When you deal with a busy schedule and chronic stress at work, it’s only natural to seek reprieve at home. Over the years, we all come to desire a better work-life balance. But if you always try to relax when you’re with your family, you could be missing out on quality experiences and building relationships with them.
Here’s why being intense helps to maximize any endeavor, and how you can carry over your intensity at work to improve the time you spend with your family.
Intensity gets a bad rep
The word ‘intensity’ can evoke positive or negative associations. It depends on the context. An athlete’s focus and competitiveness, or a discussion between colleagues, can be described as intense; this is seen in a positive light. Yet, in a family situation, you might not want to use this word. Your home is a place of restfulness, harmony, and safety; in this setting, intensity often connotes argument, conflict, or unease.
Intensity shares the same Latin root “tensus” as the words tense and tension. This root describes a state of being stretched, and over the years has also become associated with nervousness or discomfort. Thus, when taken on its own, this feeling of being stretched out or tightly wound up is negative. Who would want to experience discomfort without a potential reward?
That promise of a reward, though, is what gives intensity the potential to become positive. In scenarios where a specific result is desired, intensity becomes a means to that end. Athletes push themselves to become better and win. Co-workers might debate fiercely to achieve what’s best for the company. And if you apply intensity properly to your family time, you can be rewarded with rich experiences and healthier relationships.
Finding the right approach
Even before becoming our youngest-ever president, Theodore Roosevelt led a highly productive life. Alongside his political career, he wrote poetry and books on history and birds and overcame childhood asthma to become an active sportsman. He extolled living “the strenuous life” in a speech of the same title.
In word and deed, our 26th president applied intensity to get the most out of his hours and efforts. Of course, it’s easy to see how being intense will help to sharpen your skills and make progress in your career. But everyone acknowledges the need for work-life balance; when it comes to family, surely we need less stress and intensity?
Living an extraordinary family life doesn’t mean that you need to carry a pomodoro timer around the house. And you certainly don’t want to shower your partner or kids with tough love all the time. In the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport says that focused, intense concentration is a skill we all need to develop. And this sort of intensity is what you can harness in the family setting.
Instead of multitasking, give your full attention to one critical task at a time. Get rid of distractions and low-value tasks, especially social media. Furthermore, develop the skill of managing routines and boredom. This will help you to build concentration like a habit and resist the urge to check your phone whenever you’re bored.
Leading with intensity
Your home is a place where you want to unwind and de-stress. But when you get home, your family might have only a vague idea, at best, of the stress you’ve been dealing with all day. For your part, it’s easy to get upset when the house isn’t orderly, or chores haven’t been done. You don’t want to have even more work to do.
These situations tend to amplify stress for everyone involved. Kids and partners get scolded for not being helpful or understanding. Feelings can get hurt. This is where having an intense focus can help you. Instead of feeling tense and stressed, listen and empathize intensely. Give the other people in your house the attention and respect they need.
Being intense around your family also means maximizing the quality of time spent together. Avoid multitasking; attempts to combine housework with bonding time can backfire. Delegate deep cleaning or other mundane tasks. Get into activities with your kids that they will enjoy. And while you’re at it, keep your hands off your phone and your mind off work. Stay in the moment and observe all the little things. It will help you to appreciate the positives in each interaction and the entire relationship.
Building great relationships is never something you do alone. It’s a two-way effort, and in the family context, a team effort as well. And as a focused and intense family leader, you’ll be able to pay attention and continuously steer your team in the right direction.