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Small Fish

“So what’s going on in your life that made you decide to get sick?” is what I hear whenever I catch the flu or get a bad cold and finally visit my doctor. This is his way of asking, “Mike, why is your life so out of balance?”

Almost every person these days says they are just too busy, and we seem quite proud of it. In America, the phrase “It sounds like you’ve been really busy!” is interpreted as, “It sounds like you are really important!” Unfortunately, a very busy person is usually just someone caught in constant activity desperately trying to catch something – but all the while not really sure what that something is.

Counting Each Year
For the past 10 years I have held to a tradition on my birthday. No matter which day of the week it falls on, I get away alone to reflect and try to remember what’s important, count the cost of the past year, and set new plans. This year my birthday fell on a Sunday. What an ideal day for personal reflection, right? Well…instead of being in a quiet place designing my life, I was sitting on a plane working on a presentation for a client. We all know that there are times in business that require shifts in priorities, but this trip was not a requirement, it was my choice. It was busyness.

Daily Matters
My life slippage had started well before that fateful trip, however. For the previous four months, instead of beginning my day with a time of prayerful mediation and reading as I have for years, I started going directly to my office desk, checking my email and looking over my calendar. Even though I started “working” as soon as I got out of bed, I consistently fell behind each day. So, to compensate, I got up earlier but still I found I was accomplishing only half of what I typically did when I started my day in the quiet. Things needed to change.

Just Right
Last month, on a warm Saturday afternoon, my 85-year-old uncle invited me to go fishing. I meet him at the lake. I was ready to start casting hard for big fish but instead of my fancy fishing rod he handed me a cane pole with a bobber and an earthworm dangling on a hook. Then, he opened the door of his mud caked truck and out jumped two English Setter puppies. For the rest of the day we sat in worn-out lawn chairs on a weathered dock with a pair of speckled bird-dog puppies, soon paw-to-paw, sound asleep beside a dented tackle box. On the ridge above the lake a Bobwhite quail whistled his mating call while we caught small fish. A red sunset closed the day too soon. It was just right.

That time with my uncle was a microcosm of all I’d been missing amidst my busyness – a balance of quiet reflection, joyful effort and rest. I felt like a kid again. Since that day, when someone asks me, “Have you been busy lately?” I say, “Nah, I’ve been just right.” If nothing else, it’s a reminder for me towards keeping my life in balance and remembering my lesson from a few small fish.

Journal Entry:
Been real busy lately? What needs to happen for you to catch a vision for a healthier leadership and life?

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T. S. Eliot

I am convinced that there are times in everybody’s experience when there is so much to be done that the only way to do it is to sit down and do nothing. – Fanny Fern

The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else- we are the busiest people in the world. – Eric Hoffer

Sometimes you wonder how you got on this mountain . But sometimes you wonder,” How will I get off. – Joan Manley, comedian
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