It’s my privilege to talk with many younger leaders on a regular basis. (Why they want to spend time with an ‘old guy’ is beyond me!) There are many topics that seem to arise with frequency. Toward the top of the FAQ list is “How do I balance work, home, and personal life?” Great question. After years of trying it myself, I’ve reached this conclusion: You can’t.
Hear is what I mean. The term “balance” evokes images of little cubes labeled 1 gram, 1/2 gram, etc., placed on one side of a scale to determine the weight of whatever is on the other side of the scale. In science and industry, this kind of measurement is essential. In life, it’s impossible. Our existence is not comprised of little boxes of various sizes and weights marked with “family,” “work,” “finance,” “fitness,”…and the list goes on. The sum total of who we are and what we do doesn’t exist in parts and pieces that are neat and stackable. So…let’s get rid of that concept. It speaks to a metric that just doesn’t exist.
But, with the exception of that one word, the query is still a good one. I have just replaced the notion of “balance” with what I believe to be a better one, “health.” The heart of the matter is health. So, I usually restate the question like this: What do I need to do to maintain the health of the people and endeavors that rely on me? This shift moves us from non-existent compartmentalization to a holistic sense of life, responsibility, and…health!
In short, this is how I explain it. My life is full of different things that depend on me: my family, my finances, my employees, my church, my friends (you draw up your own list). They require different touches from me in order to be healthy. They all need that touch delivered in the form of time and resources in unique ways. And, they rarely work on a schedule. It is up to me to develop a health-sense that constantly monitors them and asks: What is the most important thing for me to do right now?
Certainly, some of these life-components are vastly more important than others. I would never equate the health of my family with making money. But, in the holistic scheme of things, all of them are vital to varying degrees. At some point, I need to pay the most attention to my children and my wife. While they are always on my mind and in my heart, all of us know that there are those special times that spell the difference between health and dis-ease. With my work as a minister, there are some times when the demands of my calling are highest on the list. It is more art than science.
If an analogy helps, here goes. I remember the old variety shows on TV. Often, there would be a plate-spinning act. You know–dinner plates spinning on top of sticks. The performer would go from stick to stick, making sure that the plate stayed whole on top and not in pieces on the ground. This is simplistic; but, it serves to make a few points. First, you can’t touch every stick simultaneously. Second, you have to know which plates are the closest to toppling. Third, and perhaps most important, you have to pay close attention. While this comparison may have limitations, it’s at least more satisfying to me than cubes stacked on a scale.
Fundamentally, we should frame our concern in terms of health not balance. We shouldn’t really care if it all adds up. We should absolutely care that everything is appropriately healthy. What needs your touch right now in order to be healthier?