Is it possible to be balanced, strive for excellence, and be an effective student affairs professional? What does it mean to be balanced? Does it mean being everything to everyone and having just enough time in to squeeze in meals (that slice of pizza from last night’s meeting) and a 15 minute convo with your BFF? A Friday night date with your partner? Or simply finding someone to date on a Friday night? Or does it mean something else entirely different?
If we think about a scale – how does it maintain balance? When an equal weight of mass is placed on both sides of the scale – it eventually balances out. But what matters (excuse the pun) is what makes up that weight. Consider this; if you have on one end of your scale work/ committees/professional organization committees and the other side of that scale, writing a blog/applying for jobs/grad school, is that really balanced? Sure, these two parts of your life may weigh the same…but where is the rhythm that maintains that balance? The piece that comes in to take away the sting of the hectic lifestyle it ensues? To me, those two sides are too much weight. Where is the room that is made for activities that allow you to just be?
As student affairs professionals, we are good at “one-upping” one another when it comes to being a “martyr” in our work. Who stayed later at an event, who was up all weekend for a student retreat, who went on three apple-picking trips two weeks in a row. This is where we lose sense of who we are professionals and as people and how we are effectively maintaining a balance. At the end of the day, in the world of cell phones, Skype, and e-mail, I guarantee you that you do not need to be at every weekend event, at every function of every group that you have ever advised. The students won’t miss you and the world isn’t going to come to an end if you aren’t there to dole out the wristbands or tell them the music is too loud.
Perhaps being yourself is within your work, your writing, your professional organization. But for now, I am talking about creating a schedule of your life that allows yourself to absorb the world around you in those precious moments of reflection and thought. And not thought that is made up of late-night programming and student government retreats and RA reports. Finding your rhythm to maintain that balance. And you cannot figure out your balance, you cannot lead, and you can’t learn from your successes and failures without reflection. Reflection can be writing, meditation, drawing, even just chatting with friends, playing board games, getting a (GASP!) drink at a bar with friends that isn’t in college town. The important piece to this is that you are taking a time out to fuel up.
A “balanced” life does not include a life that is crammed to the brim with activity. A balanced life includes time for rejuvenation and being a bit selfish with your time. It includes the phrase “no”. It is not about being a martyr and figuring out weekend program you “absolutely need” to attend. Balance is about modeling a way of life that does not make you run out of breath at the end of each day. Balance is not meeting others’ expectations of you but instead meeting your own. Being an effective leader means at at some point you will need to be selfish with your time so that your motivation in your work is sustained by an opportunity to take a break once in a while.
To be part of our profession – you need to be alert, on your toes, aware and cognizant of all that might affect you and your students –to effectively model the values in which your organization holds so important. You cannot be any of these things if you yourself are weighing down both ends of the scale, where it simply becomes too heavy to hold.
This is a lesson I need to remind myself of when I want to say yes to everything, to be everything to my students, to continue to improve upon the work we do. As a leader, that’s my responsibility. But it’s also my responsibility to take care of myself, to ask for help, and to find that rhythm that helps be balance the scale. So for 2016, what will balance bring to your life? I urge you to find your rhythm – what moves and shakes you – and allows you a balance to maintain the weight you carry; to really implore yourself to discover a world that is beyond your desk.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Josie Ahlquist on Digital Identity, Social Media & Leadership