Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Breaking Points

Breaking points. Everyone has one. Or two. Or more. They can occur professionally, personally, mentally, physically, or spiritually. One can quickly follow another, even in a day's time, or they can be spaced out a great extent over a period of years. I have witnessed them often in young children who grow overtired but I have also seen them occur with the most mature and stable of adults.

In the course of my teaching career I have had a few. Both times I felt the solution was to switch schools and teach in my children's district. I am glad that I turned down a job offer the first time a breaking point occurred back in 1997, and I am grateful that a particular job did not materialize the second time a few years ago. I now realize that changing the external was not what I needed. I needed to change the internal.

In my personal life, I've been pretty lucky. Still, I can recall a few times when a significant breaking point occurred. The dates and situations of each breaking point were different but in each, the number one issue was my need to re-prioritize. I am a woman who takes on a lot, too much for my own good at times. Yet I am a smart and reflective person and it does not take me long to recognize I need to regroup. That's when lists help me. That's when a "mental health day" becomes a necessity. That's when I get on my knees and pray the way I should every day. That's when I admit, I sometimes need time to talk and talk and talk...and yes, cry.

Most often I see myself as a self-fulfilled, highly competent, and respected individual. I am embarrassed to become a stressed out leader, no longer enjoying her job or her personal life. I cannot stand to live in the midst of crisis. I do not thrive on stress. I prefer to be so absorbed by what I am doing that I don't even notice the passage of time – hours feel like minutes. You probably know the feeling...when we are so enthralled in a project or a task, so engaged, that we forget to eat or sleep?

What concerns me most is entering into a cycle of stress which could lead to burnout.
I prefer to be "resilient" to the challenges of my profession and to the pace of raising an active family. Stress hardy people are committed to meaningful work, community, and family responsibilities. They are engaged and involved. They are in control, believing in their abilities and they do not see challenges as threats. I want to be someone who continues to have clarity and discipline so as to successfully "unplug" when needed, to pare down the unnecessary, to focus on energy boosters, not drainers. I have grown wiser in my years. I know how to pick battles worth fighting for and how to walk away from others best suited for a different time or for a different leader. I have developed good thinking, have grown tenacious in pursuing personal growth, and have practiced how to gain the highest returns for myself, my loved ones, and my students and colleagues.

The idea that "we choose our life by how we spend time" reminds me that perhaps this half hour I have taken now to write, to think, and to regroup will speak volumes for how I choose my life today.

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