The business world is fantastic. It's also challenging. Over the course of your career, you'll face ethical, cultural, political, and personal dilemmas in the workplace. You'll work with difficult people. You'll find yourself in compromising situations. You'll have to balance who you are as an individual with what your employer asks of you.
Can you stay true to who you are without sacrificing your success? Absolutely YES.
*** A BIG thank you to my readers now in 75 countries around the world! Wow. ***


How Living With "Congruence"
Changes The Game

You can be successful without congruence.  
But you can't be satisfied.
What is it and how do you get it?

Congruence is one of those words that just sounds complicated. You probably paused at the title and thought "Meh" about whether to read this article. I hope you keep reading. 

Here's why:
"How we think of ourselves (our self-image) and how we behave in accordance with that image in the real world is the stuff of congruence. It's one of the most profoundly powerful drives we have as humans - to live in consistent alignment with who we think we are, how we want others to perceive us, and who we want to become. When we don't behave as the person we believe ourselves to be, we feel 'off'...'          
Brendon Burchard, in his NY Times Bestseller The Charge
Our level of congruence is never more challenged than at work. We're surrounded by a diverse group of people we haven't chosen to have in our lives, and we have to interact with them every day. Being true to ourselves while accommodating the personalities and preferences of others is tough. Over time, we can lose our sense of alignment between who we are and how we are in the workplace. 

The biggest challenge is that we don't see trouble coming. We feel "off" and we don't know why. It's because we aren't living and working with congruence.

So... what is congruence and how do you get it?

Need Congruence?

Congruence is simply a state of being in agreement or harmony. When it comes to your life, congruence is about alignment between who you are and how you present yourself to the world. And at work, it's about being true to yourself - while interacting with others and delivering great results.

The trick? Balancing the "who" and the "how" to achieve congruence. 
  • Do you know who you are and how you want to be perceived in the world? 
  • Do you consistently behave in a way that reflects it?

When you struggle with congruence at work, you find yourself making choices that don't feel right almost immediately - in terms of what you've said, how you've reacted to others, or how you've behaved. In moments throughout the day, you don't present yourself to the world in a way you'd be proud to have broadcast on national television. 

You can blame other people for bringing out the worst in you. You can argue that your situation or circumstance wasn't fair, or right, or just. You can assign the blame to stress. I know. I've been there. 

Universal truth: It's up to us to live our lives with congruence. We need to know with total certainty what we stand for before we even show up. And we need to walk the talk if we want to be both successful and satisfied at work.

Get It.

In his New York Times bestselling book "The Charge", Brendon Burchard highlights ten areas of your life that benefit from attention if you want to live a full, engaged, and satisfying life that matters. Congruence is one of the ten human drives he discusses. 

Below are three concepts Brendon recommends to live your life with congruence, with additional commentary and exercises on how to establish congruence at work.

1.  Set a high bar for yourself.

Are you bringing the best you've got to the world everyday? Are you bringing the best you've got to your work? You can certainly go through life just trying to do-no-harm and get along fine. Or you can be thoughtful about the kind of person you want to be in the world and set a high bar for yourself. 
Try this:
I use this exercise with my clients all the time. First, choose a few characteristics you would want other people to use in describing you. These are traits that matter to you. They make you feel good about yourself and how you interact with others. (This has nothing to do with the past or with how others want you to be. This is about the kind of person you want to be.) 
Here's my example:  I want to be smart, dynamic, respected, engaged, influential, and kind in my life and in my work. Your words will be different based on what matters to you.
Second, remind yourself of those words every single morning. How do you want to present yourself to the world that day? You'll be surprised to see that reminding yourself of who you want to be moves you closer to your goal. 
Third, check in with yourself at the end of the every day, or after key interactions, for an honest assessment of how you did. This will become second nature over time. It is enormously powerful. 
Set the bar high and challenge yourself to rise up. You will.

2.  Watch your emotional energy.

Have you ever started the day in a great mood only to find by 9am you're frustrated, irritated or annoyed? Why can't things just go according to plan? It's easy to fall victim to the people and circumstances around you - and let them dictate your mood. Or instead, you can choose how you want to feel and hold it steady. 
Try this: 
This exercise in congruence is about feeling the way you want to feel as you go through life. Challenge yourself to be intentional and consistent in your emotional energy. Make the decision to be less emotionally variable based on what's happening around you. Choose instead to bring a consistent type of emotional energy to the table every day - whatever feels right for you.  
Here's my example: I choose to be positive. I don't always get it right, but when I feel my mood being influenced by external factors I remind myself that I haven't made that choice intentionally. I'm living by default. Even in the most stressful of circumstances, I challenge myself to maintain or return to a steady state of positivity. It makes me feel better. The people around me know what to expect. I'm able to feel congruent with who I am and how I want to be perceived in life and at work. I'm also much more effective in dealing productively with whatever set me off course in the first place. 
Watch your emotional energy and feel your way to more satisfaction.

3.  Keep your word.  (Be a good human.)

When Brendon Burchard refers to keeping your word as "being a good human"... I smile. As he says, nothing could be "more straightforward and universally accepted as a good idea, yet few people do it." What gives? We're all guilty of having a casual attitude toward the statements we make on occasion. But what if your words really mattered? (PS: They do.)
Try this:
If you live with the expectation that your words are meaningful and that your promises matter to other people, you're ahead of the game. Your words reflect who you are. You either invest in success, progress, and productive interaction through your words and actions, or you don't. If you want to feel more congruent at work, challenge yourself to be less frivolous in your casual and formal commitments to others. 
If you say you'll do something, no matter how small it is, do it. If you can't do it, reset the expectation with others. You'd think this would add stress. It actually makes you feel much more congruent and accomplished. You're also much more valuable and appreciated by those around you.
Extra credit? Congruence is even stronger when you go beyond doing what you say you'll do - to doing what you know is right, whether you've verbalized it or not. Whether you're alone or in public. Whether anyone will find out or not. Boom. This is the big time for congruence. Its hard and you'll fail. We all do. But it's a worthy pursuit.
Be a good human and inspire others to do the same by example.

Bottom Line

It's pretty easy to find information about how to be successful at work. It's a little harder to find guidance about being both successful and satisfied. I try through this column to do just that - by sharing my experiences (both good and bad), the victories and failures of others, and advice that's helped me in my career. Life is too short to enjoy success without satisfaction. Who wants to eat their soul for breakfast every morning, just to find success in business? Living a life of congruence delivers on the promise of success and satisfaction. It changes the game.

Congruence is a life-long pursuit, but so worth the chase. I know what matters to me and how I want to be perceived in the world. I challenge myself to maintain a steady and positive emotional state. I'm committed to keep my word and be a good human. I embrace the challenge of congruence - and a lot of the time I get it right. I also fail. Miserably, on occasion.

What I know for sure is that I am much more satisfied when I'm in congruence. I've been highly successful without congruence, and I couldn't enjoy it one bit. When I'm in a role that doesn't suit me or I'm being encouraged to behave or interact in ways that aren't in alignment with my preferences, I'm living my life on someone else's terms. I can do it in small doses. I can do it for short periods of time. But I can't and won't do it over the long haul. Ironically, when I act in congruence to who I really am, I find it much easier to adapt and navigate challenging situations. Who knew?

Congruence has become my greatest point of reference when I'm faced with a choice or decision. When I ignore it, I regret it. When I honor it, I get it right. Congruence is one of the most powerful human drives we have. I hope you'll try the exercises in this article for yourself. With any luck, you'll find this pursuit to be a game changer for you too.

More soon,

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