A Story of Balls and Work-Life Balance…How Do You Prioritize?

Hamster Ball by Jordan L Hawk from WANA Commons

Welcome to Thoughty Thursday! This is the day of the week that y’all get to be privy to whatever thoughts are kicking around in my brain.

Today I’m thinking about work-life balance and how freaking hard it is to achieve. I got some help on this from a very unexpected source this week.

You’ll never guess where…

Give up? (Seriously, you’ll never guess…)

I got the inspiration at WORK.

Many of you know that I do adult education by day and I currently work with a group of accountants.

You wouldn’t think an accounting firm would be a hotbed of sexy thought-provoking concepts, right? I know I sure didn’t. Yet, in the two years I’ve been working with these cats, I’ve learned more about writing and work-life balance than I ever expected to know.

THIS quote came up in a prep session for Not For Profit Corporations:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

~ Brian Dyson (b. 1935) CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises

I’ve had that quote on my mind all week.

I can’t tell you what a freeing concept that is after the many, many times I’ve gone far past my limits for work. I think it stems from the idea we Americans have that our work defines us more than the other four balls.

[Newsflash: It doesn’t!]

Here’s a story about a writer who learned this lesson the hard way and wrote a lovely post using this same quote. It was also used by James Patterson in “Suzanne’s Diary to Nicholas.”

And if that wasn’t enough magnificence about “the balls,” check out this video (watching this guy juggle mesmerized me):

And here’s the quote that headlined the Not For Profit workshop I mentioned above – it mirrors my philosophy here at More Cowbell:

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.~ John Wooden

What are your thoughts on the “five balls?” Do they play into your blogging philosophy or are they completely different? What is your blogging philosophy? Do you have a quote that you live by? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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36 Responses to A Story of Balls and Work-Life Balance…How Do You Prioritize?

  1. milenanik3 says:

    very interesting post indeed.


  2. Sharla Rae says:

    Nice reminder Jen. My wake up call while here taking care of my son with cancer was the horrendous headaches I’m enduring. Meds don’t touch them but when a doc mentioned muscle tightening, I rolled my shoulders and pain stabbed my neck and upper shoulders. Why? No me time or as you have stated “spirit.” I’m looking for something to use that will help relieve the problem and I’m also thinking I need a once a week massage for while. I honestly believe that if the spirit isn’t well, the other balls all go flat.


  3. Love the analogy!!! How amazing and the visualization allows us to really connect and “get it”! It’s always about prioritizing what’s most important to you and making sure you keep that ball in the air.
    I took a one day course once on the 7 habits of highly effective people. My favorite visual was this old video that demonstrated when you put the big rocks (most important things) in your life first, all the sand (the less important things) will still fit. But if you fill your time with sand, you won’t have enough time for all the big rocks. That’s always stuck with me.
    The suggestion was that one day a week (usually Sunday), for your personal and your professional life you outline the big rocks for that week and you schedule them in. Period. Then you let the sand fall around. That way, you always make sure you do what matters to you most!
    Love it!
    It’s still a struggle but…I’m way better. I ask myself more and more often “what’s most important to me?” Keeping that in mind, it’s easier to determine what to say “yes” to and what to walk away from.
    Here’s the video. 6 minutes but so worth it!


  4. K.B. Owen says:

    This is sooo true, Jenny! Especially when you have kids – I think of the “Cat’s Cradle” song, where the young man grows up so fast, and the dad was too busy when the kid needed him. You can’t get that back. We need to take the time to engage and cherish while we have them. *sniff*

    P.S. – Hope your little one is better soon!


  5. The 5 balls metaphor is really profound. The juggling video is crazy. I have difficulties with keeping just two literal balls in the air.

    And thanks for the Stephen Covey video, Natalie. It is so easy to fill our days with sand and never advance the bigger, more difficult goals that would really satisfy us.


  6. Love the 5 balls quote. That juggling video reminds me of a couple of guys in high school who were known as the “Unknown Jugglers,” LOL, they were always practicing in the halls and preforming at the assemblies. Extremely talented!

    That rocks and sand video is also awesome, Natalie.

    Love this post Jenny. Fabulous reminders to keep what’s most important in our lives in the forefront.


  7. donnagalanti says:

    Jenny, I like the balls in the air! Makes me want to get up in the morning and face the day 🙂 My fave quote to live by that keeps me trucking? “Even if you’re on the right path, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers


  8. Thoughtful post, Jenny. Appreciate it. My favorite quote that I live by is, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle


  9. You are absolutely right, Jenny. It’s all about balance and never losing sight of what truly matters.


  10. Julie Glover says:

    I currently feel like I’m juggling eggs. Life is scrambled. Great reminder, Jenny.


  11. This is why I usually (and I say usually ) I stay off the computer and don’t deal much with the email or writing or blogging. Yeah, I hop on and check on comments. Sometimes. But weekends are the one time I try really hard not to say, “Sorry, Mom is working.” You are so right Jenny, prioritizing our lives is paramount. 🙂


  12. love the juggling picture, Jenny. I’ve recently got caught in this mess….time for my kids and grandkids but none for me. work, work, work. my excuse? i’m single, live alone and I ‘can handle it’. and I did. Until I couldn’t stand even looking at my computer. or anything associated with the ‘work’ of writing. so i’ve spent the summer healing and getting massages and relaxing and having fun. because I am the one who juggles all those balls and if I don’t look after Louise, none of the rest matters


  13. “If you drop it, it will bounce back.” Love that.

    Taking time to work on whatever project or work I’m most passionate about daily—preferably early—really helps me stay sane on hectic juggling days. I’ve also learned to set boundaries and say “no” when necessary, and like many am still a WIP. 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      That’s an excellent way to manage your time, August. Getting the big stuff out of the way early. Stephen Cannell liked to do it that way and he swore by it. 🙂


  14. Wonderful post. The quote is spot-on, and I’m glad to have learned its truth sooner rather than later. Have a great weekend! 🙂


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  17. S. J. Maylee says:

    How did you know, this is so what I needed. Thank you, Jenny 🙂


  18. Adrian Pyle says:

    It might seem pedantic to some, but…. One piece of language I’m trying to reform is the use of the term “work/life balance.” If language shapes our reality even just a little bit, then “work/life balance” – although its meant to be have positive connotations – must be reinforcing some negative views of life for all of us. Work and life are not somehow distinct “realities” that we can balance. “Work” is surely not meant to be devoid of “life.” Equally, considered, engaged and relational work can surely be part of a highly connected, health-ful life (even potentially a very big part of it). I know the term is coined to try to get us to live in a more “balanced” way but I suspect it simply allows those who see “work” and “life” as mechanically disconnected realities, to continue with that problematic viewpoint – and to continue tinkering with work to make it a “bit more friendly” rather than reforming the notion of work and its part in a whole life..


  19. Catherine Johnson says:

    Super post Jenny! That is a wonderful concept and sounds very kiwi. Since I moved to Canada from New Zealand all the lovely work/life balance that they achieve so well is washed away in look at me busy working of North America. I do hope North America embraces a quality over quantity attitude and gets out to play too 🙂


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