I’m fortunate enough to work with a lot of leaders and practicing managers on a daily basis, and my work with them is in such a capacity that I am privy to, among many other things, their spiritual aches and pains — as leaders, certainly, but also as people leading regular, everyday lives.
Emerging from these aches and pains is a very common theme — the lack of margin.
Extensively researched and written about by Dr. Richard Swenson, margin is a wonderful, simple concept — the difference between your load and your limits. Or, in the language of business, what’s left over after the bills are paid.
Margin can be expressed in the context of money, physical health and energy, relationships and time — but most of the yearning for margin I hear from leaders, managers and professionals comes in the context of time. Or, more accurately, the lack of it. After all the activities, emergencies, tasks, demands of others, deadlines, to-do lists, there is a stunning lack of time for doing the meaningful work they want and need to do, spending time with people they care about, or engaging in reflection and renewal. In short, time not filled with tasks, deadlines, activities and urgencies.
Modern life is a thief of margin. Rather, the circumstances of modern life collude with our own desires and expectations to rob us of margin — either in time, money, health, or our relationships.
Modern life (and our desires and expectations) has created the monster commute. This article from the New Yorker is not only a fascinating description of this growing phenomenon, but also a ghastly illustration of true, marginless living.
Man, how long should anybody live like that?