Creating a Balanced Life is Essential to Achieving Mental Health

November 12, 2020

Your Workplace Must Embrace Effective Employee Engagement

As noted in my October 2020 blog post, mental health in the workplace continues to be more important than ever. This was recently supported by two articles in the New York Post on employee mental health and engagement.  

The first article referenced a recent survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the software company SAP, which found:

·       1 in 4 U.S. workers have considered quitting their job amid COVID-19

·       75 percent of people polled say they have been stressed out over juggling their professional and home lives amid deadly COVID-19

·       50 percent of those polled still want their employers to provide perks such as increased sick leave and better mental health services

In the second article, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 1 in 5 people believe their mental health is worse than it was at this time last year.

This information doesn’t surprise me. I’ve argued for years that employee engagement is more than a mindset – it is the differentiator between success and failure. Within this post, I share the concept of “The 5Ls” – a program that promotes healthy work-life balance – and how it helps you protect your company’s most valuable asset: your people.

Introducing the 5Ls of a Balanced Life

I recently reconnected with an old college rowing buddy, Sal LaGreca. He’s the co-founder of Unparalleled Performance, a training and leadership development company that addresses issues surrounding employee engagement. He’s also a co-author of the soon-to-be-released book, The 5Ls – The Gift of a Balanced Life.

“The 5Ls” is Sal’s brainchild. After becoming a partner at KPMG, he attended a Harvard Executive Business conclave wherein the world’s top business leaders discussed what really defines success. After a lengthy and introspective process, the group came up with a list of 10 components they felt constituted success.  

Upon leaving that conference, Sal realized that the list was way too long and needed to be more focused on key life elements. He knew that, to maintain any level of success, you need to have balance in your life, both personal and professional. Utilizing the first letter of his last name “LaGreca,” Sal cleverly consolidated the 10 to create a more memorable and substantive 5Ls.

This conclave is what drove Sal and Mike Mannix, a well-known leadership expert at New York University (NYU), to develop the 5Ls program – a simplistic, yet science-supported program that helps anyone achieve and sustain a better work-life balance. The 5Ls provides individuals and teams with real-world tools, not just high-minded theory, in five essential life elements: Love, Laughter, Labor, Leisure, Leave. It has helped countless people through difficult and stressful times by helping attain and sustain their mental wellbeing.  

A Deeper Look into Each of the 5Ls

None of the following 5Ls can stand alone. In order to achieve them all, you must recognize the area(s) you are lacking and then determine where you need to focus on to create the proper life balance. Let’s start with a high-level overview of each.


·       Without it, all else in life fails.

·       Self-love means taking care of yourself first. You cannot help anyone until you help yourself first (otherwise known as the Oxygen Mask Theory).

·       You need love in your life, since healthy relationships are critical to balance.

·       Get rid of energy vampires. Surround yourself with people who support you and lift you up.

·       Love of what you do and focus on the positive impact you can make.

Eleven years ago, I made the decision to shift my life from auto-pilot to experience what it truly meant to be present. One of my initial teachers, a spiritual healer, taught me to “love all, serve all.” In my experience, however, you must love yourself before you can love others. You can still have things you want to change about yourself, but you must also accept who you are, including your human “flaws.”

Moreover, it’s important you don’t blame others for these shortcomings. Instead of being bothered by someone else’s words, silence, or actions, get curious as to why you feel that way. Begin an internal examination as to what scab just got ripped off by someone else’s words or actions. Don’t lash out at them if it’s your wounds, not theirs.

This is what love is all about.


·       Stress management means not taking yourself too seriously. You must learn to laugh at yourself.

·       Failure is your greatest teacher. To be truly successful, you must be prepared to fail.

·       Learning to conquer your fear of failure is critical to mental wellness and success.

·       Use the power of positive thinking to put out positive energy that sets the proper tone and environment for your life.

·       Laughter is the best medicine. It has been scientifically proven to have multiple health benefits, with the top being mental health improvement and stress reduction.

One of my personal core values is laughter and mischievous fun. I spent too many years being a perfectionist or – should I say – trying to be a perfectionist. It’s an unattainable state of being that caused me to suffer more and not have as much fun.

This value makes the world seem less serious. When you laugh, you show people your whole self. This is a reminder that life is carefree, playful, and fun. Laughter provides a break from your serious side. While both are wonderful, welcome, and equally accepted, the 5Ls are about seeking balance and remembering to laugh, smile, and relax!  

As a leader, remember that everyone is always looking to you. While you may be dealing with serious issues, in my experience, it’s better for your team to see you smiling.


·       We are built to work, wired to produce. Studies have shown that health rapidly declines after retirement when purpose has left.

·       Labor can give you passion and purpose. There are incredible health benefits of loving what you do.

·       You should work on yourself, as self-development is critical to balance and success.

·       Positive relationships in life do not just happen. You must work on them.

·       You must make sure your people work on their own life balance. It’s critical to the success of the group and the organization.

As another colleague of mine says, “Work-life balance is BS. It’s work-life-self!” We are taught as a society in the workplace that we must produce what our function requires of us. However, you must learn how to work on your relationships, whether professionally, socially, and romantically. Additionally, you should take the time to work on your “self” and not feel guilt for it – which was a very valuable lesson for me.

Standing still kills great leaders. You can’t be the same person you were six months ago and deal with the challenges your business presents today. You need to be someone new, constantly evolving all the time and continually stepping forward to meet your new reality.

Ultimately, I think of “labor” as working on my core purpose: to achieve my highest authentic self on this planet so I can be a better person, partner, parent, coach, etc.  What’s your purpose?


·       You must disconnect. Just like you need to recharge the battery for your phone and laptop, you should do the same for yourself.

·       Leisure is an investment – in you! Studies show that people who take time off (which means NOT doing work on vacation) are happier, healthier, and more successful.  

·       Schedule specific “me time” during every day. Disconnecting even for short periods of time has shown an exponentially positive impact on mental wellness and productivity.

·       You should exercise daily. It’s critical to physical and mental health, as science has proven that this small investment gives you a clear mind. Clearer minds = Better decisions.

·       Mandate that your team does this as well. This critical decision increases engagement and productivity while reducing turnover.

I’ve always exercised, which is a great habit to have. But you need to unplug for more than a couple of hours at a time, especially when that time away doesn’t come on a consistent basis. You should schedule regular time to get away and be fully present with those around you.

Sadly, when I was on autopilot early in my career, I did cancel vacations. Maybe even worse, I regularly worked during the vacations I didn’t cancel – much to the chagrin of my family.  

As an executive team coach, I teach that one of their highest goals should be to spend 80% of their time working on the business and 20% in the business. So, if you work on vacations or cancel them, that probably means you feel you can’t take a vacation without worrying what your company or department will look like when you return. And that’s a problem – for you, your family, and your work.


·       Know when it is over. Change is a constant, so you must develop the ability to adjust.  

·       Get comfortable being outside your comfort zone.

·       Learn that you can only control the controllable and how to let the rest go.

·       Embrace change and let go of fear. Fear of the unknown and failure will trap you in a “familiar misery” state that cripples your ability to attain positive change, balance, and success.

·       Be prepared to pivot in order to leave a bad decision or situation.

·       Stay focused and realize that brighter days are coming.

Are you in a toxic relationship? I’ve been in some, both professionally and personally. Change is hard and at times painful. I start my personal assessment on whether it’s time to leave based upon where I feel like I am in the flow of the universe. When I am in the flow, I feel calm and happy as I live my life. When I am not in the flow, I feel anxious, tense, uncomfortable, afraid, and worse.

Life is short. We’ll never know when our time is up. Therefore, if I find myself in a toxic relationship, I work really hard to improve it. But if I’ve invested time and energy into fixing the situation and it stays the same, it’s better for me and those closest to me in my life if I leave. You must embrace the fear and pain of change.

Crafted by Reinhold Niebuhr, the “Serenity Prayer” has been extremely helpful when moving on from a toxic relationship:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I also take the time to reflect on my part in the toxic relationship so I can identify the lessons learned and not repeat them. Admittedly, it can take another time or two before I truly learn my lessons. But once I learn them, life is so much better.

Use the 5Ls to Increase Employee Engagement

Stress, anxiety, depression, and employee discontent are at reported all-time highs. With teams being both remote and onsite, an impactful employee engagement program is more critical than ever. True employee engagement combines robust initiatives that show commitment to your employees, their well-being, and future growth. The key to keeping your people connected and productive is to make them feel involved and showing them that they are a valuable asset to your efforts.  

This investment in your team will reinforce your commitment to their day-to-day well-being as well as their long-term personal and professional success. Empowering your team with your expert-level knowledge and insights will connect them to you, re-energize them, and make them more productive.  

It is this simple: happy, balanced employees = engagement, retention, and productivity.

I am excited about the release of Sal and Mike’s upcoming book, The 5Ls- The Gift of a Balanced Life. It contains game-changing life lessons that your teams can implement immediately as they’re drawn from real-life scenarios. I have found the 5Ls program to be very different, simple and effective with improving employee engagement, as it’s worked with students, teams, and executives at all levels.

Each one of these 5 essential elements for success gets its chapter in the book. It steps beyond Sal and Mike’s experiences to encompass real-world stories about how one or more of the 5Ls has impacted their lives. These successful individuals include corporate executives, owner-managed business leaders, professional athletes, high-ranking military leaders, and other high-profile personalities. Sal and Mike pack the book with scientific data that supports their tools for a balanced and successful life.

Are you interested in learning more about the 5Ls program and how it can help your organization? Reach out to me today, and I will set up a video meeting where we can take a deeper dive together.