Finding the Balance in Life

There are a number of movies in my life that I will stop flipping the remote for, regardless of when they are on or how many times I have seen them. I can recite verbatim the majority of great scenes from “A Few Good Men”. A “Rocky” or “Star Wars” marathon will always lead to an unproductive Saturday. And don’t even get me started on “A Knight’s Tale” or “Field of Dreams”. But one of my favorites is “The Karate Kid”. The original, mind you, not the remake. Mr. Miyagi always seemed to have the right words to say and life lesson to teach. The one that applies to this blog topic is his take on balance. When Daniel was having girl problems, Mr. Miyaga reminded him of the lesson on balance by saying “Lesson not just for karate. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have balance. Everything better. Understand?” The problem is that as principals we often forget this fact. We spend so much time and energy worrying about our students, our staff, our parents, that we often forget to take care of ourselves.    While this may seem like the way we should do things, it often leads to exhaustion and illness, which means we cannot take care of anyone. Although we do not want to admit it, we must take the time to take care of ourselves in order to take care of those we care for. While you have probably heard some of these things before, they bear repeating. Yes, they take some time, but they are worth our time investment in the long wrong.
Eat Well
Yes, we are all busy. There are constant meetings, night activities, lunch duty. But with a little planning you can eat healthy. Take the time in the evening to pack some healthy snacks for the next day. I try and buy things that are easy to pack and healthy for you. Granola bars, almonds, fat free yogurt and cheese sticks are quick and easy to pack and give you some nutritional value as well. For breakfast, try a snack bag full of Cheerios or some instant oatmeal. Some frozen fruit, yogurt, ice and milk in a blender for 45 seconds make for a great fruit smoothie. Still take too much time? Take 45 minutes Sunday evening to put together snacks for five days. You can even put them in a brown paper bag for each day. For lunch, mixed salad greens are easy to pack. I pair it with some Sun Chips or leftover chicken (from a previous meal) for a healthy lunch. I try to snack in between meals to help curb hunger.  A bag of trail mix or some fresh fruit (again, have it handy so you just throw it in the brown bag) are great choices.
Make Time to Exercise
This is a huge factor in finding your balance. You do not have to be a marathon runner. You do not have to bench press 300 pounds. Take a walk. Ride your bike. Get on the treadmill. Whatever you chose, set that time aside for yourself and make it sacred. While you are exercising, you can work through problems in your head, think things through, whatever. But get that heart rate up and don’t let anyone take that time from you.
See Your Doctor
Last summer I went to my doctor for my annual check up. By annual I mean once every 4 or 5 years, depending on how much “encouragement” I get from my wife. My cholesterol was, shall we say, less than ideal. At 51, I read all the time of people keeling over at their work place at my age. MY AGE!!! This was a wake up call. We worked out a plan to help bring my cholesterol down and improve certain other numbers. The point here is that I let myself go. It was easy to tell myself that I was in great shape and not feeling bad, so why go see the doctor? Big mistake. Get a check up, follow the doctors orders. You will feel better about it, I promise.
Seriously, delegate some of the activities and responsibilities that we feel we HAVE to do to assistant principals. Yes, it is important to make sure we are visible. Yes, there are things that only we can do. But is also important to take care of yourself. Make as many as you can, but also make it clear that you do not have to be at everything. Keep a close eye on the events you have been to. If you have been to two soccer games, pass the next one to an AP. If you have chorus, band and a basketball game in one week, go to the event where you have not been visible. Greet parents and make sure they see you there. Pass things that you do not have to do to other leaders.  Remember, this is about keeping you healthy, not being available 24/7.
Walk Out the Door…and Leave it There
This is the hardest thing for me to. In the day and age of smart phones and constant connectivity, it is difficult to walk away from it, even briefly. We feel that we have to check e-mail through out the evening. We fell that it is necessary to be available for even the smallest thing every minute of the day (and night). We feel that if we are not there, if we do not take responsibility for everything, if we take a vacation day (more on that in a minute) that the school will shut down. It won’t. There are no work fairies who will swoop in and do your work for you. But it will be there when you come back. Trust me.
Take Vacation Days
Look at your next pay stub. How many vacation days have you accumulated? I have been a principal for almost two years now, and I have over 20 days accrued already. How many do you have? I will repeat myself, the school will not shut down because you are not there for a day. And some advice…when you take a vacation day, make it a vacation day. No e-mails, no phone calls, no work related material. Make it a day for you. Sleep in, read the paper, watch the soaps. Take your significant other out to lunch. This day is for you to rejuvenate your batteries. Make the most (or least) of it.

Now, as Mr. Miyagi would say, go…go find the balance…Banzai!!! 


About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. 2018 Outstanding Virginia Middle School Principal of the Year 2018.
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