Balance and Buckets

Photo by todd kent on Unsplash

This week I went to a family reunion. At least that’s what it feels like to me. Officially, the event was a professional conference for TACUSPA (Texas Association of College and University Student Personnel Administrators). There are many reasons it feels like a reunion to me. There’s longevity – I first attended this conference thirty-nine years ago. In part because of that longevity, I have a lot of friends who attend this conference so while I’ve always gone there for professional development, it has also been a place where I get lots of hugs. Attending TACUSPA and NASPA over the years have been important to me personally and professionally. These types of trips and activities fill my bucket.

This year, I spoke to the Mid-Manager’s Institute about Sustaining Leadership and one of the topics we covered was balance. Not work-life balance. I don’t think that’s a real thing, but more about understanding what balance is and is not. Balance isn’t static, rather it’s fluid and it shifts as life changes. To mix metaphors, balance is more about understanding what fills your bucket and understanding that you need a healthy mix in that bucket.  

Just as I have loved attending my professional conferences, I have loved my career in Student Affairs. It is work that I find valuable. It has been fulfilling on many levels, but it’s not the only thing that fills my bucket. Family and friends fill my bucket. Dance and yoga do, too. Reading, needlework, walks outside all fill my bucket. The list goes on, the proportions change over time, but there’s always been more than work in my life. Even when work was overwhelming, actually, especially when work was overwhelming, it has always been important to me to pour a mix of important things into that bucket. That’s one of the ways I have managed to keep a healthy balance over the long term. Not every day, maybe or even every season, but over a career, it has worked for me. 

And so the question for each of you today is ‘what is the mix in your bucket?’ Is it varied enough? Is it a healthy mix for you? If not, what do you need to add to the mix? There will always be more work to do, some of it will be urgent, but if your bucket’s not in balance, it becomes difficult (impossible at times) to do even work that you care about. Adding in even a little bit of something fun (see last week’s email about joy) can make a huge difference. What’s in your bucket and is it the right mix?

Take care,


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