A couple of weeks ago I posted on how I was beginning to feel a little bit burned out. It was a pretty tough post for me to write for two reasons:
1) I'm not usually a guy who is comfortable "putting himself out there" for people to see. Most people would call this a fear of vulnerability. I'm sure that everyone has it to a certain degree, but sometimes (to be completely transparent) I let it control me. Posting something so personal about myself let people see behind the curtain. I've always had trouble asking for (actually, it's probably more like admitting that I need) help. I knew by posting on what I was dealing with, it would leave me open to criticisms and encouragement. The interesting thing about that is that, most of the time, I handle criticisms very well. Taking them in and learning what I can from them. But when it comes to encouragement, I almost don't know what to do with it. It's like a Chinese newspaper to me. I know what it's for, but I don't know how to use it.
2) It forced me to take a hard look at some things in my life that, up until that point, I hadn't paid that much attention to. (I say that "I didn't pay that much attention" because some of these things I didn't notice, and some of them I purposefully ignored.) I had to take a long look in the mirror and ask myself, "Why am I, a 25 year old dude who has been in professional ministry for only 4 years, feeling as though I'm nearing a place where I am having trouble sustaining the balance between my personal and professional lives?"
In response to these two things, over the past few weeks, I've started to process how I can get myself back to a place where I am functioning at my highest level. I've asked myself a couple of questions to try to understand how I can best do this.
A) When was the last time that, for an extended period of time, I felt like I was at my most balanced and healthy?
B) What was it about me that, at the time, would lead me to characterize myself as healthy and balanced? (i.e. What disciplines, practices, philosophies...)
C) Where am I at right now? (i.e. What's the difference?)
D) What actions do I need to take in order to get me back to that place? Editor's Note: A great follow up to this question, for me at least, has been "Am I committed to doing what's necessary for health?" It's really easy to go through the process of asking yourself all of these questions, arrive at some conclusions, and stop short; thinking that finding the answers to such introspective questions equates achieving personal health. When, really, it's just step one. To finish the journey and reach the goal (of personal and professional health and balance), you have to actually apply your learnings to your life. Knowledge, when applied to life (or experience), is called wisdom.
As a result of asking myself these questions, I've arrived at some better understandings about who I am and the things that I need to do to keep myself healthy, balanced, and excited about all things Josh. This isn't an exhaustive list, mind you. I'm sure that I'll continue to add to it over the next few weeks (or lifetime). But, these are things that I've landed on so far. They're not universal principles for ministry. Nor are they universal principles for living a more Godly life. They're just personal learnings on how I can better get a hold on my life. Hopefully, they might spark something in you and inspire you to reevaluate some things about your own journey.
- In order for my mind to operate to its fullest capacity, I have to continually feed it. Looking back over the past 4 years, I've had all of my best learnings, ideas, and progresses (both professionally AND personally) when I've been reading books. It's almost like my brain doesn't work as well as it should unless I'm consistently putting fresh things into it. As a result of this learning, I need to read at least a book a month in order to keep my brain from atrophying.
- In order for my body to operate to its fullest capacity, I have to work out. I've never been much of an athlete. Unless you count marching band. Which I do. So, I've never really been one to do any type of regular exercise. That is, up until this past January. Over Christmas, I went home, looked down, and realized that I had gained 20lbs since moving to California. So, I got a gym membership, worked with a trainer, and dropped about 24 lbs. So many people have told me this before (and I've never believed them... up until now), but exercise really does make you feel a lot better! I haven't worked out regularly in about a month, and I can definitely feel a difference in my mood and energy level. As a result of this learning, I need to work out at least 3 (preferably 4) times a week in order to keep my mood and energy level up.
- In order to keep my relationship with God healthy, I have to set some practical boundaries that will help me make Him a priority. Some people operate best in the mornings. Some are night owls. As for me, I operate best in social settings in the afternoon or at night. But when it comes to working, studying, or concentrating on anything that requires me to focus and think, mornings work best. This might have something to do with me preferring mornings to be quiet, and solitary. Editor's Note: Read that last sentence as: I don't play well with others before 10am. As a result of this learning, I need to fess up to reality and make my time with God a priority by not turning the TV on in the mornings before work on Tuesdays-Fridays. I will, instead, use that time to be with my God.
- In order to keep me from hating my job, I have to have regular office hours where I actually do work and then leave. I've been so used to being able to goof off during the day if I wanted to because I could stay as late as I wanted. Even come in on Saturday! Yeah... That isn't working anymore. As a result of this learning, I will be in the office for 8 hours a day on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Wednesdays, we have small groups at 7pm. So, I might stay in between, I might go to Barnes & Noble. I WILL NOT work on Saturdays unless absolutely necessary due to an event or special activity. I will hold my Mondays sacred as my day off.
As I said before, this isn't exhaustive. Just what I have so far...