I am continually rethinking the distance that I create between me and my day. It is difficult to reprogram, since my habit has been to pack as much as I can into each twenty-four hours. Ambitious and well-intended, I have literally spent years in trying desperately to get “it” all done; as if that were even possible. It’s folly to believe that restlessness will be assuaged through material pursuit, accomplishment or success in our jobs. Our purpose is way bigger than what we do or what we have.
Last week, I got to talking with a close friend and the conversation turned to the topic of margin. Margin, in this context is the space between the various scheduled events and responsibilities in my day. Arguably, the more that I attempt to accomplish, the more space that I need between appointments or to-do’s. Truth be told, very few of us have any free space or downtime built into our days. We seem to have an insatiable appetite for saying “yes,” both professionally and personally.
Furthering this point, I have noticed how some of the people whom I know have been answering my common salutation, “How are you doing?”
–“Just really busy.”
–“Crazy busy; just nuts.”
–“Busier than ever.”
–“My life is just off the chain! But I will get through; what choice do I have?”
–“Too busy…but hanging in there!”
I am not a linguist, but I am pretty sure that someone telling me how busy they are is not equivalent to telling me how they are doing.
At times, we are the one asking the question and at other times, we are being asked. I encourage you to try an informal poll in your professional and personal circles. Try to listen closely to how people answer when you ask them how they are doing. I have been listening more intently to how others answer when asked. Here are some recent and more revealing answers that I’ve received when asking, “How are you doing?”
–“I’m tired. I’m just not sure that I can keep up this pace.”
–“I’m excited. I have lost 70 pounds and have another 50 to go. I haven’t felt this good in twenty years.”
–“I’m struggling at work. It’s hard to admit but I am just not sure what the future holds for my career.”
–“Things are really good for me right now. It’s an exciting time for my family.”
–“I’m overwhelmed physically, mentally, spiritually and monetarily. I feel tired and beaten.”
Each of us needs margin. Each of us needs to slow down and just say “no.” Where is it leading us to always say “yes?”
We need space in order to breathe and provide a real answer when asked how we are doing. We also need space in order to convey that we genuinely care when we are the ones asking. We should also be asking ourselves more and more, “How am I doing…I mean really?”
Every radical improvement that I have made in my life began with an honest self-assessment. In order to effect change, I needed first to recognize my NEED for change. From the inside of me is where I draw upon the good stuff. Being genuine and transparent enables me to re-calibrate my life, ensuring that my inside self and the external reflection of that self are in balance. Staying grounded in that reality enables me to sharpen my focus.
This week listen for the answers that you get when you ask someone how they are doing? Even better, listen to yourself when giving your own answers.
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!