Leadership and the Game of Heartball

I was talking with my wife the other day and we were reminiscing about our involvement in theater when we were younger. One of our recent discussions was about the warm-ups they did at my wife’s school. Of particular interest was a game they called Heartball.

Heartball is a focus game. You are in a circle tossing around the heartball. As the game continues there are other layers added, more balls to throw or kick around, perhaps a song to sing or some other new rule. The gist is that no matter what you cannot drop the heartball. If you have 2 things coming at you you must catch the heartball or you lose. It’s a bummer to drop the other ball but it isn’t the end of the game. The goal is to keep the heartball going as long as possible.

This struck me as a particularly excellent exercise for leaders. We all have so much going on, so many demands on our time, and so many things we want to do, that it can seem like a perpetual juggling act. Heartball shows that it’s not just about keeping all the balls up, it’s about keeping the right ball(s) up.

I have found great benefit it giving each day a heartball of sorts. When I have a lot to do or a lot of appointments to work around I look at my to-do list and pick out the one thing that absolutely must get done. Sometimes it’s two things, but I never go beyond two “heartballs”.  I put my energy and focus on those areas, and then with what is left over I tackle the remainder of the list.

By choosing what matters most I am able to approach the day with a much greater sense of peace and focus. I know what the priority is and even when I’m extremely busy I can be calm because I know that the “heartball,” whatever it is that matters most, is or will be taken care of. The essential has precedent over the urgent and the meaningful over the manic.

It’s important to realize that your day’s “heartball” won’t always be work related. It might be family related or social. The most important thing might be making your daughters recital, or connecting with a friend who is in town for the day. Whatever it is, try to identify it at the beginning of the day so you can plan and prepare to achieve it.

Being aware of your heartball requires a bit of introspection. You have to know yourself. I have in the past made one priority only to discover at the end of the day that I regretted something else more. I misidentified the heartball. Take the time to meditate or pray and come to an understanding of what matters most to you. Then you can find the heartball each day and focus on it.

By knowing and doing what matters most you will find peace, happiness, and satisfaction each day.


*photo courtesy of cliparthut.com

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