leadership, personal


Have you ever had a time in your life where you were involved with something that had a defined ending date, and took up a significant portion of your time? For example, you were going to college while working, or involved with a charity for a certain period of time where you had to go to lots of meetings, or participate in planning several events?

As those periods came to a close, can you remember wondering what you were going to do with all the free time you would have after it was over? Or looking forward to having some breathing room in your schedule?

What actually happened, if you are like most of us, is that somehow your life magically filled in the time for you. You might remember several months afterwards thinking, “what happened?” Without you trying, the extra time just sort of disappeared.

I recently watched a talk where the speaker discussed “marginless living.” The speaker referred to a book by Richard Swenson called “Margin.” He noted how we live in a time where it is really easy for our schedules, and our lives, to get away from us. And that life always gravitates to marginless living – we will fill the time with something (kind of like if you give me a bigger desk, there wills till magically be stacks of stuff covering the whole desk). BUT, it only does so when we do nothing about it and don’t try to change the situation. That means there is hope – that means we can do something to create margin.

The way to create margin is by being intentional about it. Just like we have to be intentional about doing a good job at work (it doesn’t just happen) or losing weight (it doesn’t just happen), we have to be intentional about creating margin. The secret sounds easy, but of course it never is – saying NO. We have to FIGHT to create margin in our lives. Here’s how the speaker put it:

“You have to wake up EVERY SINGLE DAY knowing that you are going to have to say NO to something good in order to say YES to something better.”

Said another way, you must wake up every day knowing that you will have to disappoint someone in order to make someone else happy who you have prioritized as more important. While this may seem depressing, it is far better for all involved than the situation we started with earlier, where you are fully at capacity, cannot react or respond to emergencies or other surprises, and are usually miserable and not at your best – at work, for your family, for your own health. That is no good for you, and frankly no good for those around you.

We all work so hard: at our job, at home, with our communities and charities and churches, with our friends, with our kids, with our own personal goals. I encourage you to decide what you are prepared to say no to, and to start waking up every day trying to carve out margin for the important things in life.


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