What are the things in your life that invest you with energy and the things that suck it from the marrow of your bones? We all have our own personal lists. Consider this example: For my father, reaching out and caring for others going through times of difficulty was something on which he thrived. It made him more alive. It pumped him full of energy. I find myself fulfilling a similar role as my father that involves coming alongside people during difficult times. However, for me to feel the pain and anguish of others takes a heavy toll on mind and body.
Similarly, business meetings can be very exciting for some people as they share ideas, plan, and envision greater achievements. For others, business meetings are the bane of their existence.
Public speaking, time with family, television, yard work, ….. For some these are energy producers, for others they consume resources directly from the soul.
It behooves us all to consider the elements of our lives and determine what it is that makes us feel more alive and what doesn’t. And, I think it would be wrong to assign moral significance to this list. The fact that you are drained by being in front of people, does not mean that you are a bad leader. Being personally overwhelmed by the burdens and cares of others does not mean you are immature or uncaring. In fact, it may mean just the opposite; that you are so present in the situation that you cannot detach yourself from it.
So, create your lists. What are the things that enliven you? Golf, teaching, discussions with friends, poetry, ebooks, a good sermon . . . Now, what are the things that add weight to your soul? Traffic, watching the news, email, cartoons . . .
Just because something is on “list one” does not necessarily make it a priority. And, just because something is on “list two” does not mean we should refrain from engaging in it. However, thoughtful consideration of the elements of our lives can definitely help us to live a more balanced and fulfilled life.
Your list will not be the same as that of anyone else. You are unique.
For me, bookstores are the most energizing environment in the world. To walk through the doors, smell the print, see the rows upon rows and stacks upon stacks of printed matter is more invigorating than are anabolic steroids for players in Major League Baseball. Knowing that between the covers of the books on the shelves lies all the greatest ideas in the history of mankind, knowing that most great men can date turning points in their lives to the reading of particular books, knowing that only feet away from where I stand are concealed truths I have not yet thought … There aren’t words to describe the experience.
And, of course, Borders is my favorite bookshop in world. While reading Sven Birkerts’ book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age I came across the following quote which describes the invigorating quality to his experience as an employee of Borders.
“My whole relation to books was changed again. All contemplative distance was shattered. I was not there to thumb through offbeat volumes–I was stacking and sorting the brand-new stuff. Everything was glossy and crisp. And, I thought, cutting-edge. I felt as if everyone were just waking up to books as I was. Suddenly there were thousands of serious readers in town. They thronged the aisles of the store, asked questions, placed orders. The books had an aura, an excitement about them. And just moving the titles back and forth, getting them onto the shelves and into the hands of customers was an education. For the first time I caught a sense of what a genuine intellectual life might be like. This was a sense I had never had in college, no matter how challenging a given course may have been. That was packaged thought, with everything already subjected to institutional dry-cleaning. This was different; this was hands-on. I saw my role as quasi-priestly: I was channeling the nourishing word to the people who wanted it most.”
Let me encourage you to find time today to do at least one item from your “list one”. Me? I’m on my way to Borders to drink a cup of coffee and browse the shelves for something I have not yet conceived.