Category Archives: Balance

The Ultimate Quest

Listen to just about anyone discussing their life’s goals, their “bucket list,” and you might hear things like:

“I want enough money so I never have to work on someone else’s schedule again.”

“I wanna see the Pyramids of Egypt, the Antarctic, and sample all the fine barbecue establishments in Kansas City before I die.”

“I want to hold my grandkids’ kids.”

“I hope to help at least 100 homeless people find a permanent home.”

“I want to explore Machu Picchu.”

“If I play my cards right, I can find a nice little scuba class in Bali that needs an instructor.  That would be my dream job.”

“I want to see a game at every professional baseball stadium in the US.”

“Skydiving sounds like a kick in the pants.”

“I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.”

“I want to go on pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.”

“I want to see the Northern Lights.”

Each of us is on a journey.  We share our journey with a select few.

Even as we share our journey, our goals are rarely the same as anyone else’s.  That’s what makes us unique, like everyone else.

But, there’s one thing that links all our journeys; a common theme in every bucket list.  The ultimate quest.

The quest for time.

We want quality time, special time, alone time, together time, family time, me time, kid time, game time.  We want to spend our time as we choose.  Time to explore.  Time to give.  Time to waste when we want.  How we spend our time defines who we are.

We don’t just want more time.  We want time on our terms.

Defining the “deal terms” for using our most precious resource is where the real challenge begins.

Are you the one setting your terms?

 

My favorite things in life don’t cost any money.  It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.  –Steve Jobs

Photo Credit:  Unsplash.com, Kyle Szegedi

Microwaves and Slow Cookers

I recently heard someone make reference to their art not being microwaved.  Their art is the kind that comes from a slow-cooker.

An interesting concept.

The food (or drink) that we place in a microwave is already mostly prepared.  We aren’t interested in the process.  We just want it to be hot, and we’ve relied on someone else to handle the actual work of preparation.

With the slow cooker, it’s up to us.  We choose the ingredients.  We do the preparation.  Separately, the ingredients just sit there…waiting to be part of something.  But, blended properly, with the right amount of time and heat (energy), those separate ingredients (hopefully) combine to create something unique and tasty.

The microwave measures its cooking time in 30-second increments.  Hot dogs wrapped in a damp napkin take about a minute.  Popcorn takes three to four minutes.  Organic brown rice from Trader Joe’s takes four minutes.

Slow-cooking time is measured in hours.  Six hours is usually too short.  Eight to ten hours gets it right.

And, what about the accompaniments?  With a microwave cooking cycle, there’s only time to get your plate ready, find a clean fork, and maybe pour a glass of your favorite beverage.  Linear and task-focused.

Slow-cooking provides time for the cook to consider what goes best with the main dish.  What shall we have for dessert?  Would a loaf of fresh French bread go well with this stew?  The fullness of the dining experience is in play.

Neither method is perfect.

Ever burn popcorn in the microwave?  If so, you know how quickly it can happen.  Something so simple becomes a lump of smoking charcoal.

Slow-cooking disasters are equally possible.  Your reward for that ten-hour wait may be something that’s not even edible (at least for anyone who has taste buds).

Both methods have their place.  Both carry risk.

The question is how are you deciding which parts of your life to microwave, and which parts to slow-cook?

A tougher question might be:  Are you making the choice, or allowing someone else to make the choice for you?

Beware of the Edge

sitting-at-the-edge-of-a-cliff

I recently heard about a sign at the top of Mount Vesuvius.  It reads, “Beware of the edge.”

That’s the only safety precaution in the area.  No guardrails.  Just a sign.

I can hear it now:

“Your honor, I submit that my client had no idea he could plummet to his death by stepping over the edge of that volcano.  If only there’d been a guardrail to prevent his untimely death.”

Or,

“Your honor, we acknowledge that there was a sign that said, “Beware of the edge,” but my client must have thought he was safe as long as he stayed inside the guardrails.  Since there were no guardrails on the mountain, he was clearly misled into a false sense of safety and security…just before his fall.”

How many of us really need a sign, or a guardrail, to tell us to stay away from the edge?  Can’t we see the danger on our own, without the sign?

The truth is, probably not.

Why not?

Simple.  The edge is where the action is.  We know it’s dangerous.  We know our mind will play an imaginary leap that only our subconscious sees when we look over the edge.  We secretly like the butterflies we get in our stomach.

The edge brings sharp focus.  It’s where our imagination is most alive!

Sometimes, the edge represents the end of a long journey.  A challenging climb.  Our view over the edge reminds us of the distance we’ve traveled.  The work we’ve put in to get there.

The edge is like the proverbial flame that draws the moth.  The edge reminds us of how fragile our life is.  One step away from real danger.

How do we approach the edge, and take in its energy, while avoiding the danger that lurks just one step beyond?

It’s a question we each have to answer for ourselves.

But, here’s hoping we don’t discover the answer as we tumble over the edge.

Are You Willing?

“I know this now.  Every man gives his life for what he believes.  Every woman gives her life for what she believes.  Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and yet they give their lives to that little or nothing.  One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it and then it’s gone.  But to surrender what you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying—even more terrible than dying young.”  –Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc lived less than twenty years.  Yet she fought for her beliefs and made a huge impact on history.  She died for her beliefs at an age when many are just beginning their life’s journey.

She knew what she believed in.  She knew what it meant to sacrifice for her beliefs.  Ask anyone who serves or served in the military, a first responder who runs into a burning building to save others, or a newly formed priest who has answered God’s call.  These are just a few examples.  Each of them know what it means to sacrifice for their beliefs.

Sometimes our beliefs emerge quietly without our knowledge.  We go through life, making seemingly inconsequential decisions about what we will and won’t do.  We decide who our friends are, and how much we will let them into our lives.  We decide when to listen.  We decide how honest we will be with the world around us.

We establish habits for living our life, and we go on our merry way.

Do you know what you believe in?  Really?  Do you know what you believe to be true?  Do you know what is important in your life?

Have you made the quiet time in your life that’s necessary to consider these questions?

What if it turns out that the things you believe in aren’t manifested in the way you live?  Are you willing to change your habits?  Are you willing to eliminate the things that don’t support your beliefs?  Will you support your beliefs in the way you live, and the way you work with others?  Are you willing to make your beliefs the centerpiece of your actions in everything you do?

Joan of Arc was right.  One life is all we have, and then it’s gone.

Where are you in that one life?  Is it too late to examine your beliefs and change the way you live?

The answer is clear  But, it won’t become obvious until we make quiet time in our lives to reflect.  When we do, we find it’s never too late to examine our beliefs and change our life.

Every day is a new beginning if we choose to make it so.  It doesn’t matter what happened in the past.  It doesn’t matter who wronged you.  It doesn’t matter if you had a terrible childhood.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve missed opportunities in the past.  It certainly doesn’t matter if you failed in the past.

All that matters is learning what you believe in.  Then, deciding what to do with that new knowledge, starting today.

The only question is:  Are you willing to find out?

 

Beliefs and Values

h/t:  Matthew Kelly

The Trouble with Gauges

cockpit-sopwith-1-1_2-strutter

One might argue that air speed is the most important factor in flying.  Not enough and you fall from the sky.  Too much, and your plane suffers catastrophic damage (and may fall from the sky).

I searched for at least three minutes (that’s a long time to be on a wild-Google-chase) to find an image of a simple cockpit instrument panel.  Notice anything?  Even this simple panel has a lot more than an air speed indicator.

In addition to air speed, the pilot can see engine rpm, oil temperature, water temperature, cylinder head temperature, fuel level, battery voltage, whether or not the plane is flying level, and the all-important altitude.

Successful flying is much more than air speed.  Otherwise, there’d only be one gauge.

Flying is much more than monitoring gauges.  Otherwise, what’s the point of windows?

Do you measure your life with one gauge, or a cluster of gauges?

Which gauge do you look at most?  Is it the right one?

Have you noticed where you’re heading, or are you too busy looking at your gauges?

 

 

Photo Credit: World of Aircraft Design

 

The Presence of a Toddler

I read an article today about the “busyness bubble” that exists in society today. The author described a world where everyone is over-worked, over-stimulated, over-committed, rushing from one place to another, distracted every two minutes by emails, texts, and Twitter and Instagram feeds on their smartphones.

This continuous busyness and distracted lifestyle hampers creativity, and prevents real human connection. There isn’t time to think beyond the next two minutes, the next errand, the next meeting.

Take a walk with a toddler. Trust me, it won’t be a long walk. Watch where they focus. Notice they aren’t worried about their smartphone (since they don’t have one). They have no destination in mind when they start their walk. They’re too busy looking at the pebbles, snail shells, and cracks in the cement to think about anything else. They have no errands to run, no meetings to attend. They aren’t worried about what they said yesterday, or what they’ll be doing tomorrow.

Toddlers are the ultimate expression of being present. Nothing interrupts their train of thought except the next shiny object in front of them. Their walk is a time of new discovery and new experiences.

Busyness is self-inflicted. It’s the result of a series of decisions that we control. Each decision makes sense at the time…or, seems like the only choice we have. We decide to pile commitments on to our schedule. We decide to worry today about next week’s deadline. We decide to dwell on injustices of the past. We decide to look at our phone every two minutes.

Don’t know any toddlers? Take that walk anyway. Leave your phone behind. Count the number of snails you see. Look for the most colorful pebbles. Take some time to smell the roses in your neighbor’s yard. Appreciate the sun’s warmth on your back.

Enjoy the clarity of being present, and enjoy the fulfillment that comes from deciding to be less busy.

The choice is yours.

The Fallacy of Either-Or Questions

Lately, I’ve seen a number of articles and blog posts that discuss the profound choice parents, especially moms, are making when it comes to work in today’s society.  I’m not sure how “today’s society” differs from “yesterday’s society” or “tomorrow’s society,” but I’m willing to accept that.

Lots of famous moms have chosen to work, and excel at the work they do.  Marissa Meyer, Sheryl Sandberg, and Beyonce Knowles, to name a few.  Lots of not-so-famous moms have made the same choice.

Which brings me back to the articles and blog posts on this topic.  The prevalent theme of these posts is that moms must decide between parenting and working.  If they work, therefore, they aren’t parenting.  If they don’t work, therefore, they aren’t going to be fulfilled.

I have no quarrel with either side of the “work or parent” argument (regardless of gender).  Each of us gets to make our own choices.  I do have a problem with the premise that either you do one thing, or you do the other.  This Either-Or premise leaves a lot of dimensions out of life’s equation.

I’m sure everyone who makes the “worker or parent” decision has other important roles in their lives.  They may be someone’s spouse, a brother or sister, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, a tennis player, a backpacker, a writer (perish the thought!), a juggler, a volunteer at the local soup kitchen, a voracious reader, a hot air balloonist, a violinist, and a myriad other things that make up their entire being.

The truth is, we are like diamonds, with the potential for an infinite array of facets.  Some of us are uncut, yet others show countless angles from a lifetime of experience.  Whether we reflect, deflect, or absorb the light of life, depends solely on how we’ve allowed our journey to shape who we are.

Either we’re a multi-dimensional work-in-progress deciding what’s most important, or we’re a product of “society’s” Either-Or questions.  I choose the former.

Balancing Attention

serenity_edit

I’ve read countless articles and blog posts about work/life balance.  They generally focus on the rigors of managing a business in a 24-hour-a-day cycle.  Some are from the manager’s perspective, and others are from the worker’s point-of-view.

Most articles mention sacrifices.  How families, spouses, kids, friends, and even our own health and welfare, are forced into the back seat while our hero focuses on the challenges of his/her career path.  There’s usually some kernel of wisdom…justification for the decisions being made by all involved.

Achievement rarely happens without hard work, focus, determination, sacrifice, and making the (hopefully) right choices.  What are the right choices?  That varies for each person.

One thing that doesn’t vary for each person is the value of their time.  Time is the most precious and fleeting commodity in our lives.  We can’t control time.  We only control how we spend it.

Attention is the currency we use for spending time.  Like time, our attention is limited.  Unlike time, we control our attention.  We decide what deserves it, and what doesn’t.

Work/life balance isn’t really about the demands of the job.  It’s not about the oppressive boss who demands our continuous availability, or employees who need input and direction at all hours.  It’s definitely not about checking our email or social feed every fifteen minutes.

Regardless of its details, if there is such a thing as work/life balance, it comes down to two things:

  • Realizing that we decide where to focus our attention.
  • Whether we decide consciously or not, our actions make our attention decisions a reality.

Photo credit:  Diane Anderson (my wonderful mother-in-law), who focuses (pun intended) a lot of her attention on making beautiful art with her camera.