Executive dilemmas

executive dilemma

The dilemmas of the balance between executive and personal life

There are hundreds of specialists in this subject who have developed the most varied themes and recommendations regarding the much-desired balance between personal and professional life. I don’t feel up to the task of adding anything else to what has already been written, researched, and published.

For that reason, this article boils down to personal experiences and perspectives, which may be able to help others through my mistakes and successes.


The most powerful example I had of this dilemma came from an experience I had as CEO of a company. That day, I was facing a great challenge to which I had been dedicating myself since the early hours of the morning. It was already 7:00 pm, and just when I thought it would take another two hours to resolve the problem, I received a call from my wife.

Something was going on at home that urgently needed my attention. It wasn’t a health emergency or anything like that. Simply, my presence was needed there. With the thought that it wasn’t something so serious, I remember the feeling of guilt when turning the key to close the drawer of my desk and leaving, when for me, I was in the middle of a real chaos.

Managing chaos

Driving home, I spoke to my wife on the mobile phone and learned about the details of the situation that awaited me at home. I began to realize that I was moving from one chaos to another. In less than an hour, I repeated the same action of turning the key, this time entering my house. In such a short time, I experienced the same feeling of guilt for a different reason… for not getting home sooner.

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To cut a long story short, the problems were solved. When I arrived at the office the next morning, the situation I had left the day before no longer seemed so urgent, and there too the problems were resolved.

Similar dilemmas are faced daily in our executive life, and no matter how much research and studies there are on the subject, it is only through these experiences that gives us the true dimension of the weight of these dilemmas.

Developing anchors

One of the lessons I learned was the importance of developing anchors that can counterbalance the pressure of the work anchor. One of them is the family, the companion, someone who is always by your side.

I remember another example where we had to carry out a major restructuring due to an unexpected turn in the market, prompted by the political and economic situation at that time. A group of brilliant technicians had to leave the company, and I could observe the various reactions of shock.

The most desperate and directionless reactions came from those who were considered the “workaholics,” always the first ones in and the last ones out of the office, but mostly, they didn’t have anyone in their lives. Work was their family.

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I witnessed this personally when I lost my job and saw what my family meant to me while facing this very difficult challenge.

Another type of anchor is to develop something stronger, whether from a philosophical, spiritual, religious point of view, or something similar. It serves as a guide for the major decisions in our lives. It goes far beyond a hobby or a side activity. It is a foundation upon which everything else is built.


Usually, with this anchor, a person can answer the question, “What is the purpose of my life?” A question that many are afraid to seek the answer to, don’t know how to approach it, or don’t even bother to answer, being carried away in their professional life by whichever wind blows strongest.

I once witnessed the global CEO of a large company being stopped by his vice president’s widow from entering the facility where her husband’s body was being laid for the funeral services. Later, I learned that the company was the strongest purpose in that executive’s life, and the family did not want to see that represented at such a time.

Victor Frankl, the famous author of the book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” having gone through the horrors of the concentration camps in World War II, quoted in his book: “He who knows why to live can bear almost any how” (emphasis added by the author himself).

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For me personally, the challenge has always been to see the present from the perspective of the future. I hope that many can realize this before reaching that future. The reason is very simple: current pressures cloud our view of what will matter years later.

Today, some things that I once thought were of vital importance, looking back, I see that they should not have been. On many of those occasions, I should have made different decisions.

It is very difficult to provide a “modus operandi” for this, as each situation is extremely different, but it is worth trying the suggestion here.


If we visualize the different areas of our life as circles on a computer screen, these circles can have different sizes depending on the priority given to each area. These are strictly personal decisions, in which I have no intention of interfering.

The purpose of this article is simply to raise an alert when the professional circle starts to have a disproportionate dimension, unbalancing all the others. This does not apply to everyone, but the more one progresses in the professional hierarchy, this circle tends to grow very quickly.

If this situation is causing you discomfort, then you may consider some ideas from this article. Otherwise, continue with your life as the choices are entirely individual.

A possible pitfall is not recognizing the potential harm in this situation.