In the early 90’s physicist and physician, Dr. Richard Swenson wrote a book entitled, #Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. The bestseller was updated and republished in 2004.
Swenson specializes in cultural medicine observing and writing on the intersection of culture, health, faith, and the future. His main observation for the best-seller and five subsequent books on the subject is how fast our lives are going and the disastrous amount of stress, overload, change and anxiety we have created, or allowed to control us. He wrote the book when the #Blackberry was king. Think about that as the first #iPhone wasn’t even sold until 2007.
Swenson identifies #margin as: “Margin is the space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience. It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap; the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most.” He offers career, marriage, parenting and mental health saving advice with practical steps we can take to increase the margin in our lives.
I’ve cited this book in blogs and leadership papers since my first read. It became one of my annual “must-reads,” to help me remember the importance of margin and find practical ways to create marginal space and protect it in my life. Get the book it’s worth the read!
Life is running at an alarming pace. If Swenson thought we were running such a dangerous race 27 years ago and again in 2012, what do you think our pace is now? We are driven by our #smartphones, #business, #deadlines, #metrics and #analytics. We no longer “leave work,” because it comes home with us on our phones. We can play with the kids, cook a meal together and still send out four emails, or close deals in the kitchen on our phones. What about the entire family, or couple in a restaurant we’ve all seen, totally disengaged from the moment and looking at their phones instead of the people they love most?
But, who is asking if we should? Is this good for us? What are the long-term implications for mental, emotional, relational and physical health? I am absolutely thankful I did not parent in the age of smartphones.
Easy, I’m not bashing and have used one for years. I’m simply saying that there is no way I could’ve been “in the moment,” with my wife and kids with an #iPhone in my hand. Not for my personality at the age of 25-40. I wouldn’t have had the discipline to put my phone on silent, DND, or off while at home.
At this point in life as empty nester’s and proud grandparents actively engaged with our children and their kids, I even loathe the need to have my smartphone at home because like you, we no longer have a landline and need it on for personal calls and emergencies.
If you are a workaholic, have compulsive tendencies, or full blown, I urge you to put your phone down when you are not at work and off during meetings and lunches. I know of one brilliant manager in a major automotive manufacturer in the South who was always on the phone so much that his wife took away his work iPhone before they went to an island vacation because she knew he would be on his phone working at 4am responding to matters back at the office. Hello! Is this resonating with anyone?
When do you unplug? When do you unwind? When do you carve out and protect time with those you love insuring that nothing pierces, or interrupts the redemption of time? My hunch is many cannot answer this, or can only offer tepid examples. When you are at the kids’ games/practice turn your phone off. When you eat together and play together turn the phone off. Trust me on this, ‘THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN TIME INVESTED WITH THOSE WE LOVE.”
My boss, now an empty nester like me has modeled this for years. Every Thursday evening they have their entire family over for a family meal. No interruptions. They do it again every Sunday after church. Sure there are times when they all can’t gather, but more often than not the entire family is present. It’s important to them and something they have come to value and protect. This is a prime example of finding and guarding margin. Where is your margin?