According to conventional wisdom, everyone is in search of a balanced life. Given the growing and often conflicting demands of our jobs and families, it’s hard to keep everything together. Therefore, according to the experts, you have to set strong boundaries and time parameters so that you can have all of the areas in your life properly balanced. The myth is you can allot each area of your life a certain percentage—marriage 25%, each child 25%, and your work gets the final 25%.
There’s only one problem. This plan doesn’t work in real life. Our days simply don’t work out this way. Just as soon as we get all of boundaries nicely drawn in our journals and we’ve divided up our 24-hour day into manageable hourly increments, life blows it all up. A child gets sick, a project at work gets off track, the plumbing gets clogged up, and our beautifully symmetrical plan falls apart. What’s more, we feel guilty for letting things get out of control—even though we had no control over any of it to begin with!
Here’s what I look for. Are we able to respond to the moments before us appropriately? As a husband, am I aware of my wife enough to know what she needs from me and do I have the energy to engage? As a father, am I aware enough of my children to know what they need from me in each moment? Do I have the energy to respond?
Too many times, we have our own agendas and don’t pay attention to the moments in front of us. For instance, a parent will decide it’s a good time for “quality time” when at that particular moment it may be best for the child to be left alone to work through some problems on his or her own.
Sure, this takes a little more effort; you have to be willing to pay a closer attention to those you love. You have to be willing to act now, when action is required, rather than postpone the action until later when the appropriate moment is lost.
Next time you feel your life getting a little out of balance, take a deep breath and look around you. What is needed in the moments before you? Who needs what from you? And what next step is appropriate?
No, we’ll never be able to keep it all balanced. Our lives are too complicated and unpredictable for that. We can, however, be aware enough to act appropriately in each moment. Isn’t that what we really want anyway?