The expression behind the eight ball comes from the pool-table. In some forms of pool, sinking or even touching the eight-ball is taboo except in end play. To be “behind the eight ball” is to be unable to proceed with scoring because the eight ball is in the way.
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. But in the last few months I have gotten a glimpse of the open pocket, my real priorities. The eight ball isn’t gone but it is smaller. I took some steps to get around it and now enjoy 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 did something last week that gave me a peek around the eight ball and ignited within me a desire to step out even more.
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.
I love my work! I get to impact lives all over the world with what I do. Providing for my family is important, but they need me much more than they need money. Apart from a burning bush revelation I am not going to cut vacations short, miss important events, and miss doing 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 I refuse to let it 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 have been looking forward to competing in another triathlon this year. Then a phone call came.
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 will not have the time to train as intensely for my planned 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 them.
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, 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 what you have accomplished in your life?
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 from you the 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! ” neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from (that love) which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In light of that truth, the eight balls in our life shrink in significance and in size enabling us to manage them rather than be managed by them.
What are the eight balls in your life?
What steps have allowed you to get around them and live again?
Great article, Ken. I’m personally working on #2, taking advantage of down time in my organization to set processes up that will ease the load later on. You’re reminding me that I’m on the right track, thanks!
Since I know you well I will caution you that sometimes the process we set up to “ease the load later on” only enables us to increase the load.
You are a prolific man who speaks much truth into my life, my friend.
I tend to blame the existence of my “eight balls” on God for making one day only 24 hours long. If I only had more time… if I only organized better… if I was only more willing… But God doesn’t base our worth on a bunch of “if only’s.” When it really really really comes down to it, I find my self with just one:
“…if only I knew Jesus more…”
I bet if the days were 48 hours long we would still have the same problem. Thank you for joining the conversation Tia.
I would say #3 is the toughest for me, although all three require constant assessment. Our worth needs to be found in our identity with Christ, not what we accomplish. My daughter, who has significant special needs and will never be able to live on her own or earn a living, reminds me of that daily. Wonderful post. Thanks, Ken!
I agree Julie, I am not sure we know how much our worth it tied up in what we do. Thank you for your fresh and true perspective.
Thank you for this perspective. I think sometimes we lose what is really important in our short journeys here. Thank you for wrapping it up in such a nice package… 🙂
Thank you for opening the package!
I love this. I struggle with all three for sure. What is interesting to me reading this, is returning to the workplace after raising my kids I feel like I’m behind the 8 ball a lot. I can get very hyper focused and driven to “catch up” with technology, with my education, with my skills or whatever. Add to that a total career change and it can really mess with my head some days. Great reminders Ken thank you!
I was just reminding myself Deanna!!! Glad it helps others too.
When we understand (with the heart) that this life is not all there is, and that God intends for us to live in forever mode, we gain a new perspective on the things of this world and living in the here and now. We discover that many things we have been conditioned to believe are so important really are things that decay and die. (I credit Paul David Tripp and his book “Forever” for teaching me this concept and changing the way I live.)
Great observation and lesson Jay!
I am proud of you for making your family a priority. For me I always wanted my dads time and not his money. He never knew how to give his time although he managed to give some of it, it was little and rarely the quality I wanted.
I still have a long way to go Tania!!!
Excellent thoughts. So many of us get trapped into believing that the “American Dream” is the most important thing we can achieve — get exactly the career you want, make enough money to buy your family everything they want, and make sure your car is as fancy as the neighbors. But, in the end, work and money will seem like a giant waste of time if it causes us to miss the rest of life (especially relationships) that is supposed to be nurtured and enjoyed.
I definitely struggle with #3. I’m afraid that if I’m not super busy all the time, people will think I’m lazy. But that’s just it, I should care only about what God thinks, and whether I’m in line with scripture, than about what other people think.
God even says not to worry at all about clothes and food, but seek Him first (not climb the corporate ladder first) and He will make sure that we get the essentials we need.
Thank you for your comment Anna.
Thank you Ken, for taking the time to share this with us! It’s a VERY good reminder of what is really important!
Thank you Linda!
Great post, Ken. Proud of you for turning down some bucks to spend more time with your family. We have four kids, ages 11-4, here at home and have recently been taking them each on individual dates to fill up their love tanks! Also, thanks for the Romans 8:38-39 reminder…one of my very favorites!
This person I have become has abdicated his responsibilities as a husband, father and friend. He has lived a selfish life. He has done the right things outwardly but inwardly he is a completely different person. A person raised in a Christian home but who took lessons from the world only to find himself empty…. guilty of not truly caring about anything or any one. His memories are a blur because he was not deeply engaged. He used people to get what he wanted or needed. He is critical and judging. Not surprising, he is a person without any close personal friends. No one really knows him because he doesn’t even know himself and his morals are only skin deep. He is fairly respected by some because of his profession but is only in it for the money. He is shy, timid, avoiding relationships because of his shallowness. He lacks confidence – intimidated even by the thought of having real conversation with anyone including his wife and kids. Good at sports but that is his only claim to fame. Not that anyone remembers or cares. Sports was his getaway. Like a drug that keeps you from dealing with reality. Now he is older with a million regrets – wanting to start over again and do it better, do it right. How could he have missed it so bad.
Live for the moment!, he thought. Your only young once. Pleasure is king. Just get by because it takes too long to do it right. Don’t get too close to anyone – you could get hurt.
I woke up this morning realizing the things I truly believe and want for my life and for my family are found in Jesus Christ. I was deeply concerned though, by the thought of my children slipping away because of the poor example I have been as a husband, father and friend and my lack of leadership in the home. My “Eight ball” is my timidity – i don’t speak well – I don’t think things through well during a conversation- I need time to process my thoughts and respond. Who has time for this. I am reaping the seeds of an undisciplined life. I am way, way , way behind the eight ball when it comes to leading my family. I am afraid to lead because of my lack of self worth. My kids need me to speak up with real answers and conversation that makes sense and makes them want to have a real love relationship with God. So I googled “dad and daughters behind the eight ball of life” and found your article.
Thanks for helping me find the answer. My best efforts at life showed me what a loser I was. But I remember now accepting Jesus in my life at the age of 13. His death in my place for all my unholiness has made me a new person. My old self had been put to death with Him on that cross but I brought him back to life. He made me a completely new person with righteously pure desires. I suppressed those desires for years not really realizing I needed to give up the ” control” of my life to Him. Now wanting and able by his strength to do what is right I take no pleasure in sin. I have power in my life to overcome the allure and temptation to sin if I choose to embrace it and exercise it so that it grows stronger. The pleasures of sin distracted me and blinded me for years from the reality God wanted me to live in. Darkness was chaos, confusion and destruction and His light is order, clarity and edification. From now on renewing my mind with the truth of His word and the leading of the Holy Spirit will be my guiding light to get me confidently through everyday life; The wake of which will produce lasting fruit in His perfect timing. It is comforting to know that my steps are ordered by the Lord. He will make my paths straight. To overcome the eight ball for me is to focus on the priorities He sets up for me to focus on. My priority now is to lead my family well. I’ll work smarter with this priority in mind. I’ll put in the time to understand the issues. I’ll Pray and dig for the answers and not avoid reality by putting things off or escaping. I will value myself as a person with the value He has placed on me. I’ll return the old self to the grave and not allow him to return. I am valuable to Him as His holy creation. Not my holiness; I can take no credit for that, but His. I am changed forever by what He did for me. Changed by his deep unfathomable love for me. I will completely erase the first paragraph above in my heart and mind, for I am a new creation. I will however leave it here in this post for the benefit of someone who can relate.