Summary: How to move on when your life is out of balance

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A Question of Balance

Some of you may be sufficiently old enough to remember the Moody Blues album ‘A Question of Balance’. In it, the songs speak of the desire to find a balance in life, in society, in the world. And although that album was produced over thirty years ago, nevertheless I’m sure that many of us would understand that desire to get a balance in our lives. The sad news is that most of us are struggling to achieve it.

First some bad news.

The Chartered Management Institute conducted a survey in May 2004. The Business Energy Survey questioned over 1,500 managers

§ 20% of managers work an extra 14 hours more than they’re paid for, effectively equating to a seven day week.

§ 43 per cent feel that they are overloaded with work

§ 4 in 10 managers admit to missing family commitments because of work pressure

§ 35 per cent admit to having no energy on weekday evenings because of work

§ 24 per cent of people admit to using the weekend solely to recover from work

§ Only half (53 per cent) claimed to use their full holiday entitlement, (66 per cent last year.)

The way we work is killing us and killing our relationships. This is ’bad’ but if you’re in work it’s probably not news. The indicators have been going downhill for years.

Take, for example, some research from the Institute of Management. Across five key lifestyle measures the results were far worse in just two years:

%’97 %’99

No time for other interests 77 87

Damaging health 59 71

Affects relationship

- with children 73 86

- with partner 72 79

Reduces productivity over time 55 68

And this is affecting just about everyone – including those who don’t work. Research among under 30s suggested that 6 out of 10 feel stressed because of their workloads. There are reports concerning the stress levels in children who are under pressure to achieve the latest government targets. The dynamics of work are affecting every aspect of life. How we work has a profound impact on every area of life and this goes some way to explaining the increasingly high percentage of people on anti-depressants, and the record levels of people who are anxious and ’negatively stressed.

There are times when we seem to be in crisis. And the crisis is not primarily an economic crisis, but is this: how can we flourish economically and still have lives worth living? It is a question of balance.

Sounds familiar?

A life out of balance

Our reading this morning was from Psalms 127 and 128, and you may wish to turn to them with me (page 618). To quote Stevie Wonder, many of the psalms can be described as ‘Songs in the Key of Life’. And these two Psalms are very much in the key of life. They speak to a life which is out of balance. They speak to the life of the worrier, workaholic and to those whose lives feel worthless and pointless. They are a word for those who cannot see beyond the pressures of getting through today.

Just look at the words that we find here. The keyword in these the first few verses is ‘in vain’ or useless. And I guess that there are many of us who at some time or other have felt that our lives have become unbalanced so that we feel that much of what we do is in vain, or useless. That much of what we do is worthless. There are many people who feel that as far as their lives are concerned their work is worthless. It is often the case that the overstressed and worried person will find that, however hard they work, they do not find satisfaction in the work they achieve. And many find that the pressures of their work situation mean that they feel inadequate as parents, knowing that they put far too little time in to spending with their families. My daughter reminded me of some information on the news not so long ago that fathers on average speak to their children for about three minutes a day. So the psalmist is writing very clearly about a life of uselessness.

In verse 2 we read about the life of overwork. We read about burning the candle at both ends. (getting up early and going to bed late) We saw earlier that overwork is a common complaint. We feel under pressure to put in the hours, to achieve the targets. In some jobs presenteeism is more of a problem than absenteeism. Women feel obliged to be perfect employees and perfect mothers. So even when we are not at work we feel we have to work hard. Our children are under pressure to achieve ever increasing educational targets, and as they get older suffer the pressure of increasing student debt. As parents we feel under pressure to provide for our children’s educational needs. A computer, broadband Internet connection, and so on. And in order to achieve it we need to do over time to provide the extra cash.

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