Monday, January 05, 2009


Just read a great email my husband sent me from The Purpose Driven Life: Margin or Marginless? What a great way to start out my first day back at work in 2009 (and the rest of my life for that matter). Perhaps you too will benefit from some thoughtful reflection regarding "margin" in your life this coming year.

Here are some quotes and paraphrases from the article (italics added for emphasis by me):

Do you have breathing room, a place to get away from it all?
A lot of people are on overload and headed for a crash. Not me, I thought - I always stop and regroup before crashing (Yeah, right! I go 200 mph or 0 mph.)
Consider these statistics:

• People now sleep 2½ fewer hours each night than people did a hundred years ago.
• The average work week is longer now than it was in the 1960s.
• The average office worker has 36 hours of work piled up on his or her desk. It takes us three hours a week just to sort through it and find what we need.
• We spend eight months of our lives opening junk mail, two years of our lives playing phone tag with people, and five years waiting for people who are late for meetings.

We’re a piled-on, stretched-to-the limit society that is chronically rushed, late, and exhausted. Many feel like we have no quiet or rest!

Overload comes from too much activity, change, choices, work, debt, and media exposure in our lives. We’re stressed by information overload; accessibility overload – being connected all the time. We’re stressed by the pace of life.

So what do we do about it? Do we do anything about it? Perhaps the answer is to consciously put some margin into our lives - breathing room, a little reserve. It’s not going from one meeting to the next to the next with no space in between.

Margin is the space between your load and your limit. But most of us are far more overloaded than we can handle, and there is no margin for life in our lives.

Dr. Richard Swenson, MD says: “

The conditions of modern day living devour margin. If you’re homeless we direct you to a shelter. If you’re penniless we offer you food stamps. If you’re breathless we connect you to oxygen. But if you’re marginless we give you one more thing to do. Marginless is being 30 minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were 20 minutes late getting out of the hairdresser because you were 10 minutes late dropping the children off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from a gas station and you forgot your purse. That’s marginless.

“Margin, on the other hand, is having breath at the top of the staircase, money at the end of the month, and sanity left over at the end of adolescence. Margin is grandma taking the baby for the afternoon. Margin is having a friend help carry the burden.

“Marginless is not having time to finish the book you’re reading on stress. Margin is having the time to read it twice. Marginless is our culture. Margin is counter-culture, having some space in your life and schedule. Marginless is the disease of our decade and margin is the cure.”

What are the margins you have in your life to help you maintain? Do you have them? If you don't, what might some be that would help? Can you really effectively pursue your purpose in life without margins?

Happy 2009!


Blogger In Middle-earth said...
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Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Connie

I often find that 'margin' and the control of it, is a cultural thing. The stress associated with the marginless situations you describe is often denied by some or looked on as one's responsibility so shouldn't be discussed.

I say we need to look not only at the margins, or the lack of them, but also the guillotines that cut away the margins. These are clearly societal devices and bound in with those is culture - western culture - for other cultures that preserve the margins get criticism from the westerners. They talk about 'Māori Time' in New Zealand, for instance.

I have sometimes found myself being counselled by workplace pastors (for goodness sake!) who have had this (western) culture inculcated into their beliefs. They talk to me about seeking ways to manage stress levels - that it's my duty to do this sort of thing.

In the workplace employees are given stress management training. There is no training given to those responsible in stressor management.

I use the analogy of the torturer who says, "It's not me who is inflicting pain on you - it's just an impression that you have that it's hurting - you have to learn to cope with that pain".

The guillotines are the stressors, some of which we can control. But there is a limit to how many guillotines one can cut away when, as you describe, there is a scrap-heap of them bearing down all the time.

Society accepts the stressors, often denying that they are there. In particular, society believes that it is our responsibility to learn to cope with those stressors that are recognised.

As long as society makes the guillotines and sees them as part of life, many people within that society are going to be marginless.

Catchya later
from Middle-earth