Balance is a tricky thing. You don’t sort it out once then let it take care of itself for the next twenty years. And while there are different checks that help to maintain or move back to balance, it’s always going to be an ongoing process.
Depending on how you’re wired, if you’re left to your own devices and inclinations, you’ll either default to a lazy bugger who wishes they didn’t struggle with procrastination, or to an over-committed, over-worked maniac. There’s a continuum there, but most people are likely to be some darker or lighter shade of grey in the black and white that bounds each end of the scale.
For me, balance has always had to be an intentional thing. Left unattended I head towards the darker end of the scale (yet seem well capable of procrastination at the same time). I think that’s called multi-skilled—or an affliction…possibly both.
The trouble is, there’s so many fun things to do in life. So many opportunities, ‘people to see and places to go’, kilometres to run, books to read and stuff to write, work to do, quality conversations to have, people you’d love to invest in, and opportunities to serve God with our heart, soul and mind…but there’s only 168 hours in a week. And 24 of those 168 hours he calls us to rest! If only so many of these things weren’t enjoyable, fulfilling and inherently good. And if only some of them weren’t so incredibly intoxicating.
We all have different sized engines. Our capacities are different. Some are exhausted by a 40-hour week, some thrive on double that. Comparisons aren’t helpful although an understanding of our uniqueness is important.
Peter Brock appeared in a television commercial once that contained the line ‘I’ve always said, bite off more than you can chew, then chew like hell’. Great fodder for the Type A’s of the world. Also great fodder for dysfunction.
So, a couple of thoughts for the time-poor and balance-impaired to get back to where you once belonged:
1. Submit your schedule to God—He’s got a better idea of balance than all of us put together.
2. Passionately pursue what’s in you and then get into that stuff. Learn to say no to the alluring and essentially good things that come your way but are beyond either your capacity or your understanding of calling.
3. Get your head around the things that make your life spacious and are typical of your life in balance. Whether it’s praying, reading, time alone with God, walking the dog, running, journaling or catching up with friends for coffee; have an understanding of what they are. Knowing what they are might give you a better chance of recognising the early warning signs of the balance shifting.
4. If you no longer have the time to do the things that give you pleasure, or you don’t derive pleasure from the things that once did, it’s time to make some changes.
5. Surround yourself with some people who know you and your capacity well enough to know when the fulcrum is shifting and needs readjustment. Make yourself accountable to them.
6. Be bold enough to question your load and realign and recalibrate. Create regular times to review so you can track how you’re doing.
7. Know your capacity. Continue to grow your awareness of your tipping points.
8. Factor margin. Don’t expect things not to grow. Don’t expect to have perfect health all the time. Don’t expect everything to track along like some controlled lab experiment. Have enough space to accommodate the ebb and flow of life while knowing that from time to time unaccounted for stuff comes along that blows the whole ship out of the water. There are times when you have to chew like crazy—don’t drop your bundle, chew!
9. Teachers have DOTT time, others have TOIL or RDOs, make sure you’ve got yours.
10. Have the ability to name your Sabbath and the ways you keep it holy.
11. Don’t use a list like this as a reason for saying ‘no’ to any new thing, but understand that commitments work in concert with everything else, not in isolation.
12. Understand motive. Some of the reasons you’ll commit to stuff maybe a bit warped.
13. Perspective is a beautiful thing when it comes to balance. A change of location or context allows us to think things over again.
14. Don’t beat yourself up. Unless you’re some kind of freak, or comatose, you’re likely to get out of whack every now and then.
Paul said in Galatians 6:4,
‘Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.’
The easiest thing to do in all of this is compare yourself to others as justification or to puff yourself up or deflate yourself. Don’t. It’s about who you are and the work you’ve been given.
Got to go…there’s some re-aligning to do.