I wrote a post last week that I did not press called “State of the … err … discipline?”; it was over a thousand words detailing how I came to the realization a while back that I had been living life in cruise control, how I overcame that and how I feared I had been slipping back into it. I didn’t press it immediately because sometimes I like to let things sit a while and sink in, sometimes I don’t want to go into so much detail in a public forum and sometimes I want to make sure I’m not just talking crap. A mixture of all three of these things has me starting from scratch but with a more expansive and (hopefully) positive look at things.
Self-discipline is something that I’ve struggled with my whole life, or at least that is what I would tell you if you asked me. Yet it is not necessarily discipline that I have struggled with, it is self-discipline when it comes to doing things I don’t enjoy. Take going to the gym for example, I don’t really enjoy it, I know I need to do it, but I don’t enjoy it. With not really enjoying it, when life gets in the way I find it easier to make excuses to avoid the gym than I do say, playing the Playstation.
Sometimes I will then get down on myself for not working out enough, I might gain a few pounds and fear a return to the state I was in a few years ago before I lost 30 pounds. The thing I need to do here is give myself a little more credit. For lack of a better description, when I got that overweight I was not awake, I was not conscious, I am now and as a result I will make the choice to arrest any such slide long before it starts to get out of control. I have to be just as ok with not working out for a few weeks if that is what life requires as I am with forcing myself to work out because that is what my body requires.
Much of adult life, it seems to me, is about figuring out your priorities and managing your time. There are a ton of things I’d like to do with my time, but I only have so much time in a day or week etc. Sometimes things are not going to get done, sometimes I’m going to have to do things I don’t really want to because it is a priority or a necessity in my life. At the same time I need to make time to do the things I enjoy, otherwise the balance of life will be off and I’ll be a miserable person & who wants to be miserable?
So as I sit here considering how I multi-task really well, maybe too well, I have to give myself the credit I didn’t give myself on the post I did not press. I actually do pretty well with maintaining a well-balanced life, I have much better self-discipline than I give myself credit for, it just looks differently for me and my life that it would do for you and your life. So while I could do better, my time is generally (in my opinion) fairly well managed, so yay me!
In order to best manage my time I need to know what my priorities are so what are my priorities? I’m going to try and list them below and see if I can explain roughly why they are where they are and how they correlate:
1: God – He has to be first, not because that is what people tell me, but my experience in life is that when I focus on Him first, everything else is better; I’m a better husband, a batter Dad, a better friend, a better employee & just an all-around better dude. How am I doing with this? Much better than I was; although of all the areas of my life this still needs the most work. I multi-task too much when it comes to God, all good things, but one thing I need to consciously try to make time to do (in place of other non-essential things), is to get still, slow down and just be before God. It is great that I listen to the bible or a sermon while driving to work. It has been life changing to be involved with my men’s group once a week. Leading worship has brought a focus and intimacy to my love of God through music that is difficult to explain. I know I’m doing better with getting God at number one because He is there in my thoughts so much more than He used to be. In fact at times I fear I am trying too much. Sometimes I feel tired, too busy, overwhelmed and what I hear is not so much to stop doing things, but take the time to slow down and be with Him. So that is my plan for the next few months, to consciously try and make sure I am being still with my Father.
2: Family – initially when I started to think about consciously prioritizing my life a few years ago, the thought of not putting my family at the very top was rather uncomfortable. Fortunately God has taught me that the way for me to best serve my family is to put Him first. However, having my family above everything else sets the balance for my life. I have inadvertently allowed my job to take this position at times, hindsight sucks, that is the most ridiculous thing you can do in your life. Let me try to phrase it this way; if you were to die tomorrow realistically how long would it take for your company to replace you? A week, a month, maybe a couple of months? What about your family? The answer is never, maybe your spouse remarries but it won’t be the same and your children will never have their birth parent again. Taking the time to say no to some things (maybe some really good things), in order to feed into your family, to really raise your children, to really love your spouse, is so much more important than working a few extra hours so that report can get done, heck the extra hours that we are sucked into working in America really only serve to line the pockets of the employers who are too cheap to hire enough people to do the work half the time (pet peeve).
3: Work – Ok, so I said don’t get work out of perspective, especially with regards to your family. However, having said that work is still really important, it should be obvious; it is how you provide for your family to survive. In many ways it is how you contribute to society, if you are a believer it is also your main mission field. This is a concept that I have really only just started to grasp and am having a doozy of a time putting into effect, but the seed is sown so it seems that the actuality is inevitable so long as I keep God at number one. As a believer in Christ I am called to a life of honor and integrity, how I conduct myself at work matters, I represent God there, I represent myself there. I need to do my job well, I need to be focused on it, thinking about it I should probably read less twitter & wordpress while I’m there 😉
4: Social – Friendships are important, we were designed to be in community. For me my social life today consists primarily of my men’s group, the beautiful brotherhood that I have been a part of for coming up on 3 years now. My gaming friends, the group of people I’ve hung out with virtually for years who I love, how accept me for the random set of contradictions that I am. My neighbors, my colleagues and my extended family. Sometimes I don’t want to be social, I just want to hermit myself away and hide in introspection, this does not usually serve me well. As a naturally somewhat introverted person I have to force myself make time to be social, it is good for my soul, it is good for my heart and it is good for my health. How often do you laugh when you are alone? I love to laugh, life is better when you laugh, it is better when you feel loved, when you feel friendships, these are things that do not happen when you are alone, thus to me, a social life needs to be a priority in life.
5: Hobbies – Ok so hiding in introspection also is not necessarily a bad thing either 😉 That is the reason this blog matter to me, this is how I access the subconscious thoughts in my mind. That might sound crazy to you, but one of the side effects of the brokenness that God as healed me from was that I taught myself not to think or for the most part feel, or at least not to think and feel in a way that was readily accessible to my conscious self. I found out last year the writing somehow circumvented this firewall of sorts that I had created. This is why blogging has been of such benefit to me over the past year, it is also the reason that right now I feel a real need to start writing again more consistently. I’m not talking about my poetry, or music, but these types of posts, where I think. Engaging my creative side is different, also something I love to do, but not the primary reason for this blog & I feel that I have got away from that in recent months.
What I was going to say on hobbies is this, it is important to make time to do the things you enjoy, it helps to make life somehow seem more worthwhile. Sometimes your hobbies are things that mix with your family, or your social life, which is great. Other times they are things just for you and whilst not allowing them to be more important that they should be, I feel they are an essential part to a well-balanced life. I usually do ok with this, but there are seasons it seems for everything. Seasons when I write more, seasons when I read more. Seasons when I game more and seasons when I talk more. My music recording has suffered recently but that is because of the opportunity to lead worship once a month, working on trying to do that well has meant that the free time that I would have dedicated to trying to record music has been spent rehearsing. Hopefully as I get more comfortable with singing in public I will find the time to get back to recording. In fact I need to make that more of a priority as I love to do it and also I feel that especially with the song I wrote a long time ago, there is something there that needs to be done now for that broken young man who was too afraid to share his music.
Having said all that, I feel it is really important to keep your hobbies in their right place, sure I’d love to put the work in to become a really great guitar player, but that is not the best use of my time at this moment in my life. I understand that my life is better for being a worse guitar player but a better Dad.
6: Everything else – this is just that, if it doesn’t fall into one of the categories above, it’s probably not that important anyway, do it when you can, I don’t even know would fall in here as I’m typing this, which probably sums it up.
So there you have it, the state of self-discipline in my life is not nearly as bad as I almost told you it was. I have to be ok with not getting everything done that I want to sometimes, just making sure that everything gets done that I need to. I need to give myself a break more often when I start judging myself, I need to quit comparing myself to the outward impression of others. Most of all, I need to remain conscious of my list of priorities and make every effort to live life accordingly. Not because I need a better to do list, but because my life is better when I do. I don’t have life all figured out, but I am way better at it today than I have been at any other point in time and I thank god for that.