Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” – Maya Angelou
A few years ago, when we were still living in the Okanagan, I rented a car in Calgary. I was given a special perk — a Mustang convertible. Our grandsons would have been envious. I got out on the #2 and before I reached the speed limit, the car was vibrating. I’m not a mechanic but I knew this was not a special massage feature. The previous driver had knocked the wheels out of balance. I turned around, drove back to the airport and returned my special perk.
I don’t know about you, but I have had many times when life seemed out of balance. The demands for our time far out-weigh the available time. The children clamor for our time; the wife holds up multiple to do lists; the boss increases the stack on my “urgent” file; there is a plea for help from several non-profit organizations; and to top it off, my running shoes think I have forgotten how to tie my laces.
Every voice intensifies the ambivalence of my type “A” personality. What I should be doing, and what I could do, are light years apart. In fact, as you read this article you probably have thoughts of what you should be doing instead of reading this paper!
How can I find a work-life balance? How can I synchronize and integrate my “to do” list so that I don’t have the feeling that the wheels are coming off my car? PLEASE HELP ME WITH MY BALANCING ACT!
Gladly! GET OFF THE TIGHTROPE! Kill the myth that all of life can be brought into perfect balance. It is an unrealistic, overrated, exaggerated Superman myth. The fact is, life cannot be balanced. In fact, the attempt to balance life usually creates a greater imbalance.
My formative years were lived in a farming community just north of Calgary. It was there that I learned a critical life lesson: life is seasonal. Within the four seasons there are periods of intense labor and times of rest. Seeding, harvest, weed control, machinery maintenance and general maintenance can all place heavy demands on the farming family. Those demands are seasonal and are an accepted part of farming.
Everyone’s life has seasons: times when the demands of a career take priority; when family and home are at the top of list; when engagement in a special event eclipses other demands. You will never bring all the events of your personal and professional life into perfect balance.
So how do we keep the car from falling apart when it seems to be vibrating out of control? Let me suggest a few habits that have been helpful to me.
- Be intentional with your time. Everyone has the same number of hours in the day. How you allocate those hours is critical. I made it a priority to connect with my wife and family every day (with some exceptions), regardless of where I was in the world. According to Air Canada records, I travelled over 2 million miles in airplanes. That represents a lot of hours that can be used productively. I had a plan for each flight that allowed me to maximize my time. Commute time can be spent listening to inspirational, motivational talks. My wife reminded me that stop lights and delays in traffic can be used to review life priorities, reflect on the needs of those I’ll be with or re-focus my life.
- Be present where you are. Are you with your family? Be present with them. Give 100% of yourself to them. God gives us this counsel: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Engage yourself whole-heartedly in what you are doing. Or as one man said, “Do it like your life depends on it.” Wherever you are Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually or relationally, give it all you’ve got.
- Replace your bucket list with realistic life goals. Bucket lists are usually tainted with elements of fantasy. Life goals have strategies and steps of action. They may be implanted in the mind of dreams, but they are birthed in the womb of planning.
The balanced life is the one that whole- heartedly embraces the task at hand. The energy released keeps the flywheel turning in perfect balance. Before you know it, you’ll be walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope.