Recently, I was reminded of the importance of margin in living a focused life.
Margin is the secret ingredient that makes achieving our hopes and dreams possible. It’s the glue that holds everything together.
One of the things I love about The Focus Course is the way it takes into account the unique values and roles each individual carries. It doesn’t offer quick fixes or life hacks.
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You don’t have to know much about cars to know that engine oil is important. There is no faster way to destroy a car engine than to drive without oil. It’ll come to a screeching halt faster than you can say “mechanic.”
But running an engine low on oil also isn’t recommended. It may not destroy the engine, but it’s definitely going to shorten its life span.
We really only get one engine in life and margin is like oil.
Margin and Your Values
At its core, margin is breathing room. It’s the margin of safety for engineers. A rainy day savings account. Margin is having space to accommodate the unexpected events in life. When that space is lacking, the smallest of setbacks can tip us over the edge.
As mentioned above, one of the things that sets The Focus Course apart is the value-based approach. Starting with your values empowers you to apply and adapt the application in every season or stage of life. A value-based approach will never get old or go out of style. Even amidst global pandemic or economic crisis, you can still find ways to embody and live out your values.
Now, we may not embody our values perfectly, but we strive toward an ideal. Just like a car engine needs oil to operate as it was designed, we need margin to live out our values the way we intend.
When it comes to living out our values, margin is interconnected. To embody and live out our ideals, we must have a sufficient level of emotional, physical, and mental margin. Living into our values requires margin.
To Fight for Margin is to Fight for Your Values
So if margin is the secret ingredient that enables a life of purpose and intention, then it must be protected at all costs.
Margin is quite literally the reserves we dip into for life’s unexpected moments. And in those unexpected moments, there’s either something in reserve or there isn’t.
If we hope to live out our values the way we envision our ideal self, then we must prioritize and fight for margin. For we will not suddenly come into a life with margin. The strategy of every business and product is a life with less margin.
Quite simply, margin is resisted.
When you make a difficult trade-off to embrace margin, you are making a choice to prioritize what is ultimate: the values you embody and desire to live out.
Fighting for margin is…
- Reading for five minutes before bed instead of mindlessly scrolling in bed.
- Scheduling 15-minute buffer periods before and after meetings
- Doubling the estimated time for a task
- Sleeping with your smartphone in a different room
- Choosing to live below your means and ignoring the FOMO
- Keeping your phone in your pocket in the grocery line
- Driving the speed limit
- Dedicated times for solitude and thinking
- Prioritizing relationships over productivity
- Making hard decisions between conflicting opportunities
- Do not disturb mode
- Building a rainy day savings fund
- Taking care of your body
- Not getting sucked in to the swirl of social feeds
- A slow meal with people you love
- Doing something for the enjoyment of the act itself
- Batch processing email vs. checking email all day
- Celebrating small wins
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It doesn’t look glamorous or heroic. You won’t be applauded in your decisions for margin. You likely will not be on the news or a public figure for choosing margin. It will mostly be unnoticed by many, except for when your choice for margin is an inconvenience.
Fighting for margin is not a one time act, it is a daily battle. Choosing margin is a thousand small decisions over a span of a week. Every so often one decision will restore a significant level of margin in life. But more often than not, it’s in the daily decisions.
Your values will not haphazardly find their way into your life. And they most certainly will not have a chance if you are sorely lacking margin.