Category Archives: Balance

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

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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.