Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Kurt Warner
If someone were to come up to you and ask you to explain your life in one word, what word would you use? I suspect the majority of answers would revolve around the word, “BUSY”!
Currently I work for both the NFL Network and USA Network, have my own foundation, speak across the country, and, oh yeah, have seven kids to raise! There are times I feel I am the busiest man on the planet. Then I sit with someone and realize their life is different, but seems just as busy.
My busyness may include more travel or a wider variety of activities/responsibilities, but that doesn’t necessarily make me more ‘busy’. My busy is made up of running from one airport to another or leaving early in the morning and returning late at night. Another busy may simply be the grind of a 9-5 job with a long commute that seems to always keep them on the go. And yet another busy may be summed up in the mileage log of an at home mom (or dad) who spends their time running kids to appointments, PTO meetings, helping with homework, or carpooling to and from extra-curricular activities.
We can sit around and contemplate what we think ‘busiest’ looks like, but who really has the time? There are no badges or medals for being the busiest person you know, but I would argue there are definite benefits to being the most balanced. I truly believe the key to a happy and successful life is not trying to carve out more time in our day but by being better at balancing those things we count as priorities.
Ok, now that we have identified the key to daily life, it should be easy to achieve, right? Yeah, right! People have been trying to figure out how to balance life for a long time. The question I get asked more than any other when talking to business professionals, athletes, churches, or parents is: “How do you balance everything you are doing?”
The key to balancing my life (or some semblance thereof!) began with re-defining the concept of balance. I used to think of balance by visualizing one of those old scales with weight plates on both sides. The goal was to make sure that you had the exact same weight of two different materials on each side and both plates hung evenly on each side of the base. Once this evenness was achieved you had balance.
I used to apply this same visual to my daily life and felt balance was making sure all of the priorities in my life (career, marriage, children, recreation, fitness, etc…) were weighted equally. My mindset used to read something like this: If I am spending more time on my career than on my marriage, I was out of balance. If I am giving more time to staying in shape than playing with my kids, I am out of balance. If I spend more time away from home than I do at home, I am out of balance. I would spend my life like a rat running in a wheel, running faster to try to make up time in those areas being neglected, but never getting anywhere because I couldn’t create more hours in the day.
Then one day it hit me. For all these years, I have been using the wrong definition for ‘balance’. Of course, the above definition works great when measuring two tangible items. But it can’t be used to measure LIFE. There are too many variables in each of our lives to think we could ever reach a state of true balance. We will never be able to devote an equal amount of time to each important area of our lives, no matter how hard we try.
So with that being said, I began looking at balance from a different perspective. I no longer would determine the balance of life based on hours spent, but on effort expended. Balance for me became making sure each priority area in my life got my equal effort during the hours I could devote to them. For instance, if I worked for 8 hours in a day, I would devote 100% of my effort to being excellent in my career. Then maybe I would only be able to carve out 2 hours of quality time with my kids daily, so my key to balance became giving them 100% of my devotion during those 2 hours. I would apply this same formula to marriage, working out, friends, etc… I knew the hours would never be equal but my commitment and devotion to each could be. So that is what I did.
I have come to realize that every area of my life is better now than before. I no longer feel guilty for not being able to balance the hours of the day. Now, I am better at maximizing the time I do get to spend within each area of my life. I believe the results in terms of quality time have increased. I am no longer running myself ragged trying to give more time to each, which has allowed me to truly engage and enjoy the moments I do get. And on the flip side, it has kept me more refreshed, allowing me to offer a better me to my wife, my kids, and my career.
With everyone being as ‘busy’ as they are, they can’t imagine adding more to their lives. They couldn’t begin to even think about pursuing another endeavor even if it included the dream they have always had. How could we possibly balance one more thing? How could I entertain the idea of my dream with all these other responsibilities?
I believe it is so important to make time in your life for those things that truly make you happy, those things that elicit your true passions. I believe if we neglect those things that bring out the best in us, we are doing a disservice to ourselves, and those around us.
In my opinion, it’s all a matter of balance. It’s not about drastic changes in life that will consume us for hours. It’s about subtle changes in which we devote all of ourselves in small portions: an online class while the kids are napping, a cooking class at the house during the time you normally devote to making dinner, or waking up a little earlier in the morning before the family gets up to focus on your craft.
Chasing your dream is an important element in life just like family, friends, and career, and the only way to make sure they aren’t neglected is through balance. Trust me, you CAN do it. It just may take a little re-defining of the word!
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