By Ross Hutchings, Executive Director , CSDA
This past couple of months have been marked with many tragic events. First were the devastating hurricanes and the destruction they brought. Then I attended a Celebration of Life for one of my dear friends who died from Alzheimer’s after a diagnosis at the age of only 58. Also, I attended the memorial service for a co-worker who became my boss early in my career—again, way too young. Finally, my heart has been broken like many of yours at the death, destruction, and damage from the recent wildfires.
When incidents like this occur, it tends to make one think about their life—what is most important. We saw whole neighborhoods leveled and families devastated by the loss of their homes and personal possessions. We also saw many who left their homes to burn while they helped their neighbors or protect their animals. And still many were just grateful to be alive for themselves, their spouse/significant other, family, and friends.
What is important varies according to each person. However, we all tend to get busy with our lives, in our day-to-day work, working on our careers, improving our financial situation, providing for our families, acquiring comforts of life, increasing travel, and other daily activities. Sometimes we fail to “stop and smell the roses,” to appreciate the little things and remember what is most important to us. These tragic incidents tend to jolt us into thinking about these basic realities.
This got me thinking about life’s priorities. Many of us have most likely attended courses where they talk about having balance in our life—you know the ones that draw a wheel and list important aspects of life in the spokes—material, social, physical, professional, pleasurable, mental, spiritual, emotional. The conventional wisdom is that if we allow any one of these to be greater than another, the wheel (life) gets out of balance. However, we all know that balance is not very realistic; it is almost impossible to keep all these areas equal. And these imbalances depend on where we are in our lives and what our focus is. Yet, we also have all experienced times in our lives where we have had a few areas that are so far out of whack, it has been a detriment, negatively affecting other parts of our life.
So how can we keep things in balance and focused on the most important elements in our life? If you Google “balanced life” you’ll see articles on: “5 Ways to Balance your Life; 10 Simple Ways…; 6 Tips…; 5 Easy Steps…;” and on and on. They do contain some excellent tips and suggestions on how we can try to do this. However, with all self-help information, it is difficult to incorporate or put these into practice unless we are conscientious about this all the time. That is what tragedies do—they bring into focus what is important in our lives.
Through all the devastation that has occurred recently in the U.S. with hurricanes and wildfires, it was heartening to see all the help and assistance given to those who lost much. People set aside their differences, their political views, prejudices, and personal discomfort to reach out and physically and/or financially help those in need. Incidents like these bring out the compassion in us. Compassion causes us to put ourselves in their position, which involves an examination of those things that are important in life. The same holds true when we lose someone close to us or they are taken away at a young age. It brings into focus what individuals and things are the most valuable to us.
The key is to keep our lives balanced enough so that core items remain constant in our minds. That way we will continue to be focused on what is most important, which will bring meaning and satisfaction to all that we do.
Again, thank you to all who reached out and helped others during their time of need.