If you read our column in January, you’ll know that we believe there is no such thing as a balanced life. We’ve tried. God knows we’ve tried every trick we know to achieve a state of balance in both of our lives. After so many years, we have figured out that it isn’t going to happen! Instead, we have learned to accept this unbalanced life we all have and find ways to live it well.
As Cheryl wrote our last column, I recently had a full left knee replacement. After my surgery, our lives simply deteriorated, despite all of our planning and preparation. And as we learned to cope and started smiling again, another disaster struck. Cheryl hit her left foot against the hospital bed trying to help get me up. She broke her middle toe and was put into an orthopedic soft shoe for six weeks.
Just as she rallied from this, Mr. Bill (that pesky Sheltie of ours) got scared by the hospital bed raising up, jumped and bit Cheryl on the hand. That put her in the hospital for five days with a severe infection. The kids were magnificent, running from house to hospital, but I did not have Cheryl and Cheryl did not have me. Thankfully, we survived with a little help from family and friends.
No one person can be everything in your life. This is a hard lesson for young people to learn, I think, as they get married or enter a relationship. It is also something we teach law firms and lawyers and paralegals. Another secret we share is to work with people who have values like yours. Life is about forming a strong circle of people who share your values and can bring something to the table in the give-and-take of a relationship, whether that takes place in your home, your church, your community or your work.
Take a minute to make an inventory of all the relationships in your life. Which ones are the easy ones? The ones that never seem to have conflict, bring a smile to your face, or make you want to be there for them when needed, without being asked and without expecting any payback? That is a hard test. Even harder is to admit there may be family, friends or coworkers who create such stress that the relationship is not worth it. We would be surprised if you have more than three or four value-based relationships in your life. Those people will share your values and fill a need in your life.
Do you know your values? We’re not talking about the fluff ones. We’re talking about those deep-seated values that anchor you during hard times. If people in your life share these values in some form or fashion, you are never alone. And if you don’t have people in your life like that, our strong suggestion is to get rid of that clutter and bring into your life those with value.
It is easy to live by values when life is good. It is hard to keep those values when life isn’t so good. Having core values that you don’t violate is the anchor you grab onto when you have to make hard decisions or you are faced with an insolvable problem.
Simply put, a value is the belief you intend not to violate and defines the type of person you are inside. It is the worth you place on a character trait – your character. It is the substance that looks back at you when you take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror.
People often make the mistake of assuming values are a convenience. They aren’t. They also mistakenly assume you can change values, depending on which way the wind blows. As you grow and define yourself, you tend to find that the number of values you have may decrease, but the ones that remain are core values. The old adage, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything,” is absolutely true. Values define your character and tell others what you are made of. Values don’t have to be lofty; they just have to be honest and true.
How do you define your values? As you grow older or get wiser (I’m never sure which occurs first), you find yourself focusing on a few things that are important for a valued life. In ours, we find that compassion, respect for others, non-judgmental thinking and integrity are a must for us. We believe honesty is a policy. We try very hard to do no harm to others. And we believe our blessings come because we help others who are not so fortunate.
We had to slowly move away from some circles that were more hurtful than helpful. We made a conscious decision about the type of people we wanted in our lives. We don’t want robots or look-a-likes. We want a strong group of diverse people with different lifestyles and thinking, but who deep-down have a strong core of values similar to ours.
We won’t take on clients who are diametrically opposed to our life philosophy. We have removed strife from our life with family and friends by simply recognizing that it is OK for us to be us and them to be them.
The lesson here is to define what you value. Where do you start? Make a list of 10 character traits you admire. Do it in 60 seconds. Then walk away for five minutes and come back and rank them 1 through 10, with number one as most important. Now remove the least important and walk away for a while. Come back and re-work the ranking and again remove the least important. When you get to five, you should be close. Once you think you have five strong values, write a definition and play “what if.” What if this happened in my life? Could I apply my values to the situation and make a decision?
Truth be told, it took both of us six months to write and rewrite our values by ourselves and then as a life couple and then as business partners because we want them to anchor us when our lives are not going well. And they have. You simply do not age without having major events in your life that can spin you out of control. Your values become your center.
Relationships can be personal or business or a combination of both. If you are unhappy at your job and you drag going to work, our hunch is that somewhere in your business relationships there are people who have conflicting values. This doesn’t make a judgment good or bad, it just is.
Now go to the relationships in your life and ask yourself if you believe this person brings to the table what you need. It may explain conflict in your life or it may bring some peace to your life. Value-based living is a choice. And it is probably the easiest one to live.
Email Dave at email@example.com. Tell us how you are living a balanced life and, if not, what you think needs to have a course correction. We love to hear from people.