By Naphtali Hoff
Many of us struggle to achieve and maintain proper balance in our lives. We seek to succeed in the work arena while simultaneously being there for our families and loved ones. We have a strong sense of community and want to give back to those around us while also ensuring that we attend to our health-related, emotional, and spiritual needs on a regular basis.
Despite our best intentions,our many aims oftentimes come into direct conflict with one another. We simply cannot give as much time as we would like to each of these areas in a manner that is fully satisfying. How can we manage to strike the proper balance between these oft-competing realms in a manner that is both responsible and fulfilling?
For starters, it is important that we take the time to identify and prioritize our core values and aspirations. Often this is best achieved through the creation of a personal mission statement, which lays out what is most important and what we strive to achieve in each realm. A coach, guide or mentor can be helpful here in ask the hard questions that drill down on what is truly important. They can also offer a different perspective and value set to your own.
Once we arrive at some answers, we can see how they fit into our present reality. (This Wheel of Life Tool can help.) Not only will this offer us new direction, but it will also strengthen our self-identity. Self-identity emerges from the way that we balance such components as work, family, study, observance, and community service, and is critical to managing the conflict between competing domains.
It is also instructive to share your values and mission with those that they impact most. Giving your relatives and coworkers a window into how you value and budget your time and approach conflict offers can help them better understand your actions and appreciate your perspective.
Two dilemmas shed light on how values and the communication of those values impact how we arrive at important decisions. The first was shared by a well-respected educator and former principal. A number of years prior, his school's eighth grade graduation had been slated to take place on the same night as his own child's commencement. In the end, he chose to attend his school's event. After all, how could be not be present? In retrospect, he came to regret his decision and shared with us that there is nothing more important than family. Positions and communal affiliations come and go, but family is an eternal bond.
The other involved a great rabbinic sage from the previous generation. On one particular Saturday, there were two scheduled events that he wanted very much to attend. The first was his grandson's bar mitzvah. The other was an annual communal convention that he generally attended and addressed. For reasons that were not disclosed, he chose to celebrate with his grandson earlier that week and then attend the convention.
The rabbi's son (father of the bar mitzvah) was asked about his father's decision. His response was truly remarkable, the outgrowth of years of relationship building. He shared that he was fully comfortable with the decision; his father, one of generation's great sages, needed to be with the community. He added that his father had continually demonstrated acts of care and love for him as a youth, such as covering him with a warmed blanket in the morning as he dressed in their cold apartment, preserving his seat by his father's side at the Sabbath table, regardless of which dignitaries graced their meal, and allowing him to leave his summer time father-son studies when the daily hayride would take place at the family's bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains (New York). From these displays of love and many others, the son knew just how much his father loved him.
We all struggle to make proper use of our time and abilities. We want to be as successful, as helpful and as accomplished as possible. But we simply cannot do everything. For us to make proper choices, we much root ourselves in positive values (a desire to give, not receive) and establish clear, rooted guidelines that govern our choices and actions. But we also want others to appreciate and respect our decisions. Such appreciation comes from regular communication of our love and concern for others, which will serve us well at times of conflict and possible disappointment.