For all of those who read my post last week, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. That’s right, I’ve been flat out at work again and it has basically occupied my entire existence. Last weekend, I was literally in bed by 11pm on the Friday night and didn’t make it to my friend’s birthday BBQ on Sunday because I was too tired. I come back to this topic because I know I’m not alone. We’re all working like crazy and managing five million priorities, plans and passions.
At some stage last week, I took a moment to put my feet up and flick through a magazine. This was one of those publications targeted at young professional women who are busting their guts with their careers. Apparently the way these ladies like to relax is by reading about more ladies hustling their little hearts out! In this publication I came across an article that discussed the so-called Four Burner Theory. It didn’t really teach me anything I hadn’t already known before, but something about it really got up my goat! In a nutshell it said that we all have four burners in our lives: family, careers, social and health – but not enough gas to run all burners on full. So we are presented with the choice to either turn down/ off some/most burners in order to reach full potential in one or to let all four burners simmer away at the same level and never reach full potential in any sector. The article finished up by suggesting that maybe the best option is to operate in stages. That is to turn down some of the burners at some stages in our lives. That way we will have it ‘all’ over a life-time.
Perhaps its my own current feelings of inadequacy that raged in me or the fact that the article was poorly researched and basically presented an opinion piece masked as something more. In any case, it has had me ranting and raving mad to anyone who will listen (or who even do a half-assed job of pretending)! Here are my favorite responses:
My partner wanted to know which order the burners were labeled in. He very accurately pointed out that four burners are never the same size. He then recapped my own daily life to me and pointed out that I work out before work, love my job, come home to him and the fur-son in the evenings and on weekends it’s time to socialize. So after talking to him, I though I had it pretty good!
My sister, pretty consistently over the last few years has replied to me with, “Why do you feel the need to conform to society’s expectations of you? Why don’t you just live your life the way you want to and enjoy it without guilt?”
I never really have an answer to her other that a very sad one, “Well how else will I know I’m doing alright at life?”
My really good friend Sandra, who doubles up as my Aussie fairy godmother shared with me an exercise by which she has judged her own life for decades. She draws a circle, splits it into eight sections that she labels in order with her own values. She then rates each section from one to ten. One is closest to the centre of the circle and ten being the “kick ass” score which is on the outskirt of the circle. Once all sections are assigned a numeric value, she draws a line between all the numbers around the circle. The idea is that any section that scored low will appear as a kind of dip/hole in the wheel and will teach you what you need to spend some time patching up. When your circle is relatively round, like a wheel, it should turn easily and you should be one happy lady! This is of course a very honest exercise and doesn’t work if you’re not truthful with yourself about what you want and how well you’re doing at something.
I really like Sandra’s approach to this age-old predicament of prioritizing and living a fun and balanced life. It works for me because I get to title each area with what is unique to me. The Four Burner approach doesn’t allow me to capture my cultural pursuits, and I personally feel like I have many including my art practice, arts management practice, engagement with my Russian heritage and keeping up a second language. I’m a lot more multifaceted than four opposing priories. As are you! Possibly my beef with the Four Burner Theory is that it vastly over simplifies our very complex existences and attempts to label us all the same. That’s not for me. I’m from Melbourne, a city of individual individuals! I’ll make sure to expand (with a generous amount of humor) on that another time.
For all the guys out there reading, this also applies to you but it just so happens that I notice these sorts of pieces targeted at women. I would love to hear if you get presented with the same topic. For all those not interested, I will post a link to my partner’s Manly Stove Design and Mechanics Monthly.
So to finish up with my favorite, a cheesy note – let’s get away from the stove and take a look around and at our true selves.