Day 26 – Intellectual/Spiritual
It was early March 2012. I remember because it was less than a year after I received my doctorate. I was 24 years old and had received quite a bit of positive reinforcement for this feat in my life. So much, in fact, that I had unwittingly planted the seeds of my self worth and life purpose in this pot called “professional pursuit”.
It was likely for this reason that less than a year after graduating and working in my field, I found myself kneeling beside my bed one morning staring into the nothingness of the blue pattern on my bedspread. A fresh day with infinite possibilities lay before me…and all I felt was dread. How could this be? I’d spent eight years of energy dedicated to a degree I fully believed I desired. I was earning more money than I’d ever made in my entire life and had all the letters behind my name that the world told me meant something. So why the emptiness? I believed in my professional pursuits but there I was envying the fulfillment I’d felt as a poor and largely-uneducated senior leaving high school all those years ago.
I impulsively pulled a piece of paper from my bedside table and drew a large circle in the center. I haphazardly began slicing this pie until I was left with 24 equal pieces: 24 hours mapped out before me. They come each day this way, blank and fresh with opportunity— accumulating hour by hour, day by day to create the weeks, months and years that we call “life”. I had been struck with the desire, or more accurately a driving need, to know how I was accounting for mine.
So I began filling them in. Like a child, I furiously counted and colored how I was allocating my time. It was easier than I’d imagined, as I suddenly realized I primarily did the exact same thing every day. When I finally put down my last colored pencil, I leaned back and looked down at my project. There was something quite elementary in its conception yet extremely poignant in its message. As I stared at it, I scrawled “My Life Balance” across the top, although that’s far from what I saw before me.
Areas, that had in the past, filled my life with immense meaning were suddenly slivers on my circle– or even worse in the case of “service for others”, nonexistent. In my quest to obtain intelligence, I’d sacrificed things more dear, not the least of which was my own spirituality. I’d even allowed other areas of intellectual wellness such as creativity, passion and time management to be suffocated by my hyper focus on career and education. It was no wonder I was leaving my house every morning with the acute sensation that I was walking lopsided through life.
Time is a precious resource. Not just the investment of it in simple seconds but the purpose behind each second spent.
Stephen R. Covey talks in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People about the principle of “beginning with the end in mind”. He explains how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of life, working hard to climb the ladder of “success”, only to discover the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall. What a powerful metaphor. What ladder are you scrambling up? More importantly, do you know on which wall it leans?
Although that moment three years ago initially struck me with great sadness, it was a springboard into massive transformation. I ended up leaving my current place of employment and found a position in the same field, but focused on pediatrics— which was my underlying passion in selecting my career from the start. With this change came a move to a new state, introducing me to a variety of new individuals, some of which are among the most important people in my life today. They’ve unknowingly helped me rediscover my spirit and purpose through their questions, interests and examples. Others have introduced me to a whole new way of physical wellness that led me to be typing these words for you today. In essence, my simple exercise that day opened my eyes to an essential truth. I don’t believe I can summarize it better than Dolly Parton when she said the following:
“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
Today I invite you to discover which wall your ladder is leaning against. I am providing the graphic; you provide the colored pencils. This chart is a visual representation of the 24 hours in a day. Your challenge is to diagram how you’re spending yours. When the chart is complete, step back, take a look and ask yourself these questions: If I repeat this day week after week, month after month, year after year, will I reach the place I want to be? Is this the wall I want to climb? Be honest with yourself so your next step can be one of steadiness as you ascend the ladder leading to a more fulfilling life.