14 October 2015
The difference between a wish and a goal is that in the case of the latter, we create a specific plan in which we strategize and work towards its attainment. A wish usually takes on a fantasy-oriented role and is internally excused with words like “unrealistic.” Part of establishing written balanced goals, we learned, is that we need to address three major areas of our lives. We will focus on those three elements and examine why they are so important to a balanced life.
The three areas, personal, professional and social, are identical in their value and significance. If we were to represent them as circles, they would overlap equally onto each other much like the design of the Olympic insignia. The average adult, however, is guilty of placing a tremendous emphasis on some more than others. Consequently, we find that when all of our eggs are in the basket that breaks, we are unable to effectively cope. Each circle serves as a counter balance for the others. It forces us to keep them in perspective and allows us to experience the stability of three psychologically powerful support systems versus only one. When we place too much emphasis on one more that the other, it tends to redefine our own internal perspective and throws us into a potentially vulnerable position.
Think of it as a three-legged stool. Each leg represents either our social, personal or professional life. How comfortable and balanced would it be if our professional leg was longer than the other two? In fact, I would challenge you to examine your own life and see if all three legs are the same length. I suspect they are not for most all of us. The reason is simple. Our personal lives are a reflection of a number of influences such as family, faith, friends and the future. Our family history influences how we prioritize things and your faith is the root of how you analyze your priorities. All of these influences tell you whether the personal, professional or social circle is of utmost importance to you. Throughout adolescence, it seemed for most of us, that nothing could be more important than the personal sphere of our lives. We struggled with self-identity and image development. Then our young adult years called for an increased sensitivity for social interaction. Our focus was changing as we convinced ourselves that we already had found the wisdom of the years. It was now more important to be in tune with trends, verbiage and a clear consensus on the “stuff”our generation did not like. As self-providers, we transitioned into the “real world” and were convinced that in order to win the money game, the professional scene had to be center stage.
No matter which state we were in, it drove us deeper into self-reflection and a yearning to accomplish that, which still seemed empty. Through it all, we have neglected to tap into the greatest sources of wisdom available, we forgot to look to those who had won similar struggles. We forgot to seek the wisdom of the ages, the voice of the elderly and pages of helpful literature. We insisted on inventing mediocrity instead of copying perfection. Time will surely pass but the struggles, fleeting social trends and personal changes remain the same. Yet, the need to achieve a balanced life is paramount to long-term happiness. I believe that if you took this advice and endeavored to learn from others, you would find the following statement to be the foremost rule. “Happiness is not the destination but the trip to get there.” Society has taught us impatience and intolerance. We will always be in a hurry to get there even when we do not know what “there” is. That becomes a major problem for us when our professional circle poses a challenge we find difficult to bear. If you are anything like I was, you would then realize that you have spent so much time balancing on that one leg of the stool and now you are really stressed when it begins to wobble. Recognize that the longer you have been balancing, the less the leg has to wobble before you reach out in panic.
Instead, what we need to do is to make sure that we have identified equally important goals in all three areas. If you are a “work-a-holic” you should know that it will take a conscious effort on your part to make sure that you allocate time to your social and personal life. The same is true for those at the other end of the spectrum. I can promise you that once you get your stool to sit on three even legs, you will be amazed at how much healthier and happier you feel. This principle first hit home for me when I worked for a Texas based company in the late 80s. The chairman of the company was relating a story to me from then Coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. It was about a reporter who had asked Mr. Landry why he never got upset when his football team lost. The reply was, “I have three things in my life. My team, my family and God. If one of them has a bad day, then I’ve still got the other two.”
Keep smiling 'till we meet again.