Early on in my career as a therapist I knew I wanted to specialize in trauma therapy. One of the trickiest part of doing this kind of work is learning how to avoid burnout. Once you burn out the recovery process is long, so you have to focus on what you need to do in the NOW in order to prevent burnout from ever happening.
I had a vision – in order to be a great trauma therapist and to be able to sustain this kind of intense work, I had to have diversity in my daily job. In addition to providing therapy I saw myself teaching others. I wanted to teach part time at a university. I set my intention and then I put it aside to allow the universe to do it’s work.
A few weeks ago it happened, an opportunity I have been preparing myself for fell into my lap. I was speaking to the program chair at my alma mater on a completely unrelated topic, and she asked me if I had ever thought about teaching. I nearly jumped out of my chair. She invited me to teach a Trauma and Crisis class at the university to budding therapists, and today I accepted the offer. I will officially be an Adjunct Proffessor at Sofia University. Woo Hoo!
So what does this have to do with balance and why, dear reader, should you care?
We frequently hear the phrase “work-life balance”. In fact we hear it so often that it has lost its meaning. Of course I want to have balance between my work life and my home life, but I also want balance within the work that I do. By bringing in different types of challenges into my work I use different parts of my brain. I am a therapist, a business owner, and now a professor. I don’t get bored and I don’t overuse a single part of my brain. It’s sort of like training at a gym – one day you focus on arms and shoulders, then on another day you focus on legs, and yet another day you focus on back and abs. You rotate your areas of focus so you don’t overuse certain muscles and as a result you build strength over your whole body. That’s what I’m doing at work and that’s what you can do too.
Find a way that you can switch it up at work. Get creative and bring in new types of tasks. You can even talk to your boss and propose projects that would make you happy and would serve your company. I guess to some extent I have always had this philosophy of balance at work. Eons ago I worked as a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company. Doing research can be boring. I got together with a couple of friends and proposed a one day event where people at the company could share their projects with each other. My boss loved it and I got to do something different, exercise different muscles. There are always opportunities like this if you open your mind and look for the intersection between what is needed and what you love.
You might be dismissing me already and saying to yourself something along the lines of “I am a barista, I make coffee, what else can I do?” Perhaps you love throwing parties. How about offering to organize a themed morning event for your customers? Put your creative hat on and go to town. Then see if your boss likes the idea. If not, then go back to the drawing board and try again.
Sure, it’s more effort to come up with an idea and add something to your plate. But if it’s something you are passionate about then it will actually rejuvenate you rather than drain you. Preparing a curriculum and teaching a 4.5 unit class (a typical class is only 3 units) is a huge undertaking, but it’s also something I love. I will find the time and it will be exhilarating.
I invite you to search for your passion and find a way to bring a piece of it into your work life. And when your alarm goes off in the morning you will smile rather than groan and hit snooze.
It’s all about balance, connecting with yourself and finding what is needed in the NOW.