Role of Congruence in a Balanced Life
Newsletter #4
From Diana's Desk

About Diana

Look at your Life

    Summer is in full swing. Here in the northeast we appreciate each sweet day as a balance to the ones that are snowy and blustery. I love summer mornings, whether in the city, country or suburbs. A few years ago I was going through a stressful time and while walking into work, a colleague mentioned how beautiful the flowering tree by the entrance was. In my distracted state, I had not even noticed. I vowed then to savor these summer mornings and really be present to the sounds, sights and soft air.

    In this issue I want to focus on the role of congruence in living a balanced life. Then I'll share some of the major aspects of my work related to health care. Finally, starting with this issue, announcements of future events will be at the end of each newsletter.

Leading the Congruent Life

    The core of a balanced life is being congruent in two ways. The first is living in congruence with your values and beliefs for the overall scheme of your life. The second is being congruent in your every day living. This occurs when your thoughts, feelings and behavior are consistent and in alignment.

    Life congruence starts with discovering or uncovering your values and beliefs, then living out those values. We don't stop to think about it but what others see for all practical purposes is what we are. In other words, living a messy, ineffective, or inauthentic life may not only be troubling to you, but is the way others perceive you and judge your values. How can people think that our behavior is anything but a reflection of our values and beliefs? You may be living in any of the following states where you:

  • know your values and act according to those values
  • know your values but for many reasons don't act according to them
  • don't know your values and beliefs and act based upon others' values and dictates
  • don't know what you value and act in a haphazard and reactive manner

    The first state is true congruence. For most of us, congruence emerges from a long process of self- reflection and life experiences. And we are not always in that full state of congruence. We generally slip and slide back and forth to the second, knowing and not acting or the third, not being sure and living according to others' values. The last state generally requires professional help as it is so disorganized that it can be evidence of really in-effective coping. People can, of course, dip down into this state when experiencing spiritual or life crises.

    Knowing your values but not acting and living according to them is a form of incongruence. Carl Rogers originated the term congruence as it refers to our living and relating to others. He described congruence as our thoughts feeling and behaviors matching. In communication there are two ways to be incongruent, either by deceit or denial. Deceit is being aware of your thoughts and feelings but not expressing them. It may be because of fear of being your authentic self. And it takes courage to be that authentic self. When you are certain about what you value and the direction for your life, you can move forth to express yourself congruently. Incongruence by denial is when we deny or don't recognize a feeling. The denial is a defense mechanism to reduce our anxiety. To bring up the feeling causes anxiety so we don't let ourselves "feel' the feeling. What is interesting about this state is that usually others can see what we are feeling even though we don't consciously express it. Centering practices such as relaxation and meditation help to reduce anxiety.

    The third state, not knowing your own values and beliefs but reacting and/or living according to others', blocks living a balanced life. An indication that you may be in this third state is when there is a large gap between the time you spend on an area of your life and your amount of satisfaction. This is a form of cognitive dissonance. You can discover what your true values are by reflecting upon this cognitive dissonance. For example, you may be working very long hours and spending little time with your family or on other fulfilling activities. If your satisfaction level is low about this, what does it mean? It may mean that you really do value work above other areas of your life, but then to really be congruent, the amount of work and satisfaction would be more closely correlated. Or perhaps you are living according to others' expectations of what is "good living" and you are not sure about your own values and identity, or, put another way, whose life are you living? The last possibility is that you realize that you do value many things besides working, but have just forgotten. Uncovering your true values relating to work and the rest of your life sets you back on the path to congruence.
Self-reflection is essential to this discovering and uncovering process. There are exercises in the Balance Your Wheel of Life Workbook to help with the self-reflective work. Ordering information is at the end of the newsletter.

    Emmett Fox describes an optimal life state as being in your true place. This is different from being in the right place. Fox writes "you are always in your right place because you are always in the place that corresponds with your mentality at the moment, but this may not be your true place." You are learning something from each experience and it reflects your current state of understanding. Fox explains that each of us is unique and that no one but you can fill your true place. When your right place and true place become one, that's congruence.

Thoreau said it this way:

Live your beliefs and
You can turn the world around

Help for Health Care Organizations, Teams and Nurses

    As a nurse, I am very concerned and involved in finding ways to improve health care. There are several aspects to our current troubled health care situation. The health care delivery system as a whole is in need of its own healing, if we can indeed call it a system. J. D. Kleinke titles his 2001 book Oxymorons, The Myth of a U.S. Health Care System. He describes our lack of a cooperative, connected system for health care delivery. Leaders, health care teams and the individuals who form those teams are stressed with the regulatory, financial and staffing demands. The heart of health care is relationship; the relationship of each caregiver to each patient and the relationships health care providers have with each other. Organizations are really formed by relationships, not by some imposed structure from outside or above.
An important component for effective health care and satisfied staff is strong team relationships. Plexus Team Spirit is an especially effective model for health care organizations. It provides a framework for not only enhancing multidisciplinary teamwork but for establishing roles, responsibilities and systems improvement. As a facilitator for Plexus Team Spirit, I can influence health care improvement while I help build spirited health care teams.

    Many nurses are disheartened with practice in the current environment. We are in a negative spiral of staff shortages, which increase the workload, which in turn leads to more shortages. One way I have found to help is as an instructor for daylong retreats for nurses called ReAwakening the Heart, Caring and Renewal in Nursing Practice developed by the BirchTree Center for Health Care Transformation. This powerful program not only gives the nurses who attend a well deserved day away, but also reconnects them to their reasons for being caring nurses. It presents a holistic view for nursing that is beyond time with patients to really being present for them. I believe that Plexus Team Spirit and Re-Awakening the Heart are powerful vehicles for fostering staff retention while contributing to developing our health care organizations for greater service and quality. Check my web site under speaking/presentations and workshops for more information about these programs.

    Enjoy your summer and I wish you wonderful discoveries as you journey from your right place to your true place.

Warm regards




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