I love it when someone seeks my advice—I feel smart, accomplished, important, and relevant. But as I lavish in my own praise that someone sought my advice, I can’t help but think about those who shared their wisdom when I most needed it. In my life, I have had numerous people who have filled me with advice - from love, marriage, and mortgages to taxes, debt, and spreadsheets. Today, as I reflect back, I cannot say that one person over another is my “advice” stand-out, nor can I unequivocally say that I have a favorite piece of advice. I can, however, give you what first comes to mind as I write this:“Guilt is when you make a mistake and shame is when you are a mistake.”
That bit of advice was given to me as I wrestled with fatherhood, being a husband, and working to grow a new business. I was in a life-balance crisis as I was “spinning plates” between beginning my second marriage, starting a new business, and raising three teenage boys while my wife was pregnant. I was so out of balance that if I were a tire on your car, you would have pulled off the road and waited for the Hoosier Helper. I was a mess. I believe that my guilt was so deep that it was creeping into the “shame zone.” I must have said something that lead my listener to believe I was heading into a toxic and dark place of feeling shameful when I should have been feeling guilt.
As I have matured, I realize that guilt is a healthy feeling for me. It is my heart yelling at me that I am making poor life-balance choices and a course correction is needed. I also recognized that guilt empowers me whereas holding on to some sort of shameful feeling paralyzed me. I have embraced guilt as a barometer to my balance and other factors in my life. Moreover, balance is a tough proposition because just as mother nature is always out of synch with herself, so am I. I have concluded that the biggest contributor to me being out of balance is my failure to consistently acknowledge that my biological, spiritual, and professional clocks don’t always synch up. And when they don’t synch, I get those strong sinking guilty feelings that scream, “out of balance, Paul, pull off the road!” Frankly, I don’t pull off the road, but I do slow down and take note of where my life equilibrium is awry. In the end, balance is nothing more than the avoidance of extremes. The next time you are feeling guilty, just acknowledge that it’s your onboard computer telling you that there are some extremes in your life that need put back in to “check.”