In 1859, world-renowned tightrope walker Charles Blondin crossed the gorge below Niagara Falls on a tightrope, 1100 feet long, 3¼ inches in diameter, 160 feet above the water. It wasn’t enough for him to cross with great care using a balancing pole. He crossed a number of times, always with different theatrical variations: blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man (his manager, Harry Colcord) on his back, sitting down midway while he cooked and ate an omelet, and standing on a chair with only one chair leg on the rope. What on earth led him to decide to risk his life in such novel and extraordinary ways?
Though lacking the life-defying consequences that Blondin scooped into his lap, each of us must decide each day how we are going to show up in the world, what kind of person we are going to be, how we will face challenges and difficulties, and how we will treat people we encounter. We are often so distracted by the many screens we park our faces in front of that, to experience even an ounce of mindfulness or to question what drives us to choose what we choose, holds about as good of odds of winning the lottery.
Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore College professor, citing research results from psychologists, economists, market researchers and decision scientists, talks in his book The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More, that we are faced with over 3,000 media ads and requests for our attention each and every day. Schwartz notes we are constantly being asked to make choices, even about the simplest things. This forces us to "invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, and dread." The cultural abundance we swim in everyday can make it seem difficult, if not impossible, to get a grip on decisions, priorities, and how to balance everything. The principle or self-evident truth that addresses these issues is what we call “The Balance Principle.”
uLEAD’s balance principle states: “Wise choices and planning determine your future today.”
Robert Greenleaf, while unpacking the meaning of foresight for the servant leader, spoke of something called “The Eternal Now.” Let’s be clear that he should not be confused as the originator of the YOLO movement! Rather, Greenleaf recognized that we stand in each moment in time while balancing three roles.
First, we play the role of historian. As historian we look back and learn from our history of what worked and why. In this process, rather than looking for a safe place to hunker down inside the box of the way we’ve always done things, we instead mine for wisdom from consequences of our past decision-making or lack thereof.
Second, we play the role of contemporary analyst. This role requires us to live with eyes, hearts, and minds open to notice, describe, synthesize, and apply what we are learning to our current experience in ways that bring life, health, and wellbeing to ourselves, others, and the world.
Third, we play the role of prophet or futurist. In this role we are required to tap into not only our intuition, but a deep ethical consciousness where improv, empathy, vision, and risk-taking merge to propel us forward.
Life is a journey full of opportunities and decision points that set us on a path, either toward healthy and desired outcomes, or away from them. To plan and choose wisely amidst the myriad of competing options requires that we balance three essential roles found in embracing reality with the mindset of The Eternal Now.