Juggling the Five Balls in the Game of Life

Leadership Tips/Team Building Tips: Set Your Priorities

JuggleAuthor James Patterson once said that in the game of life, there are five balls that must constantly be kept in the air – work, family, friends, health, and integrity. He said that work is a rubber ball – it can be dropped and it will bounce back. The rest of the balls are made of glass. If you drop one of them, it can be scuffed, scratched, or shattered.

I myself must admit that I have sacrificed (on more than one occasion, if I am being honest) each of the other four things at one point or another, to varying degrees. When my first son was a baby, I can remember mindlessly setting the baby swing for another round of music just so that I could get one more phone call made for work. I have rearranged dates with friends on more occasions than I can count because ‘something’ came up for work. Before I had children, I routinely put in 70-80 hours as a young community organizer, once working even after being diagnosed with pneumonia. And I’ve been guilty of going along with a decision that I knew was a compromise of my integrity at work, out of fear that I would look stupid or lose my job. All of this was done in the name of ‘getting ahead’, or ‘taking care of my family’, or ‘keeping my priorities straight’.

I felt that work was the ball made of glass.

How many of us have that confused? In our experience working with clients, leaders and business people over the years, many of us do.

So how do you remedy this way of thinking before you ‘shatter’ your family, friends, health or integrity?

The first step lies in an honest assessment of your priorities. Your calendar can be a great mirror for you (if not a little painful) of where you spend your time. After all, time is the most precious resource we have, so taking a hard look at where you spend yours can be revealing.

After you have come to terms with the reality of where your time is spent, you must reconcile whether or not this is an accurate reflection of your priorities and values. In other words, if you consider those five balls – work, family, friends, health and integrity – in what order of importance do you place them?

Finally, taking some time to reflect can be a useful tool for helping you figure out how to spend your time in a way that more accurately reflects your priorities. It is a discipline – it takes time, and it is not always easy to do, but worth it in the long run.

And if you choose to make no change at all, that, too, is a valid choice. But if you make no changes, you can expect no changes. Zig Ziglar said it well:

“One definition of insanity is to believe that you can keep on doing what you’ve been doing and get different results.”

What results do you want to have?

Author: Ellen Patnaude, Date Published: March 14, 2012

Ellen Patnaude is an instructor for The Leader's Institute ® and president of LeadQuine. She is based in the Detroit, Michigan Region. She is a specialist in team building events and presentation skills seminars.

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