At any given time, there are so many facets of our lives needing attention that knowing where to invest our energy and time is often easier said than done. This is especially true of businesspeople who are passionate about living out their faith in the marketplace and willing to make personal sacrifices along the way.
Most entrepreneurs struggle to strike a healthy balance between working long hours, running a household, investing in friends and family, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And yet God has called us to work from a place of rest and flourishing. How do we remain whole-hearted and steward these different facets of our lives well?
This was the topic at hand during Ziwani’s latest ‘At the Lake’ online discussion on 2 November. We were joined by a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs including Mergon director, Almero Strauss, Abella Bateyunga (founder, Tanzania Bora Initiative), Jacob Zikusooka (regional director, Transformational Business Network), and Phillipa Geard (founder, RecruitMyMom). Here are some highlights from the conversation.
Knowing your season
‘There’s a difference between seeking a work-life balance and seeking wholeness’, Phillipa said. ‘In fact,’ she added, ‘I don’t actually believe there’s such a thing as a work-life balance. Balance implies equilibrium at all times. For any one of us who are parents or who hold down multiple roles, it’s almost impossible to keep each one of those elements in perfect balance. I am rather a big proponent of work-life integration. God has given us multiple talents, and these talents can integrate into a beautiful picture of who we are created to be if we don’t strive for perfect balance.’
Jacob reflected on this idea: ‘It’s important that we think of our lives in terms of seasons. In every season of life, we need to be intentional around the question, ‘God, what are you calling me to do or become at this point in time? Where will I have the most impact?’ There are seasons when you need to focus on family, and seasons when your career can take more centre stage. Knowing where to focus will help you step back from other areas. It may feel like God’s pruning at the time, but it will lead to growth and greater clarity around your calling.’
Almero noted that pruning has benefits beyond our own personal growth. ‘It’s not just good for the tree being pruned,’ he explained, ‘it’s good for the trees around it. When you cut back, you create more space and sun for other surrounding trees. We always put the emphasis on growing, but what if God wants to make something ‘smaller’ in our lives so that other people can step into those spaces?’
Setting healthy boundaries
It’s a privilege to be passionate about what you do, especially when there’s a great sense of purpose and calling involved. There’s no deeper reward than seeing others grow and flourish – whether through parenting, mentoring, or building successful businesses aligned to biblical principles. Like any good thing, however, our uptake can become our downfall if we lack healthy rhythms and rest to safeguard our lives.
Boundaries are necessary, Abella reiterated. ‘Even compassion – a gift from God – can start to harm you over time if it’s in excess. You quickly move from joy to resentment when you have compassion fatigue. Investing in meaningful relationships will help you create healthy boundaries – friends who can hold you accountable and keep you from burnout.’
Rest and exercise are important, along with a powerful word called ‘no’, the panelists agreed, which guards us from having a saviour mentality and thinking we can be everything to everyone. Almero also recommended using the ’80-20 principle’ to make good decisions that can architect a sustainable lifestyle. He explained, ‘This idea suggests that 20% of the things you do are going to make 80% of the difference – the other 80% is going to make only 20% of a difference. Rather than trying to get everything done, focus on the 20% that will make the most difference in your day.’
Having established the importance of pursuing work-life wholeness in our own lives, Almero asked the question: ‘So how do our businesses facilitate this kind of ‘wholeness’ for our employees?’
First and foremost, Abella explained, it’s about cultivating a culture that celebrates creativity and nurtures personal growth. ‘We need to be effective and productive, but there should be some ‘play’ involved, and license to ‘tamper’ with ideas to build new, meaningful projects.
‘In our company, we encourage entrepreneurship – meaning that if you have a vision or idea that fits within the vision, bring it in. Let’s see how we can support you in turning that idea into a product or service. In this way, we welcome failure – we make a point of celebrating it – because it’s how we learn.’
Jacob added to this point: ‘One of my biggest revelations is realising that I don’t have to be everything in my job. In certain areas there are other people who are much better than I am. You need to find people who are complementary in their skills and personalities and team up with them. Micromanaging erodes trust. On the other hand, when you release control and trust the team, it’s amazing to see the diversity of ideas and richness of the experience that everyone brings to the table.’
But of course, the organisation’s culture is only as strong as the systems that uphold it. As the founder of RecruitMyMom, a recruitment agency that focuses on women in the workplace, Phillipa shared on the importance of building flexibility into your HR systems and KPIs. ‘We measure on output – something that I think is a key insight for any business owner today,’ she explained. ‘My staff work from home and they know what they’re being measured on. If they need to go and watch a soccer match or their child needs to go to a doctor, that’s okay because they know that they can build it in around their work schedule.’
‘The days of being a stay-at-home mom are fast disappearing’, she said. ‘Providing flexible work hours can help ease the burden and nurture a work-life integration.’
In closing, Phillipa reminded us that systems alone cannot create wholeness – at the end of the day it’s only God who can make us whole. ‘If we want to become more like Him, that responsibility – and privilege – resides with us.’
This article was originally posted on Mergon’s blog site. Ziwani is a Mergon initiative.