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Walking the Tightrope of Life:
Maintaining Balance and Spirit

Michael A. Hinz, PhD
September 1, 2001


      You have probably heard the saying: “that’s the spirit.” You might have heard it when someone had a winning attitude as they tackled a difficult project. Success often hinges on someone building a fire under someone, that is, getting them motivated, inspired, and activated. A highly motivated, inspired attitude can accomplish almost anything. Imagine a life full of that kind of spirit. It is infectious and spreads like wildfire. Someone with that kind of spirit is fully alive, living courageously, passionately, and living a life that is true to his or her values with integrity, character and fulfillment. That is impressive to see, and that is what I mean by ‘spirit’.

      Great achievements (no matter in which area of one’s life they occur) are possible when balance and fullness of spirit are maintained. We each have unique talents, abilities and creative potentials, which we try to utilize in some purposeful way to make a difference and get a feeling of satisfaction from life. The power of purpose is the energy that carries us forth in life and gives us direction. Maintaining a balanced life allows us to accomplish great things without depleting our self in the process.

      So why strive for balance? Most of us must think we are the Eveready Bunny, the way we try to do everything and keep going and going until we crash. That’s where the balance comes in. We cannot possible live up to our full potential if we are running on empty most of the time. We have to have a constant energy source and maintain a reserve supply. That’s where ‘spirit’ comes in.

      One’s ‘spirit’ is grounded in all of those things, which make each of us uniquely, who we are. You have probably noticed how excited and passionate some individuals become when they are championing a cause, project, vision or something of importance to them. They are like a dynamo of energy that surges forth overcoming all obstacles in the way and success is soon at hand. That is the creative potential that lies within each of us.

      The success minded individual thrives on the expectation of excellence, creativity, growth, challenge, stretching the limits, and basks in the rejuvenating glow of satisfaction in a job well done. That individual is living a life full of spirit.

Creating a Road map for a Spirit Filled Life and Workplace

      Each of us needs to create our own unique road map for walking the tightrope of life. Life has a beginning and ending with much in between. It is filled with hopes, dreams, visions, accomplishments, setbacks, frustrations, annoyances, potentials and possibilities. Stretched between beginning and end is a tightrope that we each walk with the hope of not falling off.

      We each have different goals, purposes and different places towards which we are heading. Therefore, each road map will be unique. The final destination has unique significance and relevance to each of us individually. However, it is about the process of getting there that I now focus your attention.

A Journey of Steps:

Step 1: Begin examining your attitude (your ‘spirit’) by answering the following questions:

  • If you did not have to work, would you? Why or why not?
  • What are those areas of your work life that drain you and what are those areas that refresh you?
  • Why do the drainers deplete you? Are the activities contrary to your values, or some other reason?
  • What is it about the refreshers that rejuvenate you? Are they activities that utilize your strengths and talents and reflect your values and purpose?
  • What do you look forward to at work?
  • What do you look forward to in Life?
  • What fulfills your creative desires, social desires, altruistic values, or whatever values and needs you are seeking to fulfill?

Step 2: Establishing the endpoints of the tightrope.

      The answers to the above questions reveal your underlying attitude, purpose and work ethic. This is the starting point on your map. This is where you are right now. Where do you want to go? What is your destination? This will constantly change and evolve over time. The significance is not so much in what the destination is, but in that there is something you are striving for, so you will have the motivation to start the journey.

Step 3: Creating the process that will ensure that you get there.

      I am assuming that you seek to be fully alive with passion, energy and spirit. In Step 1 you formed a glimpse into your expectations for the world of work, your life, and how well they are being satisfied. You identified some of the things that drain your energy and some that replenish it. The next obvious step is to create a simple plan for decreasing the drainers and increasing the energizers. Use your creativity to brainstorm some possible solutions. Some possibilities might include:

  • Change your schedule to do the most demanding tasks when you have the most energy
  • Reward yourself frequently (with praise, acknowledgment, a rest break, a snack, etc.) for completed tasks
  • Spread your energizers throughout the day to better maintain your energy level
  • Ask for assistance—you are not an expert on everything (share the expertise around the office—that is what it is there for)
  • Take frequent breaks to rejuvenate (physically and mentally)
  • Ask for or seek out more challenging opportunities that will better utilize your strengths
  • Learn to delegate (allow others the chance to also better utilize their potentials)
  • Decide which of your values are worth fighting for and which are not. Then develop a plan or strategy for communicating your concerns to the appropriate party (and go prepared with possible solutions that the two of you can brainstorm about as a team)
  • Determine your own limits and how to best honor and live within those limits.

      These are just a few ideas to get you started. The ideas you create here begin a process of change. Not change just for the sake of changing something, but change because your needs are not being served. You are tweaking the process so that it better serves your expectations and so that you are able to thrive in the process. Put these ideas together into a rough plan or strategy and remain open to new ideas and possibilities.

Step 4: Implement your plan.

      Once you have some ideas, begin to put them into action. Make sure you take small enough steps to ensure your immediate success. If you don’t succeed at first, remind yourself that you probably took too big a step and try again with a smaller one. We like to get to our destination fast, but we are usually better served if we slow down and just take it one step at a time. It is difficult to keep everything in balance, but we can accomplish much more than we ever thought possible if we can maintain the balance, our energy and attitude. Now that a new beginning has been initiated, keep the momentum going.

Step 5: Evaluate the progress being made.

      With this new road map you have created, it is important to stop and evaluate your progress along the way. This is a very fluid process and the only thing that you can depend on is that frequent and unexpected changes are guaranteed. Therefore, you will need to repeat the steps and tweak the process in order to stay on task and to continue to make the kind of progress you are seeking.

Summary:

      The significance of maintaining balance and fullness of spirit lies in the assurance that no matter what, you will not fall off the tightrope of life. It takes balance and energy to not fall off. Balance is defined as keeping the demands on you in life balanced - not too much and not too little. Spirit is defined as that success oriented attitude that helps keep you going. By maintaining a proper balance and a fullness of spirit in all areas of your life, you will always be ready for whatever happens. You will look forward to the adventures and challenges that are yet to come. You will find that your work is not only rewarding and satisfying, but that it also rejuvenates you. Your life will be filled with new vigor and vitality that will facilitate the maintenance of your balance and spirit. “That’s the spirit.”

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Copyright 2001 Michael Hinz, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
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