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WomanOf the Month 11-03: Mary LoVerde

Our January WomanOf the Month, Mary LoVerde, offers up life balance strategies for women who place balance high on their list of New Year###s resolutions. Connection creates balance, she says. "When you disconnect from family, friends, community, or your spiritual life, that###s what###s hurting," says LoVerde. "The answer is not to do more-it###s to fix that disconnection."

Lo Verde, president of Life Balance Inc. and a speaker, consultant and author, began researching strategies to achieve life balance during her 15-year stint on the faculty of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where she directed the Hypertension Research Center. A pioneer in flexible work arrangements, in the early ###80s she contracted to work two days from home, long before flex-time became commonplace. "I was happily married with children, working, but trying to follow the strategies the experts were telling me would help me cope-time management, prioritizing, delegating, etc.-was making me crazy. So I said to my boss, just give me six months to show I can make flex-time work. And I did it for 15 years."

LoVerde soon discovered she had a passion for figuring out what really would help people keep life in balance. "I realized that as long as my focus remained on somehow getting it all done, I was doomed," she recalls. "So I took my skills as a researcher and applied them to the problem of keeping life in balance when everything is changing fast and goes incredibly fast."

True to her background in research, LoVerde spent eight years reading, listening to people, and writing in order to figure out what helped people balance their lives. She even started a book club to read books about balance and engage in discussions with others.

"I discovered it was a hot point-people didn###t have a conceptual framework that was effective. All the strategies just made you feel guilty. The old way was to see how miserable we could make ourselves by trying to get everything done, because that would give us life balance. That###s when I realized that the answer was not to do more but rather to fix the disconnects. You need to ask yourself, with whom do I need to connect?"

Fixing the Disconnects
What are some practical examples of how we can fix disconnects in our lives and be happier? LoVerde offers up these examples:

Your child needs your attention, but you###ve got a million things on your plate
You come home with your five-year old, and you have many tasks to accomplish at once: thawing something for dinner, checking e-mail, opening mail, etc. Meanwhile, your child is trying to tell you about her day at kindergarten. Because the old way of achieving life balance was to multi-task, you###re trying to do everything at once. Finally, the five-year old put her hands on your cheeks, pulls your face close to hers, and says, "Mommy, listen to me with your eyes!"

"That###s life connection," says LoVerde. "She doesn###t need an hour-she just needs a maximum of 90 seconds of your undivided attention. If you can let go of all the other stuff and connect with her, look at her, hold her hand, be enthusiastic, she###ll be happy, run off to color and you can do the rest of your tasks and feel good. That###s the bottom line-feeling good is what life balance is all about."

An important project for work requires your undivided attention
The stress bug has bitten. An important project for work requires that you stay up all night if you###re going to get it done, setting aside your other responsibilities. "If you###ve asked yourself with whom do you need to connect, and your answer is the incredibly important project, then stop feeling guilty, stay up all night and get it done," says LoVerde. The old way of strategizing was to prioritize, she notes. "That puts you in the position of asking what has the highest priority-your children, your health, your job? I would answer, don###t put all that on me by asking me to say what is most important. The new question is, with whom should I connect at a particular time? Sometimes the answer is, I###ve got so much to do tomorrow, I###ve got to go to bed because to try to do it all sleep deprived would be crazy. So I###m not doing the dishes, and I###m not calling my sister back. In an instance like that, the answer to the question of with whom should I connect is, with myself."

We know what###s good for us, but we resist it
LoVerde says she discovered back in her university days that humans are quirky and don###t always do what they know is best for them. She recommends "microactions" as a way to outfox resistance to change.

For example, she had a patient who refused to exercise as part of a study for a weight-loss drug. The patient was supposed to take a pill, exercise, and go on a diet. She was asked to walk three times a week, but would not do it. LoVerde told her, "Don###t walk. This week, just get dressed to walk." The patient returned the next week and reported, "Yes, I got dressed to exercise." LoVerde said "OK, now walk for just one minute this week after you get dressed." The patient said, "I already walked for 20 minutes three times this week because I felt stupid getting dressed to exercise and then not doing anything." Further, she had met a neighbor who wanted to walk too, and between the verbal venting and the hiking, she felt great.

Movement toward a career change when even a "step" seems daunting
You###re thinking about a career change but even taking the first step of calling one person a day to explore opportunities is too daunting a task. LoVerde suggests this microaction: Don###t call anyone. Just write down the name and telephone number of one person each day. After about a week of writing it down, you###re going to realize you###re tired of it and make a call.

Exercise microactions:
You###ve set a goal of doing 100 sit-ups per day. Chances are slim to none you###ll follow through. Instead, set a goal of doing one sit-up every day. Chances are, once you###re down on the floor doing one sit-up, you###ll do more.

Above all else, LoVerde suggests we give ourselves credit for what we are already doing. "We don###t need a whole new software system to put our lives in balance," she says. "The biggest barrier is that people don###t perceive that what they do is good. They accomplish so much, but instead of giving themselves credit, they fall into bed thinking about the six things they didn###t get done."

To find out more about Mary LoVerde###s books, presentations, free monthly e-mail newsletter on how to connect, and other resources, go to her website at www.maryloverde.com.

To sign up for LoVerde’s e-mail newsletter, write to connect597@aol.com.