Every new year, a group of friends and I choose one little word to focus on for the year. There is a whole one little word movement previously posted about here. As a family, we always think about both short-term and long-term goals at this time of year...not so much resolutions, but goals to work towards. For the past four years, I have looked at my goals and tried to come up with a common idea which has resulted in my word of the year.
My word for 2012 is balance.
I think most of us struggle with balancing the amount of things going on in their lives and dividing their time. It seems that I am always working on this. I've been balancing a variety of jobs for years along with family life and I think for the most part, I am making that work. A young colleague (not yet married or with children) asked me in the fall, how do you balance it all? And I told her that I have become a very efficient multi-tasker and prioritizer. Throughout every day, I have a running mental list of all tht is in our day and I am constantly re-prioritizing what needs to get done now, what can happen later, where I need to be spending my time. I have learned though that it is important to know when it is okay to multi-task...when I have a list of tasks or little jobs to get done, boom, I multi-task and figure out the best and most efficient way to get things done. There are times though when multi-tasking is not okay. My word for 2009 was be and it really helped me remember to be present and in the moment. My word for 2008 was focus which began my thinking about how to focus on where I am, both with my heart and my mind. This meant when I was hanging out with the boys, my mind was just with hanging out with the boys, not whirring in a million directions. For me, it has meant that when I am at work, I am focused and present with my work and that when I am home that I, for the most part, am focused on family life or my own personal projects. I have learned not only to prioritize, but more importantly, what my priorities are.
There is an overlap that has happened over the last few months though which has caused me to think about balance. I have been finding that my work is consuming too much of my emotional energy and that when I get home and need to be focused on my family, there isn't very much of me left to give.
1) I need to be better about letting go of some of the emotional burden I have been carrying at work so that my emotional energy throughout the week is more balanced.
I write a few other blogs, one of which documents my journey as a PhD student. In February 2011, the following was part of a post on that blog:
"I am in a much better place than I was even just five years ago and am leading a much more balanced life. Part of me is worried about throwing that balance off again but I have to realize that it is really a short-term commitment in the big picture."
This passage refers to my hesitancy to continue with my program. It didn't really matter to me whether I completed my dissertation or not. I didn't need the degree or the letters after my name...that was never what it was about for me. There was a time in my life where work took over my life and I began my PhD program with that same sort of drive. There are life lessons along the way though and it became very clear to me what made my heart sing and what my priorities needed to be. I have decided to forge ahead with the dissertation after much deliberation and discussion with Neil and the boys. I know that there are going to be times that I am going to have to throw my life completely out of balance to get this done. I am working on being okay with this ;)
2) I need to know that things are going to be thrown out of balance some times. I also need to know that equilibrium will be re-established.
An area of my life that has been a little neglected over the last few years is my physical health. I have been trying to get more sleep which has been a big challenge for me. I go through phases of embracing running and then I get sick or something in my life interferes and I don't jump back on to that running thing. I don't really like running and I can let that go. I love to walk with friends and have covered many km around Steveston in what some might call speed walking...I guess I get that from my dad! I have always liked riding my bike and Neil has planned a little biking challenge for our family this summer on the Oregon Coast so I need to work on building up to that. I'm also signing up for a yoga class. I used to love yoga and am glad I found a class during the week that will work for me. Pushing myself and learning new things has always been a part of who I am and I need to do this with my body.
3) I need to challenge and push my body and work on including this aspect of living in a more balanced way...through cycling and yoga.
I'm sure as the year goes on and I think about balance some more, I will see how this one little word will apply to even more areas of my life.