Remember going to the circus as a child? Somewhere between the trapeze artists and the elephants, a lone performer would walk into the center of the ring carrying a large wooden crate. He would set the crate down, reach in and pull out a beautiful china plate, which he showed the audience.
People gasped. Anticipation rose. We knew what was coming next. He would hold up his index finger, set the plate on top of it, and give it a spin.
I was always so busy watching that first plate, I’d never notice where he got the broom handle, but suddenly, that plate was way up the in the air, balanced on that pole, spinning and spinning, faster and faster.
Pretty soon he had another one going, and then another, and another. He’d run back and forth, giving each plate another spin when it began to slow down and wobble.
He’d add still more plates, with more spinning, more running back and forth, to and fro, spinning, spinning, spinning. It was nerve-wracking to watch.
Do you ever feel like that performer? You have so many plates in the air, all spinning, some starting to wobble that you’re getting dizzy running back and forth, trying to keep them all going? I know I do.
Maybe it’s time to make a few changes. If we try to keep too many plates in the air, eventually, we won’t be able to keep up. Some of them will hit the ground and shatter into a million jagged pieces. We don’t want the casualties to be our most treasured china.
Which are the “platters” in your life, the really big, important plates? Spin those first. Some days, maybe the job platter will get a bigger push. Other days, the family one will. But be clear in your mind about what matters most in your life.
Some of the smaller plates, like random time commitments you should not have made, groups you should not have joined, friendships that bring nothing but frustration, may need to be packed away. Some you’ll get out again someday. Others you won’t. But there isn’t a single one of us that can do everything.
And certainly not all at once.
When I watched that circus plate-spinner all those years ago, I noticed something interesting. At the beginning, when he only had a handful of plates going, he was laughing and skipping back and forth and enjoying keeping them all spinning. He didn’t get tense and anxious until he had more plates in the air than he could keep up with.
I think it’s time to pluck a few minor plates out of the air so I can give the really important ones the time and attention they deserve. Care to join me?