The value of structure is something I now understand from both sides of the discussion. I didn’t understand what it did for me until I’d removed it from, or at least greatly reduced its importance in, my life. Structure supported my success as an entrepreneur and it gave me the backbone I needed to manage my life. The lack of structure allowed me to drop my guard, effectively killing my first business, and to be less powerful in managing my life.
Structure is beautiful. It can lift you to greater heights. It can support soaring dreams. It can be colorful.
The structure I was raised with included regular bed and meal times, chores, and the school routine with classes and homework. Then it was regular work and commuting hours with different jobs through the years. But, always structure. It was all empowering.
When I exercised my entrepreneurial wings I maintained that structure. Up early to exercise and meditate, shower and dress for work, coffee with breakfast and the newspaper and cat, then to the office by 8:00 am. The office in my basement is where I “commuted” to daily. That’s where I developed and grew my first business — and my second business.
That all fell apart as I started dating my boyfriend, the man who later became my husband. Dating was exciting because of the newness of the unstructured lifestyle he presented to me — and the travel time we enjoyed. I loved the flexibility of going to lunch at odd hours, hitting a matinee occasionally, and staying up late. I missed my early morning walks because I lost touch with the changing seasons, but not enough to give up my late and irregular bed time.
Along the way' I started feeling uncomfortable, like something was missing. Things felt a bit unstable in my world, though I couldn’t put my finger on what that was for awhile. As subtle as the instability was, the dissolving business was equally subtle. I didn’t notice until it was too late that my business had all but disappeared. No worries, business three was well under way and that income kept me going! For awhile.
When we moved to rural, western Colorado, we wove ourselves into the community with our volunteering ventures: fire department, ambulance as EMTs, and emergency communications with the Sheriff’s office. What a way to serve, and get to know your neighbors! What a way to keep your schedule unstable and unstructured.
I still didn’t understand the connection between structure and success, between structure and empowerment. I did understand things weren’t going as I wanted — and that didn’t feel good.
I was lucky. A class on high performance came into my life, which lead to a certification as a high performance coach, and I started rebuilding a structured day, as much as I could with being on call 24x7. It still took years of study and coaching (yes, I have a coach too) for me to put all the pieces together so that I could build a structure for my life and start managing my life. The last piece of this managed and structured life that I figured out was that I want to be a community volunteer so my structure needed to be what I call “fluid”.
It was the advent of understanding how both my husband’s and my ADD, different flavors and intensities, impacted me. That was the missing piece of my discomfort, my feeling my world was unstable. It was my earlier structured life that essentially disguised my ADD. It was the lack of structure that exposed my ADD. I learned that with my husband’s mostly-unstructured life, combined with his style of ADD/ADHD, I had to be that much more attentive and protective of my structure to be productive and empowered.
Having lived both sides of the discussion, I can confidently say — emphatically, even — that a structured life is the life to live. I am productive, healthy, and empowered with my structure. I also volunteer and travel to my heart’s content. The structure I have created for my life caters to my ADD personality. I am most productive without falling into an ADD-haze caused by pushing myself to be in a box of someone else’s design.
If I can benefit from living a structured life, you can too. Structure’s value has been brought home to me. Learn from my mistakes, or go out and prove it for yourself. It’ll be faster to trust me and “make it so”.