Balance: A key aspect of personal resilience

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The way I look at resiliency today is very different than when I joined the Air Force just a few years ago.  The emphasis was just not put on it like it is today. Not because previous Air Force leaders didn’t care about the subject, rather, I feel we as a force didn't fully understand the importance of having or building it. 

My generation of Airmen were honestly groomed under the “just suck it up and deal with it” mindset instead of supervisors and leaders being in tune with how much of a return you get from taking care of peoples’ personal, spiritual, mental and physical resiliency. 

Today, we have a better understanding of the importance of having resilient Airmen and the dividends resiliency adds as a force multiplier.  We now have classes taught by master resiliency trainers to help us develop skills to deal with adversity.

Resiliency training doesn’t stop there, though, we now have courses to help us understand our own emotional intelligence, allowing us to better interact with others. All of these tools are great and immensely valuable to our Airmen, but there is still one aspect of daily life that is not stressed upon enough and is key in my eyes to one being resilient. That is the importance of balancing our professional and personal lives so that neither suffer and both flourish.  This applies to married and single Airmen alike.

In my humble opinion, balance is key to a member being able to operate or consistently produce at a high level. Balance allows us to stay grounded and focus on our families as much as we do our duty as Airmen even when we are getting crushed by daily tasks.  We as an Air Force need to highlight this key aspect of daily life and help our Airmen maintain proper perspective. Help them understand if they don’t have balance, they may be successful, but at a cost of losing either their careers or worse, their families. Many Airmen make it through unscathed without ever thinking about the concept of balance, but I know more Airmen than I can count that didn’t. I want to share my story in hopes that it resonates with each and every one of you.

Like many of you, I have sacrificed much to get where I am. I’ve missed birthday parties, anniversaries, football games, basketball games and much more. I didn’t always recognize that I was not sacrificing alone. My family has sacrificed right along with me. My wife and kids are the ones that had to pick put the slack while I was on temporary duty or deployed. 

When I was a young Airman and non-commissioned officer my sense of duty overpowered my need to be present in daily life with my family. I was that guy that never said no, instead I volunteered to go on missions even when I really didn’t need to. I sacrificed valuable time with those most precious to me and didn’t see the damage I was doing until it was almost too late.  Well, I am here to tell you it is never too late to make a change. It is never too late to be present in your families’ lives. 

I know what you are probably thinking--how could you be that way, Chief. I would never do that to my family--well I truly thought I was doing the things needed of me as a husband and a father.  Providing monetarily for my family and ensuring they had what they needed was enough. I felt the time I was spending with them was quality time but once I took a deeper look at my actions, I was many times present in body but not of mind. Bringing home work became normal for me and when I didn't bring it home I stayed late to take care of it. Often, I stayed to do work that could inevitably have been done the next day. Turns out, I was failing in the most important aspect of my life and just didn't recognize it. To me, being a good husband and father is my number one priority and if I am failing at those two very important duties, am I truly doing what is needed of me to be a successful leader and take care of my Airmen?

After listening to my wife and kids, all they really wanted from me was to be present.  When I say present, I don't mean that I needed to be with them 24/7… I mean I needed to make every second count. The time spent with them needs to be all about them, leaving the daily to-do list at work behind. Now, I understand there are times when we must stay late at work or be away from family in order to accomplish our mission. You know what, if you communicate that with your family, they will understand too. I found the key is to communicate often and ensure the time spent at home is truly quality time and not just “time.”

My hope is that my story will help workaholics just like me take a closer look at what is important in their lives and ensure they take a long hard look at their priorities. One can never be truly balanced in life, but if we are making a conscience effort to examine ourselves from time to time, we can be successful in many aspects of our lives. 

My philosophy is to give my family 100 percent of me first and then give the Air Force 100 percent of what's left. By doing that, I feel I am able to give both 100 percent of what I have available. The overall goal is to hopefully be successful in both aspects of life and leave the Air Force with your family intact and proud of your service to them and your country.