the ease and flow to navigating the gap from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow. It’s the place where life feels easier, we build genuine relationships, we stand out from the crowd in our careers and businesses, have more energy, and are healthier and happier. It’s also the place where the potential lies to 2x or even 10x your income while working less.
There’s so much noise in the world about how we should live and should work, it can be hard to know what’s right. How do we sift through other people’s voices and opinions so we can hear our own truth?
Congruence gives us our truth.
Sometimes, in our society, we try to do what everyone else is doing to be successful when what we should be doing is what’s successful for us.
When we live that truth, we get bigger results than if we were living someone else’s truth, or worse, what the world thinks is true because we aren’t fighting against ourselves.
Let me ask you - What would it be like if you didn’t fight against who you are and simply let yourself be authentic and real with your team, in the boardroom, during a conflict with your colleague, in an interview, behind the microphone, with your kids, alone with your partner, or out running a marathon?
I mean, truly authentic?
Bringing your true, or whole self to every role in your life, rather than compartmentalizing your life into “family life”, “professional life”, “healthy life”.
Slow down and imagine today is the last day of your life.
How would you feel about how you lived your life, how you led others, what you’ve contributed, who you were? Really imagine it for a moment.
Do you have any regrets?
Did you stay true to yourself?
Did the bullshit stop you from what mattered most?
Is anything left undone or unsaid?
Do you feel a sense of peace?
When we live out of congruence, we tend to sacrifice our values, our personal priorities, and our health and relationships for progress. This can go on for years, even decades, and one day wake up to realize somewhere along the way we let go of what mattered and are miserable because we’ve spent a big part of our life’s energy in an attempt to achieve what we thought we wanted that may have only fed our ego and not our soul. Or in an effort to achieve what others wanted for ourselves - our parents or colleagues or mentors or industry.
It’s also how we harness our true potential, it’s the place where life feels easier, we build genuine relationships, we stand out from the crowd in our careers and businesses, have more energy, and are healthier and happier.
If you are interested in learning more about living with congruence and how it helped me and my clients achieve goals without burning out, watch out for our next blog post or reach out to us here. To stay up to date with the latest news from our blog, you can sign up for our newsletter here. You can also join us for Trailblazer Tuesday - a weekly 30-minute small-group session where we to discuss topics and questions that can change the game for you in terms of your life and work. Learn more here.
Thank you for reading and we hope to hear from you soon!