I know of a university president that decided to take up boating.  He realized that in his efforts to lead the institution into a new era of relevancy he was allowing his life to become overrun with meetings, agendas, and other peoples demands.  He had no margin in his life.  There was little personal time for family or relaxation, and if something didn’t change, he risked burning out.

So, he bought a boat.  And he named it “College Business.”  That way if anyone dropped in to see him, his assistant could honestly say that he was out on college business.

I love it!  

Here is the truth about those of us who have great enthusiasm for our work. If we are not careful, we can sacrifice the balance in our life by allowing the professional work to sink our personal world.  In that event, it would be easy to blame the expectations of others or the work itself.  But, we both know, it is always a decision that only we can make.  So how do we keep the balance?

  1. Admit that you are allowing the work to control you, instead of you controlling the work.
  2. Acknowledge that you need breathing room in your schedule so that your personal life can be more precious than professional riches.
  3. Act upon the commitment for a fuller life by finding something that stirs your heart with as much enthusiasm as your interest at work.

What do you get excited about doing?  What rejuvenates your heart and mind?  When was the last time you took care of “college business”?

Enthusiasm is like a boat; you want to keep it upright and balanced.  And it needs a rudder to keep it moving in the direction that benefits your life.

Once, you have identified something that refreshes and energizes your soul; you have to be relentless in your efforts to make it a part of your routine.  It must become a new (or renewed) habit in your schedule.  You want it to become a “regular” in the rhythm of your life — so regular that you will immediately notice its absence.  Here are some suggestions that can help you get started:

  • Be Accountable – Find a friend or family member to hold you accountable for some downtime.
  • Partner Up! – Invite that person to join you in your activity. Shared activities become commitments that we keep.
  • Get Alarmed! – Make an appointment on the schedule with yourself. Set a reminder or an alarm that will bring your commitment to top-of-mind.
  • Pay The Price – I’m not suggesting that you run out and buy a boat with your entire life savings, or get a second mortgage to convert your house into an art studio, or sacrifice the kids’ college fund on a VHS movie collection!  However, when we pay a little for our interests (i.e., dance lessons, a personal trainer, art supplies, fishing gear, etc.), we are more likely to sense the obligation to follow through.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY — Permit yourself to get away, to take a breath, to live more fully!  There are people in your life that want this for you – but they can’t make you do it. There are people in your world that don’t care if you burn out or not.  Stop looking for someone else to give you the thumbs-up. Typically, the only person holding you back from this vital margin in life is your self. Look yourself in the mirror (especially when you’ve just gotten out of bed and look like a hot mess) and say – “Go for it!  You deserve it!  Honestly, you look like you need it!”
Don’t wait — it is time to get your life back!

I hope you have a great day.  I’m going to be out for the rest of the day.  I think I have an appointment with a college president.


~  Steven Iwersen

Business Leader, Speaker, Author of “The Porcupine Principles: How to Move Prickly People to Preferred Outcomes”


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