A friend started his new job recently. He started doing over-time work on the third day onwards. This characterizes much of adult working life nowadays. Work changes us more than we realize. And more importantly, how we engage our work changes who we are.
This is a theme explored in Dev Menon's new book The Plate Spinner: A Little Book for Busy Young Adults (Singapore: Graceworks, 2014). The book serves as a guide for many of us who are swamped not only by our work but also other commitments such as friends, church, and family. We are frantically keeping many plates spinning at the same time---not a healthy way to live.
Dev reminds us that many plate spinners like to believe they are handling all the plates well, that they are keeping all of them spinning fine. Yet, the fact is that when we are so stretched, few if not all of the plates are about to fall and break.
We can be physically present a church service or family gathering but we are mentally still working in our office. We may be sitting in a meeting with our clients, yet our mind is going through Bible Study questions for tonight's fellowship in church. He calls this 'Frenetic Plate spinner Syndrome' (p.20).
As Dev points out, our attempt to live a balanced life is impossible:
The whole concept of simply portioning out time and energy to the various segments of life and trying to do all of them well is completely ridiculous. It almost always leads to stress, pain and unrealistic expectations which are never met, causing a deep sense of inadequacy and guilt for those who try to follow, eventually leading to frustration and anger. (pp.31-32.)
Instead of trying to balance our various commitments, Dev recommends centering. We have to make Jesus Christ the center of our life. "Balance is rubbish. Balance will kill you. What we need to do is to centre our lives on... Jesus." (p.57)
When we make Jesus our center, we will learn the re-look at our priorities. We will learn to focus on what is most important at given juncture in our life. And so we also learn when and what to say 'No' to.
However, Dev reminds us that centering our lives around Jesus is itself no easy feat. It takes a lot of time, space, and money. And if we are not careful, centering becomes another plate that we spin. Dev's point is that when Jesus becomes the center of which our lives revolves around, then we don't need to spin any plate. We become the plate that Jesus spins---he is the source of our discernment and motivation in all that we do at any given point in life.
This is a helpful advice for young adults, especially those who just started work. For those who are already spinning plates, Dev has included a checklist as epilogue to help us move forward. Plate spinner might want to consider spinning this book. It might be the only plate you need at this moment.