Life is always busy, but it’s important to take a step back and take a look at why that is.
Why are you busy? What are you doing? How are you actually spending your time? One of my favorite ways of assessing my general busyness is asking a simple question: am I playing offense or defense?
Of course, I’m using a sports metaphor, but I think it fits quite well in this situation. Let’s take a closer look at what offense and defense means.
If you’re playing offense you’re taking action. You’re not waiting for life to happen to you, rather you’re imposing your will on life. You’re proactive.
On the other hand if you’re playing defense, you’re letting others dictate what’s happening to you. You’re being given assignments, you’re reacting to situations, you’re doing what you’re told to do, but nothing beyond it.
Let’s look at an example. There are two students, Harry and Sally, who are both about to graduate and enter the workforce. Harry is enjoying his senior year, but he hasn’t found a job yet. He’s applied to some job listings that were sent out to his department and worked on his resume, but that’s it. He spends most of his time hanging out with friends and helping some peers on their personal projects. He’s just waiting for someone to hire him. Harry is on defense.
Sally isn’t so passive. She’s out there going to mixers and networking events. She’s applying to all sorts of jobs and talking to people in her field. She’s researching organizations and cold emailing current employees to better understand her opportunities. She’s creating a portfolio to show off her skills, in addition to her perfect resume. She doesn’t have much time for friends or family, but she’s taking action. Sally is on offense.
This same scenario plays out in all facets of life, from work to relationships and everything in between. Whenever things aren’t going your way, its important to understand why, and it may simply come down to what side of the ball you’ve been spending your time on.
Being on defense all the time can be as taxing, but not as fulfilling to your personal goals. You spend a lot of time helping others, being a good friend, and doing good work, but not getting much in return. Life is stagnating a bit, even though people appreciate your help. Life doesn’t seem to be moving forward.
Alternatively, being on offense means you’re constantly driving forward and making things happen. You’re striving for your goals at full speed and achieving them just as quickly. You would think that being on offense all the time is the way to go, but you have to be careful. Always being on offense is not only exhausting, but it can lead to burnout and broken relationships. You don’t want to be so focused on yourself that you hurt others along the way.
Life is about balance. Be kind, but don’t let people abuse you. Trust, but don’t be deceived. Be content, but never stop stop improving yourself.
This is why a balance is important. Playing defense helps you build rapport, favors, and relationships in life. It lets you rejuvenate and enjoy life now and again. It gives you a break from being ON all the time.
Playing offense moves the needle forward and helps you reach your goals. It leads to progress and change and growth. You should be searching for balance between offense and defense. When you’re too far one way or the other, it is important to notice and adjust. Realize which way you’re learning and make a conscious effort to bring yourself closer to the center.
If you’ve been too focused on offense, on yourself, maybe you should take some time out of your day to help others or give back. It’s not only a good break, but it also feels good to share and help and engage with friends, family, and peers.
If you’ve been too focused on defense, maybe you need to set some time aside to do what you want to. Schedule some ME time and indulge in your desires and passions. Take steps towards your goals. Take control of your life.
More often than not, when we’re unhappy it’s because we’re not in balance. Either we’re playing too much offense or defense. If you realize it, you can fix it.
Find your balance.