The Art of Juggling

“The Art of Juggling,” New Era, Jan. 2001, 26

The Art of Juggling

When everything feels like it’s up in the air, choosing to stay grounded in the gospel makes all the difference.

This is a juggling test. Put this magazine on a table in front of you, open so you can still read it.


Now, place your right hand on your stomach and your left hand on top of your head.

So far so good.

Move your right hand in a counter-clockwise motion on your stomach, and at the same time use your left hand to pat the top of your head.

You’re not finished yet.

Now, without stopping your right or left hand, tap your right foot in 3/4 time and say floccinaucinihilipilification (the estimation of something as valueless) three times as fast as you can.

It’s hard, isn’t it?

Of course it is. Juggling, whether it’s tossing and catching several tennis balls or managing several different tasks or activities at the same time, isn’t easy.

Both kinds of juggling have a long history. One kind, the tossing and catching of objects, can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The other kind of juggling, managing several different tasks at the same time, has been around even longer.

Evaluate your activities

A dynamic Latter-day Saint high school girl named Tami was one of the best jugglers I’ve ever known. She juggled family, softball, track, homework, church service and activities, seminary, school, cheerleading, student government, a part-time job, and an active social life with amazing skill.

You don’t have to be involved in as many activities as Tami to still need to juggle your various responsibilities. And your juggling skill has a lot to do with the measure of success and happiness you’ll receive from what you do.

No matter how successful you are, or think you are, it’s a good idea to sit down once in a while and evaluate how well you’re managing the various activities and responsibilities in your life. For most of us, attempting to juggle as many activities as Tami would not be wise. If you feel overwhelmed, if nothing seems fun or fulfilling anymore, or if your activities are only a frustration, then maybe you need to change your juggling technique.

Watch a really great juggler sometime. You’ll notice that if he takes on too many objects, concentrates too much on one thing, or has unsteady footing, he’s liable to drop what he’s juggling. Successfully juggling time with family, church and school activities, and a social life requires the same basic approaches. To keep everything moving smoothly, you have to be like a professional juggler and limit your activities and responsibilities, divide your attention among them, and work from a solid base.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “A life that gets out of balance is much like a car tire that is out of balance. It will make the operation of the car rough and unsafe. … So it is with life. The ride through mortality can be smoother for us when we strive to stay in balance” (Ensign, May 1987, 16).

Being well balanced

Limiting your activities isn’t always easy. Life’s smorgasbord is so varied that no one can possibly sample everything. The best way to fill your plate is to select a well-rounded diet of activities from the four basic groups: spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical. A balanced life includes activities from each of these areas, with a special emphasis on those that are important or interesting.

When deciding which activities you’ll juggle, it’s important to become involved in things that you like. One high school senior said, “I picked out activities that were important to other people. I guess I was just looking for social recognition. Being a cheerleader was fun, and I don’t regret doing it, but I wish I would have taken the time to get involved with art too. None of my friends liked art, and I suppose that’s why I didn’t get more involved in it, even though art is important to me.”

Dividing your attention

The surest way to overload your juggling ability is to take on more activities than you can handle. It isn’t always easy to eliminate items from your circle of juggling, but there are times when you simply have to. For example, if you’re already overwhelmed with school activities, it wouldn’t make sense to get involved in one more thing, no matter how much you’d like to. The world is loaded with interesting, exciting, and profitable things to do, but some are low priority and others you just don’t have time for right now.

Planting your feet

Finally, the most important juggling principle of all is working from a rock-solid base built on an eternal perspective—a perspective that helps you remember who you are and why you’re on earth. “Of all the things I did and learned in high school,” one graduate said, “I’m glad I held on to my values.” Elder Ballard counseled, “Think about your life and set your priorities. … Our main goal should be to seek ‘immortality and eternal life’ (Moses 1:39)” (Ensign, May 1987, 14, 16). If you can manage to keep your feet firmly planted in the straight and narrow path, you’ll have a much easier time juggling life’s other responsibilities.

Of course, there may be times when you stumble on that straight and narrow path and drop something you’ve been juggling. When that happens, just pick it up and get right back to work.

Use the basic principles of juggling to help you manage life’s responsibilities and before you can say floccinaucinihilipilification three times, you’ll be on your way to a happier, more balanced life.

Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw