How to Lead a More Balanced Life

This is a guest post by Todd Stocker. He is the Executive Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hudson, Wisconsin. You can read his blog or follow him on Twitter.

My backside aches this morning. Forty miles of riding a bike with a well worn seat will do that to you. But this pain is nothing compared to what almost happened yesterday.

Bicyclist’s Viewpoint in a Dangerous Intersection - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/TommL, Image #18016654

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/TommL

As Kellie and I ventured through the countryside on our twenty-one speeds, we experienced a pain that many people experience in their own personal lives and don’t even know it. Here’s what happened and how it relates to you.

When I’m riding, I have a habit of looking over my shoulder to see if anyone else is coming and also to take a second look at something I just passed. At one point yesterday, traveling twenty mph, I executed my habitual over-the-shoulder look to re-see a beautiful lilac bush.

Turning my gaze forward, I realized I was off balance, heading from the paved path and into the forest where certain death awaited! (Cue dramatic music). A quick correction and I was back on track and not in the hospital. Thank you, Jesus!

The application? Many of you are constantly looking over your shoulder at your past and not keeping your eye on the present and future. Past fears, failures and even success keeps your life off balance and off focus. As a result, moving forward is difficult if even possible.

So how should we keep our balance between our past, present and future? Try this: “Glance at the past. Work in the present. Focus on the future.”

  • Glance at the past. When I was biking, it occurred to me that my problem wasn’t the look into what I passed but rather the length of the look. Glancing is better than looking. Your past is helpful but don’t get stuck. Remember past events with the attitude of a learner but only briefly. Let yesterday’s success and failure be guides for today’s activities. Five percent of your time should be spent here.
  • Work in the present. In other words, be in the moment. Establish your priorities and goals and be diligent on what needs to be done today. Seventy percent of your activity should be engaged here.
  • Focus on the future. Look forward to where you want or need to go. Where your eyes are fixed is where the rest of your “biking” will take you. Twenty-five percent of your focus should be set here.

Finally, remember that God says not to worry about yesterday or tomorrow and not to waste the day that He gave you. He also encourages you and me to enjoy the journey with all of its bumps and success!

Question: What do you tend to spend most of your time—past, present, or future? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.reflectionsofhisgrace.com Joan

    “Glance at the past, live in the present, focus on the future.” Just what I needed to hear today.

    • http://www.peterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

       Joan, I was going to make the same comment!

      (I’m not sure if Todd is quoting himself or someone else. I’d like to share these words with others and want to cite the proper source.)

      • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

         Peter,
        Humbly, yes.  Those are mine.  Feel free to share with whomever you’d like. 
        Todd

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Joan,
      I’m glad this helped.  Feel free to share that phrase with others as you see fit. 
      Peace! 
      Todd

      • corydoiron

        I’m with you all! Those are great filters to process daily life through

    • http://twitter.com/toddvaters Todd Vaters

      I agree. I tweeted the post with this quote since 140 characters wouldn’t allow me to do a quote and a title. :-)

  • gthopkins

    Great post. I notice I tend to focus a bit more on whatever seems most appealing at the time. It depends. If the promise of the future seems brighter or the celebration of a past success is more attractive, my focus could linger on the more enjoyable illusion. The trick is to be aware of my shifts in focus so I can adjust quickly, you you did on your ride. The 70-25-5 focus works much better.  I appreciate the reminder.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    If you spend 50% of your time in the past and 50% in the future, it balances out to living in the present 100% of the time. 

    • http://derekouellette.com/ Derek Ouellette

      Doesn’t that mean your spending 0% of your time in the present?

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        No, because past and future cancel each other out.

        • http://derekouellette.com/ Derek Ouellette

          Ummm… Alrighty then.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    Learn from the past and move forward. Your past can either define or shape you. Your choice & big difference. The Proverb “a man’s mind plans his way but the Lord direcs his steps” to me gives great guidance to making plans with a focus on the future but to live in the now ministering as opportunities are presented.

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Kari,
      The whole of Proverbs 16 is a lesson in purpose and direct.  Thanks for the comment.
      Todd

      • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

        Very true Todd. Another thing I have discovered about a balanced life is that it’s relative. Everyone balances their lives differently.

  • http://rachelmariemartin.blogspot.com/ Rachel Martin

    I love the insight in your words, Todd. Thank you. I think it’s all too easy to begin to lose sight of the gift found in today – and I love how you shared to, “glance at the past, live in the present, and focus on the future.”  Wise words, ones that will bless many, including myself today.
    Thank you!

  • Jennifr

    Great perspective!
    Don’t you use your bike mirror to look back into the past, though? :-)

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Jen,
      It broke off when I crashed the last time.  Great advice though!!!
      Todd

  • http://twitter.com/KrisHopes Kris Wood

    Will be quoting you when I speak at a retreat in March.  Superbly done!

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Thank you Kris.  On what topic are you speaking?

  • annepeterson

    Todd, while I appreciate your post and like the illustration you used with the mirrors. Aren’t you making the assumption our pasts are such we can just glance at them? 

    There are some who struggle to stay in the present, who cannot imagine a future as they try to break free of their past. I’d have to say most of my time used to be spent in the past. Trying to understand things only God understands. But God is Jehovah Rapha – the one who heals. He has enlarged my world. I am now able to be in the present, with my two little grandsons. I can see and almost taste a future. And my past is slipping into the place God intended. But it’s never been a matter of me making a decision to do this. And it definitely hasn’t been as easy as a bike ride. 

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Anne,  Well said and I agree!
      Often times in our spiritual walk, we cannot step forward with the Grace of forgiveness from God.  He always forgives us but it is harder for us to forgive ourselves.  I had a personal tragedy a few years ago that has taken me 3 years to move beyond.  (you can read about it under “Makenzie” at my website toddstocker.com.  This post was designed more toward career or work environments but I completely understand the personal side as well.  Thanks for your clarification! 
      Peace.
      Todd

      • annepeterson

        Thanks for the link to your site. I have read about the tragic loss of your daughter, Makenzie. It is evident she gave your family a lot of joy. I’m very sorry for your loss.

  • http://www.brandongilliland.com/ Brandon Gilliland

    Very neat post! Thanks for sharing!

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  • Mike

    Thank you Todd. This is very helpful personally as I do not spend enough time focused on the future and wrestle with how much time to “glance at the past”. I also am a Life Coach for a number of leaders working in other countries and will use your words when I address life balance, forwarding this blog. Thanks again.

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Your welcome, Mike.  Feel free to share the thoughts with others.
      Todd

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I like the glance.  We often spend too much time looking back.  I like the focus.  We need to consider our future and be prepared.  But most of all, I like the present.  I think Jesus, like many other spiritually enlightened, taught us to predominantly live in the here and now.  

  • Guest

    I heard a psychiatrist once say that it is mentally unhealthy to get stuck looking in the past “hoping for a different past” or looking in the future and “catastrophizing”.  Doing either will cause us to crash.  For most of the time we need to attend to the now.

  • Ed

    I think a major problem illustrated here – both with life and your bike ride – is the speed at which we are moving forward. Often there is something in the past that is worth a second look, even some meditation time. But you can’t afford that at 20mph on two wheels!

    Yes, there are things in the present that need to be done quickly. And things in the past that deserve little more than a glance. There are also those moments when we need to realize that we are taking more pleasure in moving forward quickly than in moving forward purposefully.

    For your bike ride illustration: If you find yourself at the end of the ride listing all the beautiful things you missed because of the speed, maybe it’s time to slow down. Okay, so you don’t have the bragging rights of going farther and faster. Then again, if health or other goals necessitate the exertion, then give yourself to that and quit risking crashes on things that don’t matter.

    Living a balanced life often requires choices about priorities that may well leave something desirable or beautiful on the table because it simply doesn’t fit this scenario. You must drop it or risk greater loss (is a lilac bush worth two weeks in the hospital?), or re-work your purpose, goals, and methods.

    The key is to apply thought and decide before you get too fa lr into it. It’s hard changing directions at top speed, and it’s heart-breaking to realize a goal is quite out of reach because you were in 3rd gear instead of 18th.

    • http://www.philippknoll.com/ Philipp Knoll

      Ed, this is a great reply! Love your stream of thought. However, to me the key point is living in the present and embracing every moment. If you truly live the moments while in them there isn’t so much need to turn around and take a second look. Of course, speed is also an issue. Perhaps we tend to rush through the magical moments of life too much.

      What I try to accomplish is finding balance between being in the moment and letting the moment pass when it’s time to make room for the next great moment.

    • Kingtubbo

      I was glad to come across this article and Ed’s reply today. Both were very timely reading material for me as, for the last few years, I have been dealing with certain issues from my past that I only gave a glance to before but now, due to personal necessity, have to examine. Delving into the past, even with professional help, can be messy, and the past can seem as murky and threatening as the sea. Yet I remind myself that the past is over, untouchable, and not where I live. Reviewing the past helps me live better in the present and make decisions better in the future, but it is for reference only. Also, Ed’s observation that priorities may necessitate leaving something behind because it’s “simply doesn’t fit this scenario” is spot on and reminds me to be grateful for all I have been given and didn’t need to leave behind.

  • http://tommartinatl.com/ Tom Martin

    I enjoyed your post Todd and a great reflective question for the community to ponder. 

    The present-minded “me-centric” thinking of my 20′s & early 30′s shifted to reflection of past mistakes and failures when I realized life wasn’t only about me and what I could accomplish as I reached my 40′s. Three bouts with cancer taught me to cherish the present and trust God period with the future. Today I’m focusing on leveraging my past and the life lessons learned to make a difference in the present and impact the future.

    Life lesson:  “Your windshield is bigger than your rear-view mirror for a reason!”

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Tom,
      I love your life lesson phrase.  Thanks for contributing!
      Todd

  • http://twitter.com/walthampton Walt Hampton

    Wow, what a beautiful piece. Thank you. It’s so easy to get stuck in the past, beating ourselves up; or fixated on what might be; and how challenging it is to be truly present in this in this very moment where there is there is so much potential for distraction and worry.  You offer the perfect balance.

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Glad it helps, Walt.
      Keep up the good fight!
      Todd

  • Judith Robl

    Thanks so much, Todd.  I just posted your quote to my FB profile.  Love the balance of it.

    We remember the past, fleetingly, just to navigate from. We focus on the present because that is what we have at hand at the moment and the only thing we can really do anything about. We look to the future to help direct the present in the direction we want to go.  The chalk line between where we were and where we want to be makes it easier to stay on the correct path today.

  • http://www.brandonkraft.com/ Brandon Kraft

    Related, a deacon at my boyhood parish once mentioned something similar while riding a motorcycle and “target fixation”. You’ll go where you look so keep focused on Christ (and your goals, etc).

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Brandon,
      I drove race cars at Bondurant Speedway in Phoenix.  We learned about “target-fixation” and how that will save a driver in the midst of a deadly collision.  Sounds a bit spiritual, huh?   Thanks for your thoughts.
      Todd

  • http://strategexe.com Adam Robinson, MBA

    We are who we are today because of our past. We need to acknowledge that, but not dwell on the past. We have too much living in front of us to spend much time worrying about what is behind us.

  • Optimisticgladness

    This is so good!  Thank you for a great post!

  • BryanRButz

    I tend to spend way too much time looking at the past. I often let my past failures keep me from acting in the present, there by greatly limiting my future.

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Bryan, ME TOO Brother!  That’s why it takes intentionality!

  • http://www.bendempsey.net/ Ben Dempsey

    Well written post Todd!  For me it use to be the past and how many times I had failed.  I would fret on that and it would prevent me from moving forward.  I finally took a stand and said NO MORE!  Today I focus on the present.  Taking it one step, one day at a time.  Setting realistic goals that will help me gain traction for the future.  Failures and plateau will occur, but we must be able to learn and move past.

  • Shingd4

    I shared the last three short paragraphs of your post in my blog:shingheartwriter13.com
    For me it would be worth sharing. I hope you don’t mind.

  • http://www.margaretfeinberg.com/ Margaret

    “my problem wasn’t the look into what I passed but rather the length of the look.”–so true! Sometimes it’s healthy to take a glance back and see how far we’ve come! 

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Agreed!  There are times when a good healthy evaluation might be just the thing we need to work better today and in the future!

  • http://www.askjeremyjones.com/ Jeremy Jones

    glance at the past, focus on the future!  

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  • http://www.NateAnglin.com/ Nate Anglin

    This is an issue encountered by so many people but what you’ve wrote is truly one of the greatest blessings in life. We have the ability to learn from our past, making the choices we make in the present much more valuable. 

    You’ll see the people who dwell on the past are always stuck in the past and the same can be true for the future.  People who only look in the future, are stuck in the future and become just dreamers. A balance of these three visions, but more emphasis on the present, is how we become “doers”. 

    Excellent post. Thank you!

    Nate

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       I think all of us have that tendency, Nate.  That’s why it takes intentionality to have the balance.  Thanks for your comment!

      • http://www.NateAnglin.com/ Nate Anglin

         Agreed. I am guilty just as much as everyone else.

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  • http://www.caminomyway.com/ Randall St Germain

    Excellent post, Todd. Any time I find myself dwelling in the past and looking behind, I’ll think of riding a bicycle, about to ride off a cliff.

    • http://www.toddstocker.com/ Todd Stocker

       Randall, as with biking, balance is a key component!  Thanks for the comment!

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  • http://joewickman.com/ Joe Wickman

    “Glance at the past. Work in the present. Focus on the future.” – Got it. Just shared it.
    There are some ugly wrecks in my past. I’d prefer to avoid more of them. Looking ahead will doubtlessly help in that pursuit.

    • http://www.NateAnglin.com/ Nate Anglin

       I hear you Joe. I can look back at some situations and wonder how I made it through the “wreck”. Their is no doubt that I have learned from all of them as I’m sure you have to.

  • Egwumba Uche

    This is the ’Wake Up’ call I need. It has got to be. I do more than glance at the past. I almost live there…it’s a sort of delayed transition and I find myself dwelling in the past (much more than required) that it completely stalls the present. No thanks to a lot of unfinished business. Thanks Todd, and Michael..I remain grateful for this forum.

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  • http://twitter.com/capturehappy Michael C. Hernandez

    Buy a new saddle. Never go cheap on shoes, a saddle, or toilet paper. All 3 will eventually become a pain in the butt.

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