Balance. That mystical thing we are all fighting to achieve. Regularly we hear about the need to find “work-life balance,” to better manage our personal and professional lives. But the fact is, they will never be “in balance.” Instead of trying to find balance, what we need to do is balance. In this instance, balance is a verb. It’s something you do, not something you are.
Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, authors of the book, “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results,” explain it this way:
“Seen as something we ultimately attain, balance is actually something we constantly do. A ‘balanced life’ is a myth — a misleading concept most accept as a worthy and attainable goal without ever stopping to truly consider it.”
When we are balancing our lives, we understand that sometimes one area will demand extra energy – and that is ok. As music teachers, during concert week we usually have to give a lot of our energy to our jobs. That might mean family and hobbies get shifted to the back burner for the time being. To counter this, after the concert it’s important to shift your energy from work to those other areas. By doing this, you are balancing.
In “Balance Like a Pirate,” by Jessica Cabeen, Jessica Johnson, and Sarah Johnson, the authors suggest our lives have four quadrants – personal, professional, positional, and passions. Your personal life includes your family, friends, community, and your wellness. Your positional life is your job, roles, and responsibilities. Your professional life is how you develop your field of expertise, and your passions are additional hobbies and interests. The authors contend that it’s important to recognize and incorporate all four quadrants, while remembering that at various times some will require more time and energy than others.
Balance is a process, an opportunity to continually reflect on goals for our personal life, our positions, our profession, and our passions.”Balance Like a Pirate, by Jessica Cabeen, Jessica Johnson, and Sarah Johnson
A good exercise is to make a list of all the things you do in each of those quadrants; all the responsibilities to your family, friends, and personal wellness, the requirements of your job, all the professional activities important to you, and all your passions and interests. Look at this list and think about where your energy typically goes. For many people, it’s likely their position. (Though hopefully over the summer for music teachers, this is not the case!) After completing your list, choose one thing from each category to focus on for the next few weeks.
Knowing that you will never achieve balance, giving exactly 25% of your energy to each of those quadrants, what shifts could you make to ensure you have time for the things most important to you? This could include incorporating more time management strategies at school to make sure you are using your time there wisely and not bringing work home at night. It might mean saying no when you are asked to do something that doesn’t support the mission of your music program. Or it could mean setting up a habit tracker to remind and encourage yourself to follow through with new habits.
Whatever the case, remember that balance involves doing. It’s not something you are, it’s not something you achieve. It’s something you do. And as music teachers, it’s something we must repeatedly do.
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