LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Whether we’re talking about our life, family or career, it boils down to balance.
Having a healthy balance is the only way that we can sustain effectiveness. I can recall times as a young officer when working 14 hours a day was common. There are times when the mission will drive us to work extended hours, but it shouldn’t be the norm. Getting married and starting a family is what helped realign my priorities because it became readily apparent that if I wanted my family standing next to me when I leave the Air Force, I better find a healthier balance of my time.
One of the best commanders I had the pleasure of working for made it a point to work reasonable hours. His perspective was that his work hours would drive the behavior of the squadron. In other words, the later he worked, the later his Airmen would stay at work. He enjoyed an active family life and ran an effective squadron. Under his leadership was when I had an "aha" moment. If he can accomplish such balance as a squadron commander, then why can’t I do the same as a captain?
Throughout the past year, I found that I struggle disconnecting from work outside of the office, specifically with putting down the infamous BlackBerry. My wife graciously brought this to my attention a few months ago. My normal routine consisted of walking in the house, emptying my Airman battle uniform pockets and immediately start scrolling through emails on my BlackBerry — because you’ll never know when the next earth-shattering message will hit your inbox.
She soon realized that when my BlackBerry was in front of me, I wasn’t paying attention to her or the kids. I’ve changed what I call my home-life reintegration method and deliberately choose not to check my inbox until after talking about our respective days, how the kids’ days went and so on.
When the Air Force published the Comprehensive Airman Fitness program, it spoke to my conundrum of achieving a better balance. Achieving mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness allows us to optimize our duty performance as well as enhance our family life. Being disciplined and focusing our energy in these four domains enables us to develop competencies within the readiness and resiliency realms.
Why do I think this topic is important? It’s about leadership. All of us are leaders, whether formal or informal. Achieving balance in your life translates into being a more effective leader. I can see it in my leadership development. Now that I have a healthier balance, I’m better prepared to tackle not only the challenges that arise in my personal life, but I’m also better equipped to assist and lead my Airmen.