Hey every body! Alf Herigstad here, broadcasting from the rain-soaked, wind-battered region of the country known as western Washington. You have arrived at the podcast that is devoted to advancing the character of men—welcome to Being A Better Man.
I got a letter recently from a listener named Calen. In it, he said that he is having trouble getting things together at both work and home at the same time. He said he knows what it takes to be the best at everything individually, but the trouble comes in when you try to be the best at everything at once. He thinks consistency might be part of the problem, and that constantly trying to balance all aspects of his life is leaving him feeling burned out on everything.
Sound familiar? What Calen is describing is one of the most relevant issues men face today; trying to find balance between work, home, and your social life.
So that’s what I’m going to talk about today, but first I am going to acknowledge the sponsor of todays program: Stumptown kilts.
I’ll tell you a little story; I started going to a tavern last summer to play bingo with my dad. It was a good way to spend time with him doing something he enjoys. It was summertime and I always wore one of my kilts. Then winter hit, and there were rare occasions that I would wear jeans instead of my kilt. Every time I did that people I didn’t even know would come up to me and ask me why I wasn’t wearing my kilt. They were disappointed, they had come to expect that I would always be wearing a kilt and when I wasn’t it seemed to leave them feeling unsettled somehow.
I’m telling you this story to illustrate the power of the kilt. When you wear a kilt people notice you, and they remember you. You somehow instantly become extraordinary because you aren’t dressed like everyone else. I can tell you, as a man, being extraordinary can come in really handy.
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Ok back to our topic of the day. As men none of us really have a simple life do we? Our lives are divided up into sections that sometimes seem to be at war with each other.
We have our homes where we eat and sleep and spend time with our families, that’s one section. For most of us hopefully, our home life is the best part of life, the part we look forward to the most.
Then we have our work life. Where many of us trade our time in exchange for money, doing something that is making someone else rich. Others of us might be self-employed, in which case the massive responsibility to your customers and employees sort of takes the place of an employer.
Either way though, no matter what you do, the amount of time you spend on your home life is mandated and limited by the amount of time you spend at work. At the same time—the quality of your home life also depends on your work life, because it takes money to live and eat and buy clothes for your kids and go to the doctor. So unless we are independently wealthy…we have to earn a living doing something.
In addition to our home and work life, there is also our social life. The social lives of men vary widely depending on our age, relationship status, lifestyle, where you live, and several other factors. Here again, balance is required. If we spend too much time on our social life then our home or work life could suffer. On the other hand, if we spend little to no time on our social life, we could suffer emotionally because human beings are designed to be social—we are very social animals and a healthy social life is good for us.
I think balancing these three sections of life is more difficult now than it has ever been. As recently as 200 years ago most people were part of a small community. Most people worked very near their home or spent their time farming their food and making their clothes. Their work life was not so separated from their home life and often times an entire family would work together.
Likewise, social life was much simpler as well because it involved the people of your community who you knew and were familiar with. People who had a lifestyle similar to yours and the community itself would put on social events to feed that part of peoples souls. Social life was not in conflict with work and home, rather it was an enhancement to both.
We don’t live 200 years ago though, we live right now—so what can we do?
I have struggled with this myself my entire life. My home life has always been my top priority, but when I was in my 20’s I thought that working and making money was the best way I could take care of my family so I poured myself into that. I had a construction company and for a few years I was killing myself working 14 to 16 hours a day because I thought that was the right thing to do.
What I didn’t realize, is that my home life was suffering. I was being an absent father because I was always working. My relationships, all of them were suffering because it’s hard to be related to someone if you are never around, if you are always busy.
I came to my senses fairly quickly, before too much damage was done, and I made some corrections, I was lucky. Some guys spend their whole life on that hamster wheel, and when they retire on a big pile of money they can’t understand why they are divorced or on the verge of it. They don’t know why they aren’t close to anyone, why their kids don’t really know them, and why so many friends aren’t around anymore. I’ve seen these men, they are lonely and sad. I think this is one of the most tragic fates a man can suffer.
That doesn’t quite answer the question though does it? It doesn’t explain how a man is supposed to balance all this stuff. I would be dishonest if I told you there was a standard formula. There is no easy answer because every man is different and everyones life is different. I can tell you what I think though, I can try to give you some direction that you might be able to use to help figure out your own answer.
I think having clear priorities is the key. You should write them down too because that makes them real and not just an idea. You should prioritize everything in your life according to how important it is to you from the most, down to the least.
Be detailed. Don’t just right down that your home life is number one, there should be subcategories. What is it about your home life that is most important? Is it your relationship with your family members, the amount of time you spend together, what kind of activities you do, how often you laugh? What is most important about your role as a father, a husband, a friend? The more detailed you can be the better.
Likewise, don’t just write down ‘work’. What is important to you about work? Do you want to make more money, get promoted, be recognized for your accomplishments, do you want to retire? Or do you want to start your own business or eventually work from home? Whatever is important to you, write it down.
You keep writing stuff down until you run out of stuff. When your’e done everything that’s important to you should now be on the paper.
Great! Now you have a list of things, big deal. It’s absolutely worthless unless you actually use it as a guide. A guide to help govern your focus and attention. Remember, the things we focus on, expand. So you want to be sure and put more focus and attention on the things that are actually most important to you.
The other trick to making this work, is that you will need to refer to this list often, perhaps even daily but at the very least weekly, until it becomes a habit. When your focus becomes out of alignment with your list you will notice it, and be able to make corrections. If you make a list like this, pin it on your wall, and never look at it again, then absolutely nothing will change and a year from now you will still be wondering how to balance your life.
Another thing to remember is that you may need to audit your list from time to time. As your life changes and evolves, things might actually shift in their level of importance. I know there are things that are very important to me today that were barely a concern 10 years ago. So every three months or so take a look at that, as things change in your life stay on top of it.
look, I know making lists is kind of a drag. It isn’t fun, in fact it requires effort on your part but—that’s my advice. You can add your own spin to it. You can do it individually and then again with your wife, or however you want to do it. However, if you want to make changes, if you want to make things better, sometimes you need a framework to help organize your efforts, and that’s what this is. If you would like some more talk about balancing your life you can also refer back to Episode 175, where I talk about it in slightly more general terms.
Now head out into the world with the knowledge that whatever happens, it’s up to you and you alone. Everything in your life is ultimately your fault, so be proactive, take action, and be responsible for your life. In doing so you will be a better man today than you were yesterday.
Hey don’t forget to check out my new book, Forging A Man, available right now on Amazon.
Also, please take time to check out the MANLY RESOURCE CENTER, in the menu tab at the top of the page. Or, click on these links.