April 29, 2022

Finding Balance…Progress, Not Perfection

By nature, I am not a balanced person; many of us are not. If I didn’t try to work on balance, I’d work around the clock, eat candy and snack all the time.

Balance is not something that comes easily to me. So, I must work on it daily. I know that to be a better husband, father, friend, leader and active member of the community, I must maintain some level of balance. I can’t pour all my energy into a single area in my life that draws me in: my work. I must realize with work; I will never be done. I will always have “just one more thing” to address, one more item to research, one more conversation to have. Balance has to be a conscientious choice and something I continuously need to work on.

While I make this choice, I have learned it’s a work in progress. I know that this is a choice I must make every day. Some days, I do better than others. Here are some areas I address to help me make better decisions to lead a more balanced and fulfilling life: First, I write down my goals. I maintain a running list and review periodically. This document of goals and objectives is not fancy. Writing them down is a way to review, update and achieve them.

This is how I organize my goals: create major categories—faith, family, business, health and investing. I take time to really think about how I’d like to improve in those categories. What do I want to learn? What things do I need to do? What can I assist others with?

From there, I take my large categories and create specific sub-categories. I do this for every major category. Next comes an integral step. I connect the dots between the categories from my list to figure out how I can leverage the lessons I’ve learned in one area and apply them in another.

As I create and expand on this list, which will never be complete, I remind myself these goals are about me making progress. Balance and all aspects of life are about progress, not perfection. Again, it is a choice, and by making the decision to expand my horizons through a commitment to lifelong learning, I’m working at living a more balanced life.

Our lives are one big picture—each of these pieces/parts fits into the whole. When we look at the whole and make choices about how we spend our time, we can work towards achieving better balance.

How am I doing with balance? I try to exercise every morning. While I do this, I talk on phone or read my iPad or watch videos to learn as part of my commitment to lifelong learning.

I go to Mass and pause for a few minutes to reflect. I read the gospel. I’m late most days, but I’m there every day, working on balance. I always think I can fit in one more thing—one more call to make, one more chapter to read or one more project to finish. I’m an optimist at heart; thinking I can talk faster, read shorter, work quicker. I think I could drive faster saving five minutes with no red lights. I am overly optimistic and often try to do too much. I’m never going to run out of calls to make or things to read. Knowing you are a certain way, admitting your faults—this allows you to learn and grow. We are all human.

I realize I cannot be in multiple places at one time. I can’t say “yes” to every speaking event, social invitation or philanthropic request. I want to say yes to all of it. I want to be there for every person who asks. I don’t like to say no. But I have learned that I can do better when I can find balance.

There are times when I don’t realize that my efforts to focus are going awry. For example, one evening, many years ago, I suggested to my three young daughters, two sons and wife that we go out to dinner at a restaurant that’s close to where we live. They said, “Dad, we don’t want to go to that restaurant.” I pressed, “Why not?”

I’m thinking it’s the food. I’m thinking it’s the location. Off to dinner as a family we went and after about the twentieth person stopped at our table to say hello, I realized why my daughters were opposed to the place I chose.

They gave a message I didn’t understand. It had nothing to do with the quality of the food, the service or the ambiance. It was because there were too many people there I know, taking time away from our evening together. I listened but didn’t hear what they were really saying. I didn’t use that second level thinking that Howard Marks, founder of Oaktree Capital, talks about. You see, there’s a correlation between great lessons in life and investments. Adding value in investments is a lot like adding value in life. You must add value to create value. In this case, I thought I was adding value spending time out with family, but my daughters saw it differently because they knew that time would be interrupted.

Balancing is a challenge. My guess is, as much as I will try, I will still struggle. Will I ever find it? It’s progress, not perfection. All I know is that I will try very hard at finding balance because I understand my basic instincts. I’m in touch with the way my mind wants to operate. So, I make a conscientious effort to retrain that nature and nurture healthy habits through lifelong learning, through self-reflection and by keeping a priority list and reviewing it daily.

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