Hi, I’m Aaron McHugh.
I used to think that work-life balance was possible.
Now I believe it is a myth.
No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to achieve this perfect moment of everything in my life working in perfect Zen harmony and balance.
I felt so exhausted trying to stay in balance.
After the death of our daughter Hadley in 2011, I found myself desperately trying to hold my life together.
My marriage was suffering. My kids needed their dad. And my already intense corporate career as an executive was only getting more complicated as responsibilities and promotions kept coming my way.
I was burning out but didn’t admit it. Anybody else could see the signs a mile away but I was so focused on what was right in front of me that when it finally hit, I was completely blindsided.
And the solution was nothing short of a complete do-over. A “reboot”, as we called it.
We sold our house and everything in it, down to the last fork. We spent the summer serving at a Young Life camp, finding a new normal.
It wasn’t easy. It took brutal months of inner work, therapy programs, tears, and facing the old stories that were no longer serving us. Stories like, “I have to do it all,” and “I can’t trust anybody else.”
But out of that we emerged with a new vision for our life. A new story.
One filled with excitement, ambition, love, rest, forgiveness, and hope.
As we began this journey of our new life, I realized my software executive career no longer aligned with the person I had become. For so long I had tried to find the fabled work-life balance. The problem was, I didn’t want my life to be compartmentalized anymore, with each area staying separate from the other. I wanted it all integrated together in one wild, beautiful mess.
Once I stopped trying to achieve work-life balance, I discovered a third-way rhythm, “a repeated pattern of movement” where work, life, play, relationships, rest, finances, friendships, and adventure could co-exist within my experience of each day.
I began to experience my life as a complete whole where every valuable aspect was connected and worked together. I began to discover more of God’s presence and meaning in places I had never noticed before.
It radically transformed my life for the better, and my mission now is to share that discovery with as many people as possible (like you).
Ultimately I left my corporate executive career behind, and after 8 months of living off of savings, pursuing work that fit the person I had become, and taking our checking account down to $1500, I discovered a new career doing work that I truly loved. That fit within this new integrated life I was creating.
(Fun fact, my first client meeting in my new career as a executive leadership coach happened less than 1 mile from where I resigned from my old gig 8 months prior. Talk about coming full circle.)
My story isn’t about making millions, retiring early, or living carefree “work 2 hours a week” lifestyle. That’s all great, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I still work a full-time, 40-50 hour a week job, just like you. And I’ve discovered another way to operate in the world.
I’m talking about loosening our grip on perfection and balance by living a more meaningful, fulfilled, and wholly integrated life right now, in your current environment. In the job, marriage, house, and body you’re in. A life full of adventure and meaning with the ones you love.
And now the invitation is yours:
To do your best work
To become wholehearted
To play and live adventurously
Let go of work-life balance, embrace the unforced rhythms of a fully integrated life
Will you accept it? I hope you do.
Let’s navigate a well-lived life together.
My journey from burned out to fully alive
Our daughter died in 2011
After Hadley was born missing 90% of her cerebellum (part of her brain), our lives changed forever. She required full time care for her 12 years. She brought love and light to everyone she met.
I burned out
Bearing the weight of the trauma our family endured, I began to crack and eventually burned out completely. This led me to take a leave of absence from my executive life.
I admitted I needed help
I went to Onsite, an in-person intensive therapy program outside of Nashville. I had a block – an inability to live freely and lightly, and I had to find out what it was.
We started our life over
We completely overhauled our life. We called it “The Reboot”. We sold or gave away almost everything, even the silverware. From our house we went straight to a Young Life summer camp to restore ourselves and find some respite.
We decided to envision a new life
Something beautiful came out of that time – a new vision for our life. We built a new house and wrote our values in Sharpie on the walls. We bought a ‘74 VW bus called “The Joy Bus” to inspire more adventures together. We even thought about buying a zoo (maybe next time).
I quit my job
I realized my job didn’t align with the person I had become and the life I knew I wanted to lead. I quit and bet everything on what I believed in, all the way down to $1500 in our checking account.
Now, I’m an executive leadership transformation coach to McKinsey/Aberkyn. I speak, am an author, and global leadership coach helping executives to become more wholehearted. I’m doing the work I always believed was possible – where work, life, play, joy, love, and hope all mix together without boundaries. And I believe the same is possible for you.
More and more of the work I do involves wilderness-lost places. I help people access deeper parts of themselves through wilderness experiences. I believe it’s more important who we become-not what we do.
A Few Things About Me
- I wrote a book, speak regularly, host workshops with my amazing wife Leith, and share my life lessons and experiences on my blog and podcast
- I’m incredibly competitive, especially with myself
- I witnessed the first Space Shuttle landing in 1981 but blocked by the hairy armpit of the tank-topped man next to me
- My superpower is to motivate other people to do the (seemingly) impossible
- My wife of twenty-six years is still hot in my eyes
- My dad was a pastor when I was nine
- I drink black coffee in a French Press
- I don’t own a gun and used to be a Rush Limbaugh listener in college. I’m still repenting
- My college English professor told me I wasn’t a good writer, but I knew better
- I hop a lot of fences to explore the wild side
- I watch animated Pixar movies to fall asleep
- I booked my first podcast guest in 2012 without knowing how to record and release a podcast. The best part is they didn’t know either.
- I love the combination of endurance and adventure. I’m on a quest to climb all fifty-eight fourteen-thousand-foot peaks in Colorado. I’m down to my last seventeen summits to go. I mountain biked the 500-mile Colorado Trail, traversed the Wind River Range in Wyoming, and am an Ironman triathlete.
I don’t accept guest posts or advertising.
No, I don’t live in our VW Joy Bus. Maybe someday.
Yes I play a lot, and I work a lot. Both are possible.
Here’s my advice on starting a podcast.
Why I believe that work-life balance is a myth.