Last week I posted rather cryptically about some of my struggles with balance. This week I’ll be more straightforward.
In 16 days I take a nationwide test that will greatly affect my career and earning potential. I speak of the Professional Engineering Exam, a grueling, 8-hour, discipline-specific test. Passing means I can practice engineering without supervision. NCEES describes more information about the PE Exam on its website.
I’m taking the metallurgical PE exam since this matches my background. Unlike the major disciplines that have lots of study guides, manuals, videos, and classes to prepare test takers for the exam, the metallurgical discipline has next to nothing. Instead, I’m told to go back to my old college textbooks.
Those textbooks weren’t written for the PE Exam. Occasionally some convey something useful. But most were written to aggrandize the author within the ivory tower of academia where you publish or perish.
Furthermore, none of my college textbooks have solutions to problems let alone answers. I’ve no idea if I’m working correctly any of the problems appearing at the end of chapters. This is supposed to be test prep?
Add to this the historical passing rate for first-time test takers in my discipline: 40%. The majority taking this test for the first time fail. Failure means waiting another year and paying yet more hefty fees to sit again for the test. Could that high failure rate be related to the lack of adequate test prep material?
And so goes my balance
I’ve been assembling my own prep material since April, based on a list of exam topic areas produced by NCEES. The list is fairly broad in scope. And since I don’t know exactly what I’m preparing for, I’ve been freaking out more and more as the test date approaches.
Those concerns drove me to devote more and more time to test prep. That meant less and less time for other areas of life. Enter my lack of balance stage right.
Eventually I turned “anti-social.” Except to announce a new blog post on occasion, my participation in social media became non-existent. And so did the effect of the goodness I have to share with others.
During this time, family and friends produced many posts, none of which received my likes or comments since I wasn’t present to like or comment. Likewise, messages and invitations were not received and so inadvertently communicated disinterest in the sender or the sender’s message or invitation.
I of course am not disinterested. Distracted maybe, but not disinterested.
Finding the way back
Everyone can become so submerged in current local demands that we lose sight of our larger, more eternal calling. It’s good to do good things, but it’s better to do better things and best to do best things.
Yes, passing my license exam so I can advance my career plan is good and important. At the same time, it’s not so important that I sacrifice my sense of balance. I should devote time towards preparation, yes. But I should not devote so much time that I crowd out joyful living. My earthly career is good, but my eternal career is better and best.
To help with that, I returned to my values and created a time map. We affirm our values with our actions. And every action we take needs time to complete. By scheduling that time first in our week, we create a map that helps us stay true to our best selves while maintaining balance.
The key is to schedule best and better activities first. Otherwise, good but lesser activities will crowd out the space. Then we won’t be able to fit in what is best and better.
These thoughts came to me before Conference. During Conference, several speakers addressed how we spend our time. And they all spoke in ways that indicated how God is aware of me and my particular situation. How I love and appreciate the blessings of Conference!
Start all over again
Of course, some days simply won’t go as planned. That’s OK. In the words of a great jazz ditty, I’ll just pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. Sometimes that means creating a new time map. More often it means returning to the map at the point where I happen to be.
I’m now re-finding my balance. I’m feeling more calm and confident that I’ll do well on my exam. And I feel more of the love and support of my Heavenly Father for all my challenges, not just this current one.
Do you need help with balance? Then revisit your values. List the activities most important to you. Schedule them in your week first. You can then respond more effectively to the ever changing currents ever calling for your attention.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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