Balance is Hard When You Have More Priorities Than Appendages

I remember the days when I only had one project to work on at a time. I zeroed in one thing and stayed focused until it was done. Whether a book draft, an analysis for my job, or a blog post, I could stay in my sweet spot until it was done. I was overreacting to the myth of multitasking.

Did you know multitasking causes a temporary loss of IQ greater than smoking marijuana?

Somewhere over the past year though, I lost that ability to have a single-minded pursuit of any one thing.

Boy am I glad.

I recently discovered that this insane focus has actually been rooted in fear. I assumed I would fail, so pursuing one thing at a time limited the breadth of my failures. But in reality I was putting a cap on my possibilities. My presumptive failure was keeping me from tasting both success and the joy of stretching to complete a challenge.

It also lent itself to a completely unbalanced life. When in the midst of a project, I was unwilling and almost physically unable to pull away for anything. I would eat weird meals at strange times. I would do my best to ignore “the outside world”, which I defined as anything but my project and me. I would allow anger to arise in me when my kids had the audacity to want to talk to me.  It was terrible. I was terrible. Really, it came down to one question

Do I want to be brilliant at one thing, or would I rather live a life where my family and friends find joy in my presence?

I’m not saying it is black-and-white for everyone. Probably most are able to be absolutely amazing at something and still be decent. Not this guy. Too easily, I begin to expect perfection from myself, and this high standard requires my all. Something is triggered in me when the call to brilliance comes to my mind, and I feel like I have to give every waking moment, every spare bit of energy, every-single-thing to it.

I am learning to have a balanced and prioritized life, instead of pursuing brilliance in all things. I definitely don’t consider myself an expert at balance – you might say I am a neophyte at it. But I have figured a few things out.

People first, every time

No project should ever take priority over the people in my life. And let me make one thing absolutely clear. There is a clear distinction between the hypothetical people who might read the words I write and the actual physical people in my daily life.

My first call in life is to be a godly husband to my wife, learning together with her how to honor Christ with our lives. Then I am ordained by God to be a father to my children, to light the path of the righteous life for them, that they might walk it. Then, I am to be a burden-lifter, prayer-giver, laugh-bringer, hope-inspiring friend to those who trust me. Whenever I forget this, I lose my balance in life.

Most things are not emergencies

I do from time to time have urgent work projects, and life does throw curve balls at me that require immediate attention. This is not the nature of most things in my life. Most have moderate deadlines, or no deadlines at all. I am learning to experience my life at less than breakneck speed, and to enjoy the process.

There is no shame is having a lazy afternoon, or even [gasp] a lazy weekend.

The truth is, it is often in the unplanned parts of life where we most readily find our comfort and joy. Somewhere in my faith journey, I picked up the idea that even a relaxing moment is somehow wasted in God’s eyes. I am learning the truth that God seeks to bring joy to us, in the busy and the slow seasons.

Too many ideas is proof of a creative mind

I used to feel the pressure of needing to DO SOMETHING with every idea that crossed my mind. This is one of the reasons I focused so intently on one concept at a time, because it prevented me from having any new creative thoughts. I am slow, but I finally get it. Having an idea does not put any responsibility on me to execute it immediately, or at all.

Now, I recognize a new idea exactly for what it is…an idea. Now, I have lots of ideas about how I can parent better, how I might replace the income from my “day job”, what my next book might be. I have no idea which of these will actually work, or even how many of these I will execute. But giving them space in my imagination to ruminate reminds me I am alive, and I am not done growing and changing.

Where Does This Leave Me?

For one thing, it gives me more potential priorities than appendages. I don’t have a chance of implementing even half of the ideas I have now. It also leaves me with a greater capacity for joy and rest in my life. It even increases the chances that I succeed at those things which matter most, regardless of what my net worth or books sold might communicate about me to others. In short, it leaves me healthy.

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