Goal or Soul (Ep. 104)

As teachers, we always have far too much on our plates and far too many things to do. Today, Nic has some advice on one way that you can handle things–Goal or Soul. When you are deciding on whether to take on something new, you need to ask yourself “Does this reach a goal? Does this feed my soul?” Listen as she discusses the importance of these questions and breaks down her decision-making process.  Full episode transcript below.

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Nic: In order to tell you this next story, you need to understand a little bit about my son. He is the most responsible person in our family by far. We had to limit how often he could wear a tie to kindergarten. That’s how responsible this kid is. I often say I gave birth to Alex P. Keaton. If you are old enough to watch Family Ties, you will get that joke. If not, just know that he’s super responsible. We were outside, and we were just enjoying the summer day. My neighbor came home, and I yell over to him, “Hey, Brian, what’s the day today?” He rolls his eyes, because he knows I don’t work during the summer, and he explains that it was Tuesday. I then nodded my head and asked him one more question. “Hey, Brian, what’s the date today?” Again, he rolls his eyes. He explains that the day is August 10th.

My son looks at me with big eyes and says, “Oh, mom.” He was probably about seven at the time. I said, “What?” He goes, “Mom, the milk is expired in the fridge.” I looked at him and said, “We have milk in the fridge?” That’s about where my brain is during the summer. I am overly relaxed. I have no balance at all. It’s a beautiful life, but I’m not really achieving much during the summer, at least during the time that I truly take vacation. We’re going to talk about just the opposite today. During the school year, I do absolutely the opposite. I am overworked, sometimes overstressed, and trying to balance my whole entire life between school and family. Today, we’re going to talk about how to find that balance, how to keep that balance, and how to keep going back to the balance in your life. This is Nic Hahn, and this is Everyday Art Room.

Several years ago my husband and I, right around the holidays, really were struggling. We were struggling in our marriage. We were freaking out on the kids on a regular basis. We both felt overwhelmed at work. It was around the holidays, so we were overwhelmed with meeting up with family, and making sure we had all the cookies done, and getting presents bought. It was such a overwhelming time in our life. Our kids were young. We were both working as teachers. The holidays just added that extra pressure. We were falling apart. Because of this, we decided that we needed a really, really strong New Year’s resolution. So, New Year’s Eve my husband and I celebrated early with my kids. We showed the ball dropping in some other country, I’m sure, and told them that it was midnight. They went to bed, and Tim and I looked at each other and discussed what our New Year’s resolution was going to be for the upcoming year.

The first question that we just asked ourselves is why? Why are we so off balance right now? We decided to start just writing down all the things that are overwhelming. What is making us so off balance? What is going on in our life that we feel underwater? So, we listed those things. They were things like parenting. Yeah. That can definitely make us overwhelmed. Being a spouse. At the time, like I said, we have had our ups and downs in marriage, and we were at a low. Being a spouse, feeding our family. We have to go to work, which doesn’t just mean going to work as a teacher. It means grading or preparing, I’m sorry, preparing for our classes, teaching, actually teaching, going to meetings. Both my husband and I are teachers, so this is twofold. We also listed the things that we like doing, but it was eating away at us, the things like spending time with friends. I mentioned those cookies, making cookies for a cookie exchange. Those are the things that we wanted to do, but they were definitely pulling us down. It was just too much.

So, we started listing them all, and then we also decided that, okay, this is the things that are pulling us down, the things that we have that we’re feeling overwhelmed, but what do we want to do in our life? What are the goals that we have in our life? We started writing things down, like providing opportunities for our kids, sports, or even saving money for college. We talked about travel. We always love traveling, spending time with friends and family, and of course a big one for me is creating. Tim, It was fishing. We listed all these things that we felt overwhelmed with, the things that we wanted to have time with and then we realized that we kind of created two categories. We have the things that we have to do and the things that we want to do.

When making these two categories, we decided that we were going to call the things that we have to do our goals. We have to do them. They become our goals. Then the things that we really want to do, we decided to put that in a different category and call it soul. So, now we have created these two portions of our life, goal or soul. When Tim and I came up with this, a light bulb just glowed above our head. We were like, what? Everything. Everything fits into these two things. This was a huge place in the birthplace of not only our New Year’s resolution, but it actually became our family mantra. Once we identified these two aspects of life, goal or soul, we were actually able to start quizzing ourselves on our decisions. So, we went through that list that we made for ourselves. What fit into goal? What fit into soul? Where are we donating our time, our money, ourselves? Do they fit into a goal or soul?

If they didn’t, that’s where we need to start saying, no, it doesn’t have a place in our life right now. It might be a good thing and maybe something that might be something in our life in the future, but for right now, if it doesn’t fit into our goal or our soul or fill our soul, then we just have to say no. For example, my husband, he is a tech ed teacher, and he teaches shop mostly and has for many, many years. But this last year he decided that he wanted to try a change in his career a little bit and become a CTE teacher. This is teachers for career and technical education, so his job is to create internships between high school students and industry in the community.

Well, he knew that in taking this job he would have to, well, start a new program. This is brand new for our school. He has to write all the curriculum, create the online platform in Schoology, and not only that, but he has to create an entire portfolio that would allow him to get the license that he needed for this position. He knew that this was going to take a lot of time away from our family. He knew that he would be putting in extra hours with the kids, with the rest of the team that was starting this program, and he decided to still say yes to this job, because it was going to do two things. It is still filling a goal. We are making money and able to feed our family. Very important.

But in addition, it was going to feed his soul a little bit. It was going to give him that new jobs smell, kind of like the new car smell. I don’t know if it’s such a thing, but give him that energy to go to school and create a positive learning experience for his students. He was just getting a little burnt out out on what he was doing previously, so that was easy. He came up, he wrote all the pros and cons and decided that yes, indeed it fits into the goals for him, and if it fits into the goals for him, most often I assure that it fits into my goals as well. I want him to be able to succeed, as he does for me.

A lot of things fit into the soul category in my part, in my life. I love creating. I know. Weird. Right? An art teacher that loves to make? But, yes, I love creating, and it definitely feeds my soul. I like spending time with friends and family. I certainly watch a couple of shows on Netflix, but that’s not my reason for breathing. That’s one of the things that I can let go once in awhile, but it does feed my soul sometimes. Writing my grandparents, I make time for that. Going to my kids’ sporting events, or even playing pickleball, or going on a bike ride. These are things that I need to do to feed my soul. My husband’s category is a lot shorter. It’s fishing. That’s it.

Anyways, we make sure that each of us have time to feed our soul. I know that when my husband is being a little short with our kids, I’ll just look at him and say, “Hey, want to go fishing tonight? You can take the boat out. Go ahead.” I know that that’s going to feed his soul, and he’s going to find that balance again. He’ll do the same thing for me. If I’m snapping at, oh, I don’t know, him a little bit more than normal, he might say, “Nicole, why don’t you go spend a little time down in the studio? Why don’t you go make something?” We have a recognized this in each other, and we have … Because we’ve communicated so often of what feeds our soul and what helps us keep the balance, we can even suggest it for one another.

This goal or soul idea has even come down to our kids, allowing them to communicate with us in a goal or soul sort of way. For example, my son, the Alex P. Keaton kid, Sawyer, wanted to have an Instagram account. He sees me using my social media on a regular basis, and he thought it would be pretty cool to do that. I said, “Sure, but let’s identify if it’s going to feed a goal or your soul.” What we did was we just laid that out. Well, what are you going to use the technology for, your Instagram account? Are you going to be sharing a skill or showing off something that you’re making? Is there a purpose for it? When he started to think about it, he was like, “No. I just want to talk to my friends about using Instagram.”

I explained to him, “Well, it is gonna take a lot of time away from you. If it doesn’t have a purpose, if it’s not going to reach a goal, I don’t know if it’s something that you need at this point.” He thought about it, and he decided, “Yeah. That’s true. That’s just going to suck time away from me. It’s not maybe something that I need right now.” Even those conversations with our kids, we bring up the goal or soul idea. This is not, let me repeat, not the end all be all by any means. Goal or soul is a way for me, and my husband, and my family to communicate, to keep our self in balance, but that doesn’t mean just because we’ve identified goal or soul, it’s foolproof and we are now balanced for life.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. Finding balance still means we need to put in a lot of time. We need to put in work and communicate. We need to talk to each other, but this is just the language that we’re using, goal or soul. If not, let’s let it go for right now. Because my husband and I have decided to use this in our family, it helps us manage our balance and communicate with each other. We still have to make decisions every day, but this allows us to say that magical word, no, to some things. That allows us to live a more balanced life.

Maybe a goal for you this year is to get your masters. Did you know that the Art Of Education University actually has a masters degree specific to art teachers? I’m so jealous. This didn’t exist when I took my masters. I took a masters in education, and it was lovely. I learned a lot. But to be with other art teachers, creating this giant tribe that will unite us for the rest of our lives, I’m super jealous. There’s over 200 educators signed up right now, taking this program. That is an awesome tribe. So, if taking your masters is something that is a goal for you in the upcoming year, go ahead and jump on the Art Of Education University website right after you finished this podcast.

Goal or soul has really helped our family communicate with each other and also helped us as individuals to make good decisions for our family and help keep the balance. Another thing that I have done in the past is I’ve kept a time diagram. What I’ve done is taken a month and drawn out a shape, maybe a circle, for every single day of that month. Then I make a goal pie chart. I identify where my goals are, where my soul is. What time am I getting going to donate to my husband, my kids, work, and myself? Where am I going to put my time? What would be an ideal day? What would that look like? I make that pie chart, and then every single day at the end of the day, as I reflect on my day, I just made the pie chart for day one, day two, day three. Where did I end up spending my time?

Sometimes it helps me identify where I’ve just been working way too much, and then it allows me to say, “Oh, I need to find that balance again and give more time back to my family.” Or maybe just the opposite. Maybe I’m spending all of my time with my family, and I’m feeling overwhelmed at work. I notice by documenting my time that’s why, and I need to put more time back into my work. Finding that balance is so important to keep yourself healthy, mentally healthy, and it’s something that I encourage all of you to give your best efforts. I’m hoping that using goal or soul, or maybe even documenting your time might help you achieve balance in your own life.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.