It’s been three years since Sheryl Sandburg released “Lean In,” and hardly a week goes by where I don’t hear the words uttered in encouragement.
As John Oliver would ask “How is this still a thing?”
Let’s set aside the unrealistic ideal that leaning in hysteria has set for women as leaders in society and instead focus on another side of of the argument, leaning in (specifically, working longer and harder) quite simply isn’t how men or women do their best work. Research has shown that knowledge workers have approximately six productive and effective hours available to them each day.
While leaning in certainly produces results, like prescription medicine it often comes with extreme side effects. I’m talking about the sort of physical and emotional symptoms that show up in pharmaceutical ads.
So, in an age where it’s almost impossible to keep up with the never ending demands of work and life, and where we are almost bullied to do more, I am going to suggest you do something radical.
What is Leaning Out?
Leaning out isn’t an act of defiance and it’s not a short cut to career failure. Rather it’s a mindful decision to pull your head out from the barrage of emails, deadlines and busyness of daily working life to mindfully cultivate attention, focus your efforts and recharge your creative juices.
Leaning out isn’t checking out or disengaging, it’s precisely the opposite. It’s checking in to yourself, its about making conscious choices and letting your internal compass guide your actions. Its about pursuing success in a way that aligns with your beliefs, talents and goals.
Leaning out isn’t about saying no. Well it is, but not all the time. Instead, it’s about you getting to choose the right stuff to say no to and the wrong stuff to say yes to. Leaning out requires letting go of the antiquated idea that doing more is better.
Leaning out won’t guarantee that you never have late nights at the office, or forgo a personal event because of work. But it will ensure that when those things inevitably happen, you’ll be more ok with it.
And it may very well be the most successful path to building a fulfilling, rewarding and successful career.
Here are 5 things that will happen to you if you Lean Out:
It will give you valuable perspective.
You know how your best ideas come to you in the shower? Or while on a run? Or while you are anywhere but at your desk? Leaning out works the same way. That’s because it’s a purposeful pause that creates space between you and work. Space that you don’t get if you are always leaning in. And from that space you’ll find more creative solutions and be more empowered to take meaningful action.
It will give you clarity.
You already know that you can’t see clearly when you too close to something. So why do we insist on imbedding ourselves so deeply in our careers? Leaning out expands your ability to see and think clearly.
It will help you be more productive.
This perspective and clarity of thought empowers you to say no to what’s not important. In fact, leaning out demands that you stop saying yes to the unimportant and channel your energy into what is. It frees you up to focus in a way you’ve never focused before.
It will train people how to treat you.
When you are strongly connected to what you value most, you’ll naturally start to show up in a way that respects your values. As a result, it will be clear to others what you are about, why they should value you and how you should be treated.
It will make you happier.
It’s likely that your life’s meaning and purpose will be found outside of the office. When all of your energy isn’t absorbed by your career, you are free to invest it in other parts of your life, which will make you happier – joyful actually.