Parallel Lives

For some reason I’m encountering people who seem to operate ‘parallel lives’ just now.

It shows up when people go ‘off the grid’ for a few days for no apparent reason. I understand that this can happen when people go on vacation or are maybe on a training course but not when it just ‘happens’.

It usually turns out that they were focusing on ‘something else’ and weren’t answering the phone or replying to messages. Unless they were from people who were involved in the ‘something else’.

And if normally quite ‘active’, they’d also go ‘quiet’ on social media as well.

Of course, the most noticeable ‘schism’ is between ‘work life’ and ‘personal life’ when people completely shut down their business activity over the ‘holidays’.

(By the way I’m using American language here because, for once, they actually have the terminology right)

It seems that from time to time, multi-tasking or at least keeping the finger on the pulse, just gets ignored and an individual’s focus just rests, like the Eye of Sauron, on one thing, one activity, one life path.

Now there are a number of ‘downsides’ to this.

As a customer or client, I may want someone to provide a product or service for me, but I’m afraid, if they don’t answer my calls or my messages, then they will lose the business.

It will go to someone who does at least respond to their emails to let me know the situation, rather than just ignoring me.

Potential clients and customers don’t like to be ignored. They may not celebrate the same ‘holidays’, they may not also be ‘off duty’ or ‘closed’. Ignoring their contact is just throwing business away.

But so many people seem to do it.

Yes, ‘big business’ stays open, but that’s not necessarily where I want to go.

But that’s not really what this is all about.

People talk about ‘work-life’ balance, but is ‘work’ not part of life? Do you and I stop breathing, does our blood stop circulating, do our brains shut down when we ‘go to work’?

Of course not; work, or business is part of life. It’s what we do.

And I know that you and I have dreams and visions for our career or business. Goals that we want to achieve.

‘Work’, vocation, what we actually ‘do’ is just one of four or five domains of life

(There are different schools of thought on the number, I tend to work with four and then subdivide)

But the other key domains, Body & Mind, Relationships and Freedom (as I categorise them) are just as important.

The problem is that some people seem to have ‘separate’ visions for each of these, each with their own goals, and actions towards achieving those goals.

They don’t have an integrated vision, a holistic vision, a ‘big dream’ in which all of the pieces of the jigsaw fit together.

I’ve found may people who have a great vision of what they want in terms of personal freedoms, that doesn’t actually ‘fit’ with the vision they have for their personal or family relationships or it doesn’t fit with their health, wellness and spirituality vision, or the vocational work vision.

Achieving goals in one area is detrimental to achieving goals in the others – they are out of balance; because they don’t have an overall ‘big picture’ vision

And because of this, they live parallel lives, switching from one path to another.

Sometimes according to a ‘schedule’, but often not.

It’s an “I’m doing this now so I can’t do that” (or I can’t even think about that) existence.

So for example, they ignore business messages while they are engaged in other things; or personal messages while they are focused on something else.

The thing is that people often go off on one path for several days, as if they exist in just one domain.

You and I will normally keep our finger on the pulse.

We know that it only takes a few minutes to check emails to ensure there’s no crisis going on or to reply briefly to an enquiry to keep a potential new client happy or still ‘on the hook’.

We know that it only takes a few seconds to acknowledge a text. “Thanks for your message” or “OK, will get back to you on Friday” will do and will show the person who sent the message that we care about them.

And if it’s a personal message sometimes all we need to send is “x”

Going ‘off grid’ makes your correspondents either anxious about you or at an extreme, resentful that you can’t be bothered to acknowledge them.

Living parallel lives has an effect on others, but the main issue, for those who find themselves in that position – and it’s usually not ‘planned’, is that they find themselves living in constant conflict.

Trying to complete multiple jigsaws at the same time with all the pieces mixed up so they have no idea which piece is part of which puzzle!

It can be done but why make it so difficult?

One of the first things I do with a new client is to help them understand and write down the visions they have for each domain of their lives and at the same time look at where they are now and how they arrived there.

This gives us clues as to whether the paths are parallel, diverging or converging – or indeed whether there is any relationship at all about where they are going in each aspect of their life.

It can get interesting and is the source of some significant revelations.

Obviously, to achieve a big holistic vision of the life someone would love to live, all the paths have to converge in that place, so the objective is to find a way of integrating the various domain visions into a whole.

So that the paths don’t diverge, don’t cross or clash, and don’t just go on and on in parallel lines towards a destination that cannot be reached because it lies at infinity and the closer you get to that the further away it becomes.

If you find yourself with parallel lives – and most business owners do at some time or another, then take a little time to examine what you are doing, to examine your vocational, relationship and lifestyle visions and run a consistency check.

You might be surprised, and you’ll probably find that you need to make some changes to get the paths you are on to converge.

And of course, to do that you’ll need to write down the ‘big dream’, the endgame, the holistic vision of who you really desire to be and the life you would really love to live.

Separate paths towards that in each domain of your life is OK – but they must converge, not just go on and on, separately, towards infinity.

Perhaps this is what the phrase ‘pull yourself together’ really means.