From the June 2009 Issue
Six days out of seven they hurried off to work. Toting their specialized tools and equipment, the men were visibly energized by their careers. They always left before dawn and never returned until the last rays of the sun had sleepily disappeared behind the surrounding hills. There were seven in all — men who were totally preoccupied with their jobs. Rumor has it they even whistled while they worked!
Then tragedy struck. Late one afternoon, when the men were still at work (where else!), the lady of the house was poisoned by a beauty-challenged jealous neighbor. The men were stunned; they never saw this coming. The whistling stopped. Work no longer mattered. If only they had been more balanced in their lives, Miss White might not have bitten off more than she could chew … okay, perhaps “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is a stretch, but the issue of balance in our lives is no fairy tale.
While it is true that no one in the real world lives happily ever after, we can live much more happily with a balanced approach to life. Sometimes it is easy to detect when the scales tip too heavily in one direction. For instance, your body will definitely let you know when it is unbalanced. I rediscovered that truth while on a short-term house-building mission trip to Mexico.
All workers were warned of the dangers of dehydration in the hot sun. Every few minutes, supervisors encouraged us to drink more water. So I did. I didn’t particularly feel parched, but who was I to question those who worked in this intense heat all the time?
By late afternoon, I was sick to my stomach — not from dehydration but from too much water! My body was out of balance, and it let me know in a most unpleasant way. In the days that followed, I trusted my body to “tell me” when it needed fluids, and I had no more problems.
I like what Dr. Richard Swenson wrote in his book, Margin:
“Veritable factories that never shut down, our bodies exhibit a complexity beyond human comprehension. We each are made up of trillions upon trillions of working units, all perpetually moving, metabolizing, combining, interacting, adjusting, purifying, purging, building and decaying. Yet everything must function in balance. If this balance is disturbed, disease is the result. We get sick. We feel pain.”
Most people I know want to avoid physical pain at all cost, so keeping the body in balance is a priority. Unfortunately, physical stability isn’t our greatest challenge. We must also learn to balance work, marriage, parental responsibilities, social commitments, community involvement, leisure activities and personal restoration. Such a balance faces several formidable foes.
Foe #1: Career Advancement
Early in our careers, we tend to be consumed with climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. Men especially draw much of their self-worth from their labor. The more time and energy we invest, the better we feel about ourselves. Getting to the top becomes our driving force and overriding motivation.
However, when we put our career in overdrive and leave balance in the dust, we set ourselves up for a huge disappointment. When personal health and familial needs are neglected in the process, arriving at the top alone and sickly is a hollow victory. Reaching the top of that ladder won’t mean much if the rest of your life is in shambles below the bottom rung.
Set realistic career goals. Whether you are a sole practitioner or part of a large tax and accounting firm, remember there are a limited number of hours in a day — 24 to be exact. Your body will rebel if you don’t dedicate some of those for sleep; your family will rebel if you don’t dedicate some for family time. You cannot fit an unlimited number of tax returns into a limited number of hours. Doesn’t Murphy have a law against that? When you spread your accounting expertise too thin, your business and your clients will suffer. Most of all, you will suffer!