Campaigning vs. Governing

Often when a politician wins an election after running for office for the first time, we hear some version of the following, “They are now discovering the difference between campaigning and governing.” The point is of course that governing—working to get things changed—is usually much more difficult than proclaiming a vision for change while on the campaign trail. While I have never served in a political office, I do serve as the director of a national wellness initiative—Living Compass. In this capacity I regularly have the opportunity to be reminded of the difference between campaigning and governing. I give campaign speeches on a regular basis about the importance of proactively nurturing one’s physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, and vocational wellness. My platform includes foundational ideas, such as, “Whatever we pay attention to is what will grow,” and that it is far better to pay attention to our wellness proactively, rather than waiting for a crisis to get our attention. I find the campaigning part of my work—creating and inspiring others with a vision for living well—to be energizing and relatively easy.

When it comes to governing my own life though, making the day to day choices that positively nurture my own wellness, things get a little tougher. I had a powerful reminder of this just this month. I recently returned from a three week vacation during which my wife and I went away to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. It was truly a “trip of a life time” and it did so much to nurture every aspect of my and our wellness.

I must admit that this recent vacation was the first time I have ever taken three weeks off (in a row) from work since I started working some 35 years ago. In general, I have a habit of simply working more than is good for me. So why is it that I teach about the importance of work/life balance and yet have a hard time practicing it myself? Because there is a big difference between campaigning and governing, the latter being much more difficult than the former.

The word govern is derived from a Greek word that is related to steering or piloting a ship. A compass is invaluable in making decisions about how to steer or guide a ship, but it is no substitute for making the actual day to day decisions that will guide the course of ship.  I know what my compass is—I know the course I want to chart when it comes to being well, it’s just that the day to day decisions I need to make to keep me on that course are tougher than I realize.

Next time we hear someone talking about a politician and find ourselves commenting about how they are discovering how much more difficult it is to govern than to campaign, perhaps we can take it as reminder to ourselves of how true this is for us as well. I, for one, will continue to campaign for wellness, and will also, with a bit more humility perhaps, continue to work hard to govern my own life in ways that more fully align with my own compass for wellness.