Wharton prof gives advice on integrating work and life

Text by Greg Johnson

Twenty-four hours does not seem like enough time for people to juggle their professional responsibilities while also raising their children, engaging with the community, and taking care of themselves and their home.

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Twenty-four hours does not seem like enough time for people to juggle their professional responsibilities while also raising their children, engaging with the community, and taking care of themselves and their home. The population at large, in the United States and abroad, finds it increasingly difficult to manage their work and private lives, and achieve harmony between the two.

Stewart Friedman, practice professor of management at the Wharton School and director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, says nearly all workers—doctors and lawyers, students and teachers, artists and engineers, soldiers and stay-at-home parents—are struggling with this quandary, and seeking out solutions.

Friedman story

In his new book, “Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life,” Friedman discusses a distinct skillset that people can learn, practice, and master in order to successfully harmonize their professional and personal lives, and lead a meaningful life.

Friedman, who has been studying work/life integration for three decades, writes that the most successful people are those who can “harness the passions and powers of the various parts of their lives” to achieve what he calls “four-way wins”: actions that result in a better work life, family life, social life, and an improved mind, body, and spirit.

He says there are three principles prevalent among individuals who are able to successfully integrate their work and home lives: be real, be whole, and be innovative.

To “be real” is to act with authenticity by clarifying what is important to you. To “be whole” is to act with integrity by recognizing how the different parts of your life affect each other. To “be innovative” is to act with creativity by experimenting with how you do things that are good for you and the people around you.

Friedman illustrates these principles in “Leading the Life You Want” by profiling six extraordinary people who have exemplified these values and developed the tools necessary to attain a sense of harmony in the various parts of their lives: Tom Tierney, chairman of The Bridgespan Group; Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook; Eric Greitens, a humanitarian, author, and former Navy SEAL; First Lady Michelle Obama; Julie Foudy, a former member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team; and musician Bruce Springsteen.

Springsteen, Friedman says, is a great example of leading the life you want.

“You might call him the chief executive of a very successful, high-performing global organization that has a greater market share, globally, than he’s had in his whole life and he’s 65 years old,” he says. “How does he do that? He embodies his values consistently. He is who he is wherever he goes in the different parts of the life.”

Friedman says all six individuals have achieved great success without forsaking their families, their communities, or their own wellbeing.

“In fact, the opposite is true,” he says. “They have embraced those other parts of their lives. I’m trying to cut into the common wisdom that says you have to sacrifice everything to be successful in your career. It’s not true.”

In the second part of the book, Friedman curates applied research in psychology and related fields to generate exercises that people can do to better integrate work and life.

“These skills have to do with things like knowing what matters, focusing on results, clarifying expectations with the people who matter most to you, learning how to challenge the status quo, strengthening your capacity in doing that, and how to be helpful to other people and build networks that are supportive while holding yourself accountable for the things that matter,” he says.

Friedman uses the terms “integration” or “harmony” instead of “balance” when referring to the healthy intersection of work and life; he says the word balance implies tradeoffs that are not always required.

“If you’re seeking balance, I guarantee you’re going to be disappointed because it’s not possible to be equally engaged in everything all the time,” he says. “It’s useful to think in terms of where you can have a positive impact in all of the different parts of your life.”

Friedman became interested in work/life integration after the birth of his first son 27 years ago. He says he was “transformed by that event” and questioned how he was going to work and care for his child. At the time, he says, the conversation about work/life harmony was nonexistent, but now it is everywhere.

“There’s a real hunger—especially, but not only, among young people—to find work that is both meaningful and fruitful for not just their careers and their economic interests, but their whole lives,” he says.

Originally published on .