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!
Move up that ladder at a balanced pace because your career is only one of several
important priorities. Remember, no job can ever take the place of a valued relationship.
The important people in our lives will still be there when that all-consuming
job is nothing but a distant memory.
Foe #2: Material Accumulation
The quest for “things” often robs us of the more important values
of a balanced life. The American Revolutionaries were greatly influenced by
the writings of seventeenth century English philosopher, John Locke, who coined
the phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of property.” Thomas
Jefferson tweaked that ideal and immortalized it in the Declaration of Independence
as, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I like Jefferson’s
version better. Our twenty-first century thirst for property or things often
robs us of our happiness. Contentment only follows attainment in the dictionary.
If you are tempted to grow your accounting business at a break neck speed,
don’t be surprised if you become a pain in the neck. The desire to acquire
at any cost never takes into account the fact that unrestrained growth leaves
you no time to enjoy more things. An increase in business can be good when the
motive is right and the growth is balanced. Anything less makes the pursuit
of happiness elusive.
I heard this bit of wisdom a long time ago, and it has proven true time and
again: “Some love people and use things; others love things and use people.
Only one course leads to contentment.” The pursuit of happiness is fulfilled
in what we give to others, not what we get.
Foe #3: Over-Scheduled Calendar
A daily planning calendar is a valuable tool, but for too many of us it is frightfully
unbalanced. Whether you use a pencil, stylus or keyboard to record your daily
commitments, it is likely that your life is dictated by a highly scheduled calendar.
Our lives are overbooked! For many, a 40-hour-work-week would seem like a vacation.
But that’s not all. Husbands and wives, like ships passing in the night,
cart kids from one activity to another.
Add to work and family schedules an active social agenda, and you will push
the pressure valve needle far past the red line. Please remember that you cannot
do everything so wisely choose what is most valuable for your family, your friends
and your career. You don’t have to keep up with anyone, even if his name
is Jones. Schedule some R & R for you and your family. Restore the balance;
your body, mind and soul will be grateful you did.
This is where the wise use of technology can make a real difference. Check
out some of the newer accounting software that’s available; don’t
let down on the upgrades. Find one that suits your company’s size and
situation. If the software company offers a training seminar, take time to attend.
You’ll be amazed how valuable that product becomes when you know how
to use it properly. Perhaps the greatest value of a training seminar is the
encouragement that comes from being with others who are also trying to stay
ahead of the learning curve. Misery isn’t the only state that loves company!
Who knows? Your new tech buddies may be as valuable as that software bundle.
When we consider how these foes rail against the fortress of balance, it’s
no wonder our battle-weary lives are exhausted. And in that exhausted state,
those around us will quickly pick up on the fact that we have become sleepy,
bashful, sneezy, grumpy or just a bit dopey. If you aren’t careful, these
foes will slip you a poison apple and keep you from living happily ever after.
The balanced life really is the contented life. And who knows, when balance
returns to your daily routines, you, too, may whistle while you work!