An Integrated Life

An Integrated Life

“My father was not one of those “Leave it to Beaver Fathers.” After dinner all the other kids and the fathers would go out and play ball on the streets. My father would finish dinner and go upstairs to where he had his second studio and he would be working. And I was sitting there watching him. And I basically said to him, “Dad you know I feel badly for you. Because all the other fathers come home from work and they get to play with their kids, but you have to go back to work. He put down his brush and he said, “Dean, don’t ever feel sorry for me. I love what I do, I am an artist, I get to do something I love all the time. You need to find something that you love to do, and then you’ll be the lucky guy.””
- Dean Kamen, Entrepreneur & Inventor

Your time is too short to give the majority of it to a pursuit without excitement or meaning.  That means as a modern creator you must serve your emotional needs within your everyday existence.  Integration, or an integrated life, is the idea that all aspects of who you are, your home, your work, your community, and your mind/body, are merged into one harmonious state, making you your best self everyday.

Practically, this means your life cannot be compartmentalized.  You must not make one-sided decisions. Instead your decisions and actions must serve all of your priorities, all the parts of what makes you who you are. For example, you cannot work late at the expense of your relationship with your family. You can only work late if it serves your relationship with your family by making you a more fulfilled individual.  The holistic impact of your actions are what matter. When you intend to achieve the unbelievable and sustain a fulfilling existence, you cannot have fun on Saturdays and be miserable on Mondays, you cannot flourish financially but have miserable employees; all aspects of your existence must be served and all elements must be integrated.

By nature we are all artists. What we create is our art. Therefore we must learn from the artists. Artists aren’t only artists on the weekends, they are an artists all of the time. You wouldn’t stop Picasso or Dali to say it’s 8 PM, time to turn off your art and go home. Being an artist means you are in touch with your inner purpose and you do not put it away. Whether parenting, working, making dinner, or sharing your art, you must be like the artist and serve your inner purpose.  When you are not you, sharing yourself in some meaningful form, you end up cheating yourself and putting out diluted work. As Brene Brown puts it, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”  Your highest art can only be manifested when you achieve integration.

Imagine that, being in your zone, in your flow, enjoying all of your daily experiences fully and being in complete harmony with your environment. Dean Kamen’s father wasn’t working, he was playing. By living a life that served his purpose he existed beautifully, carried by the wave of his life.

Do the following simple exercise to assess the level of integration in your life. It is called aligning your 3P’s, purpose, priorities, and position.

Purpose: The reason for which something exists. It is the WHY behind everything you do, what drives you, what makes you different. It is your essence.

Priorities: The things that an individual or organization cares about and thinks are important, organized into a hierarchy, both short and long term.

Position: What an individual or organization spends everyday doing. For example, selling carpets or practicing and playing soccer.

On a piece of paper write out your purpose, then in one vertical column write down work/school, home/family, community/friends, and body/mind/spirit (if you are doing this for a business use the organizational aspects). Next to each one assign a percentage out of 100 based on your priorities, for example, 30% work, 45% home, 10% community, and 15% mind/body. Then in the adjacent column assign a percentage to how you actually spend your time, for example, 40% work, 10% family, 5% body/mind/spirit.

Now take a step back and look at them. The closer these numbers are to alignment, the closer you are to achieving an integration.

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