by Jim Walter
Who gets your time? In the digital age, the question is more complicated than it used to be. Who do you choose to prioritize, and how do you invest in them? If you’re a leader building your business or organization, you’re likely thinking about this question a lot – after all, your time is limited. Who gets access to you, and who do you reach out to?
We have a tendency to group other humans into buckets. Have you felt this pull? Some voices will tell you to be ruthless with your time, choosing only to give your hours and minutes to people who can benefit you. Others may say that you should endlessly pour yourself out for those who you can help. Either way, they’re making broad generalizations about how we interact with the people in our lives.
I love the parable of the Good Samaritan as a tool for thinking about this. If you haven’t heard this ancient story, it’s about a man who’s beaten and left for dead at the side of the road. As he’s lying helpless, two well-to-do men pass him by without helping. A third, a member of a lower social class, is the only one to stop and help…he’s the “Good Samaritan.” When I was younger and more simplistic, I thought this story seemed straightforward. Be the guy who helps his neighbor – easy!
Who Are We Responsible To?
Now that I’m older and more handsome, I realize how difficult this concept really is. Who exactly is the “neighbor”? Is it my team? My family? Random people in the grocery store? In order to be successful, we’re constantly told to optimize everything. We’re supposed to be strategic. We’re supposed to stick to a schedule and move forward on our goals. As a leader, you’re likely feeling this call with even more intensity. People are depending on you to stay focused and dedicated – everyone needs your time.
When it comes to questions like this – the ones that tug at your heart – there are no easy answers. In many instances, we rely on expert middlemen to tell us what to do. In this case, we have to do the hard heart work ourselves. How do you balance the needs of your family, your organization, people in your social circles, and people online? Who is your “neighbor”?
In this case, I think we might be asking the wrong question. Rather than defining the type of people who get your time and attention (“who is my neighbor?”), we should ask the reverse (“what kind of person am I?”) The task is not to define our neighbor – the task is to act like one.
Asking a Better Question
There’s a tendency to push these questions aside, and hope that everything sort of works itself out. Resist that tendency. Deciding when it’s best to stick to your schedule and when you need to flex is a difficult but important question. Relationships, community, and business are never theoretical. They are always found in the quality of being a neighbor. Life is not about rubbing shoulders with only the “right” people. Life (and good business) isn’t just about profit – it’s about giving grace, sharing kindness, and offering compassion. That is an important part of the Intention Collective.
When you feel the tendency to define others – these ones are helpful, these ones are worthless, these ones make me money, these ones will further my career – stop and change the conversation. Ask how you can become a better neighbor, servant, and a leader of people. Want to have great relationships? Want to be a part of a great family? A great business? A great community? Don’t protect yourself, your thinking, your social connections, or your status. Don’t try to identify your neighbors…ACT LIKE ONE.
If you want help refining your values and balancing competing drives in your life, that’s what we’re here for. Connect with us.