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Balconies and Basements


“If you're going to grow, you have to be intentional."

-- Curt Kampmeier

Everyone has innate characteristics that make up their personality, talents, and preferences that make us who we are. However, these wonderful traits also have vulnerabilities; some refer to these two sides as strengths and weaknesses, but I prefer to call them balconies and basements.

There are two primary reasons I prefer "balconies and basements." The first is that it's easier for us to visualize a dark, dank basement and a bright, fresh balcony versus the variety of meanings that "strengths and weaknesses" may conjure. Secondly, balconies and basements are spaces we occupy; we choose which space we spend our time in, whereas strengths and weaknesses are less about choice and more about effort.

When choosing what is a meaningful use of your time, you must learn to identify your basements and be intentional in choosing to occupy a brighter space.

Six Core Traits

In the book, Valorie identifies six core traits that influence how we choose what we give our time to optimism, accuracy, achievement, responsibility, approval, and accountability. Let's look at how these traits appear in our time choices.

  • Optimism

    • Balcony: excited, energetic, sees the positive

    • Basement: difficulty dealing with negativity, underestimates how long things take, adds stress and false urgencies

  • Accuracy

    • Balcony: values excellence, pays attention to the details, disciplined

    • Basement: fear of criticism, perfectionism, sets nearly impossible standards, makes things more difficult or complicated than they need to be

  • Achievement

    • Balcony: works tirelessly, committed, strong work ethic,

    • Basement: doesn't know when to stop, driven by praise and recognition

  • Responsibility

    • Balcony: committed, conscientious, dependable

    • Basement: overcommitted, doesn't know when to say "no", takes too much ownership, fear of things not getting done without you

  • Approval

    • Balcony: considerate, easy to get along with, go out of your way to be nice

    • Basement: fear of disappointing others or being rejected by them, doesn't know how to say "no"

  • Accountability

    • Balcony: strong sense of fairness, quick to apologize for wrongs, conscientious

    • Basement: overcompensates, overcommits, responds out of guilt

"The busier you are, the more intentional you must be." -- Michael Hyatt

Strategies to Move to the Balcony

To move from the basement to the balcony in your time choices, you first need to be aware of your vulnerabilities and recognize when you are moving toward that basement and choosing false urgencies over what is meaningful. Once you are aware, you can develop intentional strategies to easily find your way to the balcony, even under pressure. Here are some ideas for how you might be intentional with those six core traits:

  • Optimism

    • "Put on your pessimistic hat and look for what might not go as planned. Decide how you'd handle the challenge.

    • Talk to a more pessimistic peer who may be able to see the negatives that are hard for you to see right now.

    • Give yourself extra time even if you don't think you need it. If your optimism was right, you'll be in great shape. If it was wrong, you'll be grateful for the buffer."

  • Accuracy

    • "Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Decide what 'good enough' is before you get started, and when you get to good enough, declare yourself finished and move on. 'Good enough' can be a high standard, but don't make it an impossible standard.

    • Trust that progress is a process, and focus on learning and growing more than reaching a destination or beating a time clock.

    • When you notice yourself being self-critical, pause. Then, intentionally switch to self-compassion: acknowledge your effort and progress. Talk to yourself the way you'd talk to someone you care about. Be kind to yourself."

  • Achievement

    • "Remind yourself that achievements do not make you more valuable. Your worth is not tied to what you do.

    • Crave purpose, not praise. Be honest with yourself when you take on commitments. Ensure that you are doing something because it is meaningful, not because of the external accolades you'll receive.

    • Decide what area of your life is worth the extra effort and in what area you'd rather be a deliberate 'underachiever.' If you are going to be a high achiever, do it strategically."

  • Responsibility

    • "Let others take responsibility for themselves. Stop reminding, prodding, or taking over.

    • Be willing to let the ball drop when the outcome is not your responsibility. Allow others to experience the consequences of their behavior so they can grow and change.

    • Add up the time you would save if you stopped doing what someone else is responsible for. Then ask, 'What might be a more meaningful use of that saved time?'"

  • Approval

    • "Realize that saying no when you need to allows you to say yes to what matters.

    • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Say no and refuse to let your emotions rule your decisions.

    • Don't take rejection personally, and remember there is no badge for going it alone. Be willing to ask for help if it will save you time."

  • Accountability

    • "Refuse to be manipulated by guilt. If you sense that is what's happening as you are making a time choice, step away. Say, 'Let me get back to you.' Removing yourself from the conversation will help you get your thoughts and words together.

    • Guilt is about doing something wrong. Clarify what is right and what is wrong.

    • Once you correct a mistake or fault, refuse to further overcompensate or waste time proving yourself. Let it go. Learn from it. Move forward."

This week, consider the following questions:

  • Which trait or traits resonate the most with your basement choices?

  • What fear is driving those choices?

  • What strategies can you build in your life to help you stay out of the basement and choose what is meaningful for your time?

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