Finding Balance

It’s been interesting having some extended down time over the holidays. I took more than a week off, didn’t check the work email too much and didn’t have much on my schedule except spending time with my family. I started a home repair project but had to abandon it after it became clear that it was really a job for professionals. Honestly, I didn’t achieve much except some decompression from work-related stress. It was nice, but also different.

I’ve always been a pretty hard worker. For whatever reason God has gifted me with more discipline, drive, determination and ambition than the average person. I don’t give up easily and have essentially lived by the motto “whatever it takes” to accomplish my goals. So I’m definitely an “Achiever” – not that there’s anything wrong with that – as Seinfeld would say. But there are downsides. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All “achieve” and no “relax” makes Pete unhealthy in mind, body and spirit.

Since I’ve been following Jesus, about 12 years now, that’s been changing. I’m much more relaxed than I used to be, yet still an Achiever, and last week’s experience showed me that I still have a way to go. Apparently, I’d invested a lot of emotional energy in my planned project. I was really looking forward to it and had budgeted significant time over the week to make it happen. Scrubbing it left me a little lost. I like getting things done. Now there was nothing to do.

I know it sounds like a small thing, but it was cause for introspection. How could I not be bored? How could I justify simply relaxing? Was it okay to do “nothing,” or at least not much, for a whole week? Intellectually, sure, but emotionally it felt somewhat uncomfortable. In any event, “not much” is what I did, and it turned out fine.

Balance is good. Work and achievement are important, but disconnecting and spending time “just being” are too. I’ll probably always have high drive and ambition, but I want to subject them to God’s guidance and direction. I’d like to enjoy my activities without getting caught up in “whatever it takes” anymore. For example, I’d like my new book to sell well, and I’m going to help market it, but I’m not going to go to extremes or obsess over the sales numbers. I’ll do my part and let God do his part, and we will see what happens.

Now my drive and ambition are not bad in and of themselves. In fact they’re very useful and have gotten me far in my career and in life. You probably know people who could use a lot more discipline, drive and determination that they have. But I’m not one of them. I’m toning these traits down and asking God to achieve what he wants through me. How can I use my gifts appropriately and wisely? God will certainly show me, but in his time. For now I’m waiting.

Here’s the thing – I don’t think I’m all that different from many people I meet in my business life. Overachieving is pretty prevalent in our capitalist and materialist culture. I see a lot more articles online about how to succeed (or be rich, get promoted, earn more respect from your boss, etc.) than how to live a balanced, fulfilling and significant life. Yet in the end, it’s balance we need to truly “win.”

What do you think?