15 Jan 2009  Sharpening Your Skills

Career & Life Balance

Achieving a life that balances the pleasures and demands of work and life has never been easy. Here are four HBS Working Knowledge stories from the archives that address everything from spirituality in leadership to understanding when "just enough" is truly enough.

 

Sharpening Your Skills dives into the HBS Working Knowledge archives to bring together articles on ways to improve your business skills.

Questions to be Answered

  • How do I get past a feeling of being stuck in life or work?
  • Can I resist the temptations of success?
  • Am I working too hard?
  • Is there room for spirituality at the office?

How do I get past a feeling of being stuck in life or work?

Feeling Stuck? Getting Past Impasse

Feeling "stuck," as psychologically painful as it is, is the first step to awareness of new opportunities in career and in life, says Harvard Business School's Timothy Butler. In this Q&A and excerpt from his book, Getting Unstuck, he explains six steps for getting from here to there. Key concepts include:

  • A psychological impasse is developmentally necessary for human beings.
  • Although impasse is usually first expressed as a failure, it is a requirement for individuals to change their way of thinking about themselves and their role in the world.
  • There is a six-phase plan for recognizing and overcoming impasse, starting with feeling stuck and ending with finally taking action.
  • Each phase has its predictable challenges, but some people find one phase more difficult than another.

Can I resist the temptations of success?

Resisting the Seductions of Success

"The basic problem with the flow of success is that life can look very good when it really isn't," writes Harvard Business School's Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. His book, Questions of Character, uses literature to look closely at issues of leadership. Here's an excerpt. Key concepts include:

  • The hazards of success is one of the oldest and most perplexing themes in literature, and is at the core of the novel I Come as a Thief by Louis Auchincloss.
  • Executives can become almost actors in a role created by the people and society around them, while at the same time being dead inside.
  • Leaders need the capacity to distance themselves from the pressures and seductions of success and to think and live for themselves.

Am I working too hard?

Secret to Success: Go for "Just Enough"

Being the very best in your chosen field is, paradoxically, a matter of accepting your limitations. A book excerpt by Harvard Business School's Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson. Key concepts include:

  • If we value achievement and adopt celebrity standards, we will certainly fall victim to our own excess. Nothing will be enough, and success will never satisfy. If we're high achievers, we may be plagued with self-doubt, feeling that we've never done quite enough.
  • Our collective fixation on "the best" and what the best means is an open invitation to be deceived by the latest success fairy tale.
  • If you wish to live with a continually renewing sense of success that really seems worthwhile and lasting on all your success targets, you have to give up the standards of maximization.

Is there room for spirituality at the office?

Does Spirituality Drive Success?

Is there a place for spirituality in the work environment? In 2002, executives from Silicon Valley to Boston met to tell how they twine their business leadership with religious and personal values. Attendees said their religious/spiritual beliefs helped them:

  • inspire their companies to do good in surrounding communities;
  • find guidance in making crucial decisions, especially those that affect other people.
  • shape their leadership through a faith's emphasis on personal values such as dignity.