Archive for life balance

Tree of Life Provides Life Balance

I’ve been looking for the right way to visually display my thoughts about life balance and how what I’ve called five dimensions of life play such an important role in helping us keep that balance right. Over the last few weeks, I’ve coached a few folks with this approach and confirmed its value. The central thought came from some study I was doing on the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. As I put the my thoughts together about the Tree of Life and the five dimensions of life seen elsewhere in this site, it was easy to build the model below with the five dimensions represented by the five roots of the tree. Each of the roots has a corresponding branch that creates a well balance, enriching, fulfilled life as long as each of the five roots are nourished and nurtured properly.

tree of life

Tree of Life

Like a tree, branches sometimes need pruning to create the best fruit. Change in some areas of life may take some painful work to transform some old, bad habits and bring about the best you for the future you desire. Each branch has tips, techniques, and tools available to help with areas of life in which many others found the need to exercise constraint or focus for improvement. You’ll probably find nothing new or exciting in these areas, but often a coach can point out things in us we do not see in ourselves, or hold us accountable when we find it hard to hold ourselves accountable in some of our weakest moments.

In the next few weeks, you will see some changes on my home page as I change the approach from dimensions to roots and use this model to better explain how these five roots or pillars collectively determine who we are every day.

Write back and let me know what you think of it.


The Importance of Relationships

planeLosing a friend this week reminded me again of the importance of relationships and nurturing the roots of our life. My friend, August was 84 and died of cancer he didn’t know he had. His suffering at the end was quick, going into the hospital on Tuesday, losing consciousness on Wednesday, and passing into eternity on Saturday morning. I knew he and his wife for fourteen years. They were married ten years ago, she lost her first husband in 1988 and he lost his wife not many years after that.

August was a sailor, a Navy Warrant Officer, proud of the uniform, proud of his country, proud to have served his nation. We shared war stories often. He honored those in uniform whenever given the chance. Every Memorial Day, every Flag Day, every 4th of July, every Veterans’ Day, whenever an opportunity came for special recognition of veterans in church or public events, he humbly stood with the crowd of veterans, but looked around and applauded the young men and women who stood with him, the volunteers who are protecting our nation today.

August was a father. He made mistakes along the way as we all do. In getting to know August over the last few years, especially as his prayer partner the last three years, he reflected on “redo” he’d like to have with his children. But growing up in an abusive home, never seeing how love and discipline should be expressed, he did what he thought was right, even knowing there was a gnawing feeling that it wasn’t. Regrets and long past memories are difficult to overcome without nurturing the spiritual root. Over the last three years in focused discipling, August did that. He found peace with himself, his God, and longed to share the same peace and joy with his children.

August was a husband. He loved his wife. At our weekly breakfasts together he spoke most often about her. He shared about their trips together and the joy they found in those. He share about her painting and the drive she has. He share about her faith and the way she manages to weather every storm that come into life. He shared so many stories and events that showed how much he cared for her. Sometimes he talked about the work he did for her in the flower beds, in the house, in the art gallery, in other places. He found it hard to keep up with her sometimes, but he worked hard to do it because he wanted to be where she was and aid her in whatever way he could.

August was a friend. He took time for people. He didn’t get in a hurry. He talked to anyone who wanted to talk. He would share time with the waitresses at the restaurant where we ate each Wednesday. He stopped to talk at the register. He talked in the grocery store or in the lobby at the church. Wherever he went, he was ready to spend time with people. He understood that people need relationships and was just ready to be there to lend whatever hand he could, even at 84.

We will miss August, but because he nurture the five roots of his life – physical, family, spiritual, emotional, social – in the end, I think he felt fulfilled. I think his last years were filled with joy and a peace that comes from knowing who you are and living life to the best you can each and every day. He did that. He couldn’t do much about the past except ask forgiveness and forgive himself. He had taken those steps and found peace. Now, in his faith belief and mine, he is at rest with his Lord.

Enjoy your celebration, my friend!

be the best w. arrow


Priorities and promotions

I reveled in the promotion of two friends to general officer today. I worked with both of them in my past and knew they were destined for greatness. Partly because of skill and talent, partly because of the fate of assignments being at the right place at the right time, partly because of the mentoring of the people they worked with and worked for in the past. If that were the only reason for their promotions, though, they would be poor leaders. Both will be great leaders, not because of those things, but because they genuinely care about people and know how to balance their priorities.

They learned a long time ago not to let the urgent take the place of the important. They learned to think strategically. What does that mean in practical terms? It means they don’t let the calendar run them, they run the calendar. Important things like time for planning, time for family, time for themselves, time for vacation, time for staff, time for education, time for spiritual renewal, all get put on the calendar before they can get crowded out by the mundane activities of life. Generals’ calendars are unbelievably packed. They have little or no white space which is why these two women learned early to schedule the big things first. Put the important stuff on the calendar so it doesn’t get lost.

Another thing these two women understand is the importance of their network. They know hundreds of people, but more important, they know the circle of professionals they can count on in areas where they have weaknesses. All of us have a unique set of skills and all of us have weaknesses. When we know what they are, we can bring the right talent around us to partner with us to create an unstoppable team. That’s exactly what these two do so well. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They know how to build the right teams to take advantage of their strengths and partner with the right people to take advantage of others’ strengths. The important part of the partnership, though, is giving them credit. And they ALWAYS give credit to the team.

So as you see, their promotion to general officer is not an accident. Barb and Jimmie nurtured the five dimensions of their life throughout their careers. Congratulations are in order for what they have done in the past, for their bright futures, and for what the Army will gain because of their leadership in the future. They will coach a lot more young officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, and civilians over the next several years. Hopefully, many will learn the lessons of balance, setting the right priorities, and thinking strategically from them.

Congrats again to the AMEDD’s newest generals.


Storms of Life

moore, storms of lifeThe devastation in Moore, OK that happened in just minutes reminds us of our vulnerability and how precious life is. The storm prompted me to write this blog about the storms of life that come to each of us. No one is exempt. We all face events in life that tend to try to rip us apart. They feel like a tornado tearing through our lives. The way we respond to them and the way we work through them in large part reflect the roots we have nurtured in the five dimensions our lives – physical, family, spiritual, emotional, and social.

How the five dimensions help in the storms of life

We’ll start with the physical dimension. It’s long been shown that the better physical shape we are in, the better we are able to handle the stress that comes our way. Being physically fit doesn’t mean being a jock, but it does mean eating right, getting enough sleep, and staying active. Doing these things makes a huge difference in how you feel and how you handle the stresses and storms of life as they come along. Just taking a short walk to clear you head in the middle of a crisis can make the difference between being overwhelmed in the circumstances and allowing yourself to see the priorities clearly to make wiser decisions.life domains

The family dimension might be the cause of the storm or might help you lessen the storms of life. The help from family depends on your relationships with the family. When you have health family relationships, the strength that comes from family helps weather the storms of life in remarkable ways. When relationships are poor, they can add to the fierceness of the storm.

The social dimension acts much like the family dimension. Close friends can aid you in many ways. They provide sound advice many times or just listen to let you work out the issues you already have answers for but need to verbalize in confidence. They provide safe havens when relationships are solid. This small network of intimate friends is important for all of us as we work through difficult times in life. They can serve as our life-preserver to keep us from drowning during those most difficult days.

The emotional dimension provides appropriate outlets for what we are feeling during those storms of life that come our way. It’s okay to express emotions. Too often we try to check our emotions at the door and never express what we feel until we become to identify our emotions anymore. Life is filled with emotion. It’s okay to experience them all. We can keep our emotions in control, but we need to experience our emotions and not deny they are there.

Finally, the storms of life often push us to rely on our spiritual dimension. Sometimes we find there the repository of belief, trust, character, resilience, hope, faith, that will see us to the end of the crisis we are experiencing. It is in this dimension we set priorities and understand what really holds importance for us. Like those described in the opening paragraph, homes, cars and things no longer hold much value and the people we love become the sole focus of our attention.

Find someone to help during your crisis

The last advice in facing the storms of life comes from the same news coverage in Moore. As I watched the home owners move back to the slabs and debris that once was their home, I watched neighbors helping neighbors. Instead of spending all their time on their own home, they left their site and went next door to help their neighbor. They were hurting. They needed help themselves. They were devastated by loss. But instead of dwelling on their storm, they went those around them that needed help and began pitching in to help others in need.

When we take our eyes off of our own problems and look around at those in similar conditions, we find we are not alone. We can do something to help someone else. We are not helpless and we can do something. As soon as we begin to act on behalf of someone else, we begin to pull our focus away from the storm and toward safer harbors. Does it mean things are better for us? Not necessarily, but understanding we are not along, we can endure whatever we are going through.


Social Dimension

I have a theory about the social dimension as to how you should operate your social network.

The importance of the social dimension

First let me discuss the importance of the social dimension. This dimension provides support, cultural norms, a sense of belonging for you. We all need others around us. As humans, we cannot survive long in isolation. All you need to do is look at the outcome of those in solitary confinement to see what happens to the psyche over time. We need people to talk to and interact with on a consistent basis because we are relational creatures.

It’s important that we have some close friends outside our family we can share information with in confidence to unload, to discuss issues, to bounce ideas off of who will be honest and forthright with us. Sometimes family will give us what they think we want to hear to keep peace in the family knowing we have to live together long-term. Friends understand we can remain friends despite what we say to each other (sometimes).

Circles of friends

At the same time, the social dimension needs various layers of friends. No all friends are created equal. Some you can tell almost anything. Some you can tell almost nothing. Because of the variety of friends we need in our lives and the different roles they play, I’ve divided them into four different categories for convenience in describing them; intimate friends, friend, acquaintances, and the tribe.

We all need 3-7 intimate friends, closer to the lower end of that spread. These friends will tell you when you have broccoli in your teeth. They will listen to you when you have trouble and rejoice with you when you when things are going well. These friends can keep secrets. You can confide in them with your deepest, darkest secrets and they will listen to you without condemnation. These intimate friends are often closer to you than family members.

The second set in your social network we will call friends. This group may consist of 25-50 people, again usually closer to the lower figure depending on your personality and business. You know these people well. You invite them to parties, go to restaurants with them, interact with several times a year. You know their spouses and kids. You may not know everything about them, but you’re familiar with them and you’re comfortable in their company. This group provides you business recommendations and you do the same for them.circle of friends, social dimension

The third set are acquaintances. This group numbers 100-250, again based on your personality and business. you send them Christmas cards. You recognize them and know most of them by name. You may or may not know their spouses and children, but probably know their business. These are not frequent referrals like the friends, but can occasionally dip into the referral category. Quality contact once or twice a year is all that’s necessary to keep these acquaintances around.

The last group we’ll call the tribe. They know you. You many recognize some faces and may even know some of their names. They follow you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media and you may reciprocate. Contact with the tribe is deliberate and meaningful, but very different from that of the rest of your network.

The way you handle each of these circles is unique. Each social group plays a unique role in the social dimension and is important to your social health. How you maintain each group and how you communicate with each group will wait for another post. For now we begin by understanding the need to focus on our social dimension as part of what makes our life balanced. Without a solid social network, we have little to support us in times of crisis, nor can we find fulfillment in helping those around us in need. The social dimension serves both purposes, to aid us and for us to give aid.

Don’t forget to spend some time focused on your social dimension. It may not need as much emphasis as other parts of your life right now, but it is important. Don’t let it get lost.