Living With Margins

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“Life works best at 80 percent,” stated Dr. Kim Storm, Newport Beach resident, psychologist and author. “That is my motto in therapy for many of my patients. It may seem odd, but living life with no margins is dangerous. Lack of margins in life leads to stress, which leads to worry, which leads to despair, which leads to insecurity. We need a certain amount of stress in our lives, but after a point, it ruins our ability to succeed. Life needs slow and steady progression.”

Dr. Storm recently spoke on the topic of “Living Your Life with Purpose and Margin” to a group gathered at the home of Tom and Kelly Mitchell in Newport Beach.

Dr. Kim Storm

“We were excited to have him speak because everybody in our community seems to think we need to give 100 percent all the time,” said Kelly Mitchell. “We are living way too fast, and need to slow down.  If not, we struggle in our relationships with others, and in our relationship with God. It’s easy to spend time with God talking too much, but we really need to also listen to Him. When we live at 80 percent, we have time to do so.”

Dr. Storm explained that trying to give 100 percent to everything exacts too much of a toll physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and relationally. He said that living life at 80 percent does not mean living a life lacking excellence; it means learning to be purposeful in prioritizing areas where excellence truly matters. That’s where margins enter the picture.

“Margins institute a boundary or guardrail to keep us from over-committing to tasks or relationships,” Dr. Storm explained. “Margins are viewed in terms of time, space or items we add or limit in order to avoid being overwhelmed in our daily life”

He pointed to John Wooden as an example of a man of excellence who understood margins, as evidenced by two of his quotes: “Be quick, but don’t hurry,” and “Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

Dr. Storm added that another lesson to learn from coaches is knowing when to call your own “time-out” if you need to stop and change a bad pattern or to choose a new strategy.

“We live in a culture where we are handed a purpose with every ad that we hear, but without real purpose in life, we make the trivial important,” Dr. Storm said. “We live with distraction and entertainment, but we are missing what really matters. Without purpose, our lives can just focus on the irrelevant and the irreverent. Don’t live just to be comfortable. What is your purpose in life? How will you answer that question?”

“Obviously, a part of your purpose is to be here, at this particular time in history, working for God’s Kingdom,” he continued. “Our time is short, but don’t measure your worth by what you get done in a day. Prioritize. God is using us now in other people’s lives; live your life well. We are not the center of the universe; we are a small part, but an important part. Giving to others gives us a purpose and direction in life. Take the time to speak into your children’s lives, help show them what life is about.”

A life with purpose also includes the ability to delay gratification.

“Be able to say no to yourself,” Dr. Storm said. “To be mature is to have a certain boundary around yourself. You can’t buy everything.”

Dr. Storm said that Jesus modeled a life with margins by taking Sabbath rest, by taking time to get away from crowds to pray, by having a small group of advisors, by not trying to be all things to all people, by having clear priorities, by not trying to solve all the world’s problems, by not taking revenge, by living simply, and by recognizing that this world is not heaven.

Dr. Storm listed important questions to help gauge margins in your life: Are you too spread out?  Do you fail to delegate? Will this project produce too much stress or cost too much energy? Can this project be effective if done at 80 percent versus 100 percent?

I chuckled at the list in light of the upcoming busy Christmas season, which many refer to as the “Holidaze” instead of the “Holidays,” and asked for a few tips for healthy margins this next month.

“Holidays in the present were morphed from the past term ‘Holy Days’,” he said. “Holiness is the concept of being set apart from the usual. Slow down and budget for how much you are going to commit to, how much you will spend, and how much you will consume.”

Cindy can be reached at [email protected]

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