I was surprised to stumble upon the seminar "The Truth About Our Lives: The Spiritual Revelations of Career Women" at the Professional Convention Management Association's annual meeting in January. The spiritual side of life is not a topic one expects to explore at an industry meeting. But the session, like those onand third-party commissions, was so popular people were turned away.
Moderated by Elizabeth Clist, who is writing a book on the topic, the seminar included panelists Christine Shimasaki, vice president of sales and marketing for the San Diego CVB, Susan Sarfati, president of the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives, and Martha Moores, executive vice president for the Florida Academy of Family Physicians. They talked about the challenges of developing a vision of life that encompasses work and family but goes beyond that. Says Lisa Block, meetings director for the Human Resource Management Association: "It was one of the best sessions I've ever attended. There is a real thirst for this kind of discussion."
A few weeks later, I ran across a column written by the wonderfully insightful Jack McEntee, who heads up theconsulting firm nth Degree. Remarking that the velocity of life has begun to impinge upon the possibility of having an inner life, he warned against a culture of acceleration and work obsession in which "our human worth and spiritual value can be reduced to dollars and cents."
Shortly after that a colleague surprised me with a copy of the best-selling book Awakening Corporate Soul: Four Paths to Unleash the Power of People at Work. Describing how downsizing and layoffs have left workers with new values about what they want to get out of their jobs, co-authors John Izzo and Eric Klein argue that in today's tight labor market, organizations need to create a "truly compelling workplace that is fun, engages people, and calls out the best of them." They talk about aging Baby Boomers, who, having given their lives to work, are asking the "Peggy Lee question": Is that all there is? Meanwhile, Generation Xers are reacting to their stressed-out parents by refusing to let work rob them of a personal life.
Clearly there is something in the air, as we head toward the new millennium, about the challenge of cultivating a balanced life. This is particularly difficult in the event management field, where multitasking, constant deadlines, frequent business travel, and rising attendee and exhibitor expectations occur against a background of budget constraints and fewer people doing more work.
We need more sessions like the one at PCMA--and not just for women. We all know there is so much more to life than attrition, disclosure, and the seller's market, but how to cultivate that side of our lives--well, that's another story.