The Best Things

The Best Things

“Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”–Voltaire’s Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764)

Literally translated as “The best is the enemy of good.”

I have read many interpretations of what this saying means. Many of which make sense (not striving for unattainable perfection or being content with what is good in our life–great thoughts). The way I interpret it is a bit different, but it is food for thought as I am contemplating my new year.

So often in life we are doing good things. Wonderful things! Fun things. Important things. But in being distracted by the good, we miss out on what are really the BEST things. The enemy of what is best for us in our life or schedule is often something really good. That is what makes juggling our life and day so difficult. We know what is really bad for us, those things are usually pretty obvious, but can we discern between the good and the best? Do I need to say no to some of the good stuff in order to have time for the best?

Edited to add: I am thinking, for one example, BEST would be to spend time with my husband in the evening. There are lots of GOOD things I do all day that often make me too tired, distracted or busy in the evening to spend time with him. This is where I think I could grow in the year 2008. Not filling up my days with so many GOOD things (friends, work that I love, cleaning, volunteering, creating, blogging) that I miss out on the BEST things. Not perfection, but things I treasure the most. There are good things in life and best things in life. The best ones for me are often neglected in a sea of good things.

Just thinking.

The Best Things

Images via Architectural Digest from the book: Private Views: Inside the World’s Greatest Homes

Balanced Living in 2008

Balanced Living in 2008

One of the things I think about each year in January 1 is how am I going to keep all the balls in the air this year? Not just the work, but the fun things I want to do. There are oodles of things I should do or want to do and I want to do them well. I have so many responsibilities and creative ideas tugging at me I can barely see straight sometimes. I consider myself a fairly ambitious woman. Now, I am not climbing a corporate ladder, a high profile career woman, or even a master of all things Martha by any stretch of the imagination — hence the word “fairly” to describe ambitious in the previous sentence. It is all relative. But I work hard in everything I set my mind to and my mind gets its heart set on a whole bunch of things. Maybe I am a dreamer. Yeah, that’s not far from the truth.

Obviously there are all types of women. Some women are just “hardworking” people whether they work outside the home or not. Some stay home theoretically to “not be so busy” and in their first week as “homemakers” they’ve volunteered to help at school or church, started a business, cleaned every nook and cranny of the house, cooked elaborate meals, entertained more, shopped more, and blogged more. Lo and behold, life is too busy again and they wonder why they can’t seem to do it all! I am guilty of this for sure.

You can always fill up whatever time you have available to you and be exhausted, unfocused or unhappy — or spend every dollar you make and still feel you don’t have enough! You can waste precious time or money every day just because it is available to waste. You may feel like you have had a great day, but have misused the time and talents God has given to you on things that aren’t that important to the big picture of your life. You lose sight of what or who you are truly passionate about. Eventually that catches up with us in one way or another.

Priorities are lost in too much free time, too much spontaneity, lack of planning, getting caught up in less than important projects or gasp, even the all-too-common and fun internet surfing. Yeah, blogging and surfing can be inspirational but it can also be a TIME WASTER. There, I said it. A little free time is great and absolutely necessary for our well-being. Too much freedom can wreak havoc on our minds, bodies, spiritual lives, children and productivity.

Not every woman feels the need to be super productive or have a well-balanced life. Some women are content to wake up every day with a wide-open day ahead to fill up as they choose. Whims dictate how the day goes. While I admit I dream about those days (and on the surface, what is not to love about a life of whims?!), I just don’t experience too many of them. I feel accountable for my time and tend to want to use it effectively (according to my priorities in life) whether someone pays me or not. Whims and priorities can both be good and necessary things in our life. Both can contribute to our happiness and well-being, as long as they are in proper balance. Not equal, but appropriate balance.

That is why I love the concept of margins.

Having margins of time and money set aside in our life allow us to relax, be spontaneous, have fun, care about other people when a need pops up and limits stress in our life. It gives us the feeling of accomplishment and freedom, both necessities for balanced living. Margins allow for whims and flights of fancy, as well as the unexpected events life throws at us. Priorities keep us focused on the daily responsibilities. I think we need both clearly defined priorities and open margins to feel life is all it should be.

From my perspective, you can have a well-lived life whether you are a career woman or a homemaker or a combination of the two. None of our titles predict our effectiveness in life. We all have choices to make in how we spend our time. Staying at home doesn’t guarantee having the right priorities or result in a happier life any more than having a career guarantees we will neglect our priorities and have miserable families.

We are all facing different challenges and demands on our time, but it is what we do with and in spite of them that really matters.

If I live in the margins and have no structure to my life, my days will likely spin out of control in a whirlwind of whims. I find that to be unhealthy and a recipe for disaster. If my margins are too small or not adhered to, I feel the life being choked out of me by my To Do list. It is a delicate balance, one we all have address in our own lives, according to our own priorities, responsibilities, challenges and personalities. Paycheck or not, career or not, time marches on for all of us. It is a new year and I intend to make the best of the life I have been given.

Post was inspired by Rhoda‘s post on careers, staying at home and starting our own businesses! I wish her the best in her new adventure, and I wish all of you the best of success in 2008 in all of your endeavors! Thanks to Manuela for encouraging me to write this post today!

Photo is from cottage living.