Has your life ever felt like a row of spinning plates? I know mine has. I used to use this spinning plates analogy in my mind much of my adult life when dealing with a variety of different personal and business issues, all needing attention to some degree at the same time. In fact I just attended a business breakfast and heard the expression again when the speaker referred to events during his start-up days as spinning plates.
This whole idea popped up when I was recently working with a client. The client was sharing many stressful aspects and events of her personal and financial life. Since I tend to come up with immediate images in my mind to reflect what I’m hearing and offer possible other perspectives, somehow I thought of my old spinning plates analogy. It seemed a fitting story to share with my client as a way to view the events in her life in a different perspective.
My original analogy for much of my adult life used to be an image of starting and maintaining one spinning plate on a stick, and then another and another. Eventually there would be so many spinning plates that I was desperately racing from one plate to another trying to maintain the balance on the stick for each of those spinning plates before they slowed down to that wobbly point of a near crash, or eventually crashing.
The image made so much sense and seemed to truly reflect that ongoing busyness in my life, that I never challenged the image or the message.
Then at some point a number of years ago, I was talking with a good friend and listening to him gradually describe all of his ongoing projects and more projects, and then explain how he would just completely stop and start to play his guitar for a while.
From my spinning plate perspective I had a hard time being able to fathom any stopping. Suddenly as I continued to listen to him, I had this image emerging in my mind, another analogy, only this one had a totally different sense of timing and balance.
I envisioned a large commercial stove with multiple burners covered with different pots in varying degrees of simmering.
One pot was new and empty with a variety of new ingredients poised to be added to the pot (A whole new idea/project about to get started).
A few pots, after a preliminary simmer were reaching a rolling boil (After a short prep period, projects were finally coming together and now requiring immediate attention for the next stage).
And then there were a number of pots that had reached the boiling point and were now just gently simmering away and blending the ingredients to just the right stage for the perfect mix of flavor, consistency and visual appeal (Projects successfully moving along as planned, infrastructure in place, and no real need for any immediate attention or fussing).
More interestingly, there were a few pots where the cooking was complete, the burner turned off, the lid holding the precious “cargo” on standby to complete the highly anticipated feast. (There are beginnings and ends to all projects and these projects were at that completion and celebration stage).
Since there are beginnings, middles and ends, I could “see” and “smell” a few of the last few pots being emptied and ladled on to plates. The contents of the other pots were being poured into containers for freezing and future meals. (The final stage for many completed projects can range from the immediate opportunity to enjoy and relish the finished hard work and successful conclusion of a project to preserving or leveraging the results of the finished work for future use).
Somehow that simmering pots image stopped me in my tracks.
This analogy showed a balanced beginning, middle and end. It demonstrated a gentle way of creating something and then being able to savor it at the end.
Then I thought of those frenetic spinning plates. That image was all about a pointless activity with ongoing stressful attention, activity, and energy focused on preventing the plates from crashing at any moment. No stopping, no relishing, no reflection. And really no true purpose.
What if I shifted the perspective of my analogy for life from spinning plates to simmering pots? What if I changed my style of ongoing busyness, often with no real finished projects or results, to a balanced, steady approach offering many possibilities?
How would my life, energy, anxiety levels, creativity and overall perspective change? These are some powerful questions.
How about YOUR life? Is it time for a whole new way of viewing and experiencing life?
How do YOU see your life showing up – Is it one of Spinning Plates or Simmering Pots?
If you took this analogy one step further with your finances, how do your finances feel in terms of spinning plates or simmering pots?
What can you do to shift bill paying and overall monthly money management from ongoing reactions toward one spinning crisis after another, to a sense of comfort and management while all your bills, expenses and anticipated events are seamlessly and gently simmering away?
Are your spending behaviors and your attitude working hand in hand, simmering away, so you have enough cash on hand and money in your account to carry you throughout the month? Or instead, are you tempted by a new impulsive purchase, or too many meals out, thus shifting your attention and your finances away from the other spinning monthly commitments? With the balance thrown off once again, are you pulling from savings or using the credit card to prevent another monthly “crash”?
Can you better anticipate that often forgotten major annual expense (like some membership dues), or six month auto insurance, from being a spinning financial crash of the current monthly spending budget to a peaceful, anticipated onetime payment? A payment made from a simmering savings account, built up by regular monthly deposits throughout the year preparing for the upcoming annual expense.
And finally, if you have been managing your money and planning monthly and annual expenses, how are you rewarding and savoring the fruits of your diligent mindfulness?
Take a few moments each day and reflect on your approach. Are you caught up in the “Spinning Plates” Syndrome and basically just staying busy, but really only staying in place? Or, like my client, are you able to shift your perspective and your ability to prioritize and sequence your results more calmly through the day and stay in a gentle simmer?