The expression behind the eight ball comes from the pool-table. In some pool games, sinking or even touching the eight-ball is taboo except in the final play of the game. To be “behind the eight-ball” is to be unable to proceed with scoring important points in the game.
At some point in time all of us find “the demands on our time” looming like a monstrous eight ball obstructing our view and enjoyment of some of the most important things in life.
I have been there and done that. Wait! I still can fall into that trap. But every once in a while I get a glimpse of the open pocket and a chance to score some important points in life. The eight-ball isn’t gone but it is smaller. There are some steps to get around it that can lead to some amazingly stress free moments of real life.
I hope you will find these insights helpful as you face the eight- balls in your life.
Step 1. POSITIVELY Identify your greatest PRIORITIES.
Most of the eight-balls we lament are of our own construction. We have been seduced into allowing our emphasis on projects, prominence, wealth (fill in your own blank) to grow to proportions that block us from getting to the priorities we treasure most.
I do something regularly now that gives me a peek around the eight-ball. I turned down thousands of dollars of work to make more time to nourish relationships with my family, friends and my Lord.
To climb a mountain just because it is there is a very poor reason to climb a mountain. Opportunity to work and make more money is not a good reason to work and make more money. That kind of pool table is scattered with eight-balls.
I love my work! I get to impact peoples lives all over the world. Providing for my family is important, but they need me much more than they need money. I want to stop cutting vacations short, missing important events, and losing opportunities to do life with the people I love just to make more money, become more visible or impress more people.
Work IS A priority. But it is not THE priority.
I love social networking and the opportunities it has brought to my life, but it can’t become an eight-ball that keeps me from my most important social network… six little hearts that love time with grandpa, a wife who would love to spend more time with grandpa and a circle of close friends that I long to share life with.
I was looking forward to competing in another triathlon when the phone rang.
It was my beautiful granddaughter Lexi. “Grandpa would you coach me to compete in a triathlon in May?” There is nothing that will stop me from doing this. Coaching Lexi may mean I can’t train myself as intensely as I planned for the race. But I would rather come in last in my race in order to come in first in Lexi’s heart. I am a stubborn old man, but God is helping me learn to identify my real priorities and I am learning to dodge the eight-ball to reach those priorities.
Step 2. Work SMARTER not HARDER.
There is a common thread of wisdom that runs through the best advice given by great leaders.
Busyness in not necessarily business.
Over and over I find my self taking some kind of perverse pride in the fact I am busy. Busy writing, answering e-mail, blogging, producing more stuff! After all, isn’t that what the work ethic is about?
Just maybe the work ethic is about being willing to find the best and most efficient way to work smarter so that I can devote time to my greatest priorities, being a good dad, husband, grandpa. Using my “work ethic” to make sure I have the time to engage with people I love and the people God brings into my life.
At my funeral I don’t want my friends and family to say, “He was busy. He was always on the road.” I hope they will say I was there for them. Folks, I have a long way to go on this one, but I am committed to working smarter so that I can love better.
Actually what I really want people to say at my funeral is, “look I saw him move, he’s alive!”
Busy is not always bad. Don’t call me on the sunny day in May when Lexi runs her triathlon… I will be busy. I may work extra hard in the weeks preceding as I am busy putting a shoulder to the eight ball… nudging it to one side so I can embrace what really counts.
Step 3. Separate your WORK from your WORTH.
“Who are you?” Someone asks. What is your answer? Is it a list of things you love to do? People you care about? Is it a title? Is your answer a litany of business accomplishments?
Don’t devalue yourself! I want to encourage you to get out from behind the eight-ball. See that your value is far more than the sum of what you produce! If an accident or illness were to take your ability to make new stuff and attract more people, your value would not diminish in the least.
- You were made in the image of the creator
- You are loved
- You were given the capacity to love
- You were bought with a price more precious than gold
- Your value is determined by the unconditional love of God
And nothing! not death or life, not angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, or anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from (that love). Romans 8:38-39
In light of that truth, the eight-balls in our life shrink in significance enabling us to manage them rather than be managed by them.
What are the eight-balls in your life?
What steps can you share that will help us get around them and live again?