?I ache all over? said the old badger. ?I ache so much, it hurts to breathe?

?Oh dear? said the young fox ?whatever have you done??

?He has done nothing but work all his life? interjected the wise owl ?He works so hard, every minute of every day, and when he has finished one project, he begins another. No rest, no play, just work?

?That?s not entirely true? said the old badger??I have had the odd quiet day, but isn?t it just a fact of life ? we are all busier than ever?

?I don’t want it to be a fact of my life? said the young fox. ?I don’t want to be like you. I want to be able to chase my tail for fun, to play with my friends, to see my cubs, to do a good day?s work for sure, but not at the expense of everything else?

?And that is what I wanted too? said the grumpy old badger ?I was just like you. No badger chooses to ache all over?no badger chooses to miss out on fun and family?we just get caught up in a cycle of work and more work. It just happens and before you know it, you ache all over?

?Not true? said the wise owl ?you have chosen to ache all over, you have chosen to do more work and you can still choose to have fun?

?No I can?t? said the old badger indignantly ?look at my in-tray?I cannot possibly walk away from work. That is the trouble with all you wise owl types?chirping up from the safety of a high perch; with no real understanding of my world you dish out your banal, platitudinous homilies on work life balance and working ?smarter?. I?ll have you know I work very smartly?I am commended by all my clients on how well I work?I am appreciated by them all for my dedication and my commitment. I have been promoted because of these things and awarded a ?badger of the month? certificate for my efforts too.

I do not choose to ache all over I choose to be professional, to have integrity, to be valued by my peers and my clients.?

The young fox looked a little sheepish

The wise owl frowned

?And another thing? said the old badger ??every old badger I know is like me. It is just a fact of life?

?Is he right?? said the young fox.

?There certainly are a lot of old badgers like him? said the wise owl. ?And to them it is perhaps a fact of their lives. Nor is he wrong to say that he is valued by his clients. However he is wrong to think that it always had to be this way and he is certainly wrong to think that aching all over is acceptable or inevitable?

I don’t want to ache all over? said the young fox. ?What should I do so that I do not grow up to be like an old badger??

?There are three things you must accept as true, three things you must never do and three things you must always do? said the wise owl intriguingly.

?It will be more platitudinous nonsense? harrumphed the old badger.

?Let the young fox make up his own mind? said the wise owl calmly. And he gave the young fox three small sticks, three small stones and three sea shells.

?Told you? said the old badger ?More nonsense from the house of the glib and the easy?.

?What do they mean?? said the young fox. ?Listen carefully? said the wise owl.

?The three sticks represent the three things you must always remember:

? There will always be more things to do than the time you have to do them in. Simply working longer does not solve the problem.

? The better you get at your job the more demands there will be on your time. Simply working longer does not solve the problem.

? Managing your relationships with others is not about trying to please them; it is about doing the right things in the right way at the right time. Simply working longer does not solve the problem.

The three stones represent the three things you must never do:

? Doing a less good job than you are capable of doing will not only make you less valued, it also saps your self confidence and self belief. It is the most destructive cycle of all.

? Blaming systems and clients and policies changes nothing. In the end things change through how we behave and not whether we have the best IT system. Encourage in yourself an attitude that values seeing the potential to improve things rather than an attitude to criticise things. Make your engagement unconditional.

? Doing nothing when we could do something because improving the way we work is about taking action not suffering inaction. If we have the talent, the patience and the will to tolerate inconvenience, inefficiency and ineptitude, we also have at least an equal amount of talent to invent, innovate and inspire.

The three sea shells represent the three things we must always do.

? Treat time as a precious thing to be shared with friends, family and work. We plan our work lives with our diaries, our computers, our blackberries and our staff (sometimes even into six minute slots!) and yet friends and family are often left with the dregs of our day. Plan the whole day for the wholeness we need in our lives.

? Constantly assess and reassess the value we achieve for the time we invest. Everything we do can be done better and not everything we do adds enough value. If you find just a five percent efficiency improvement in a year then you will have the equivalent of an additional ten working days. Time, perhaps, to then reinvest in family or friends?

? We are creatures that need praise?if people see we work long hours and praise us for doing so, we will often repeat this behaviour to receive the praise again. Soon we can become trapped – so heavily reliant on working long hours that the only thing people will see to praise are the hours we work. You must therefore build relationships with colleagues and clients that ensure value is seen across a range of indicators?your colleagues and clients will of course value your work ethic, but they must also value results, efficiency, effectiveness, acumen, timeliness, humour, empathy, thoughtfulness and leadership.

The young fox paused. ?What does it mean? he asked hesitantly.

?I don’t have time for this nonsense? said the old badger as he sloped off aching all over.

?It means you have choices? said the wise owl.