Stop Lying to Yourself

I hear it time and time again from art teachers…

“I love teaching art, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.. But I always did dream of opening my own flower shop”

“I have no time to make my own art anymore, in fact, I haven’t touched the canvas since undergrad, oh well I’ll pick it up again when I retire”

“My hobbies are throwing on the wheel, running, and knitting, but come to think of it, I haven’t done any of those for 3 years”

Are you lying to yourself about your own reality?

Has life gotten in the way of the things you were/are most passionate about?

Do you love your job, but also enjoy other things, but find no time for them?

You are definitely out of touch with your Element.

I don’t know how many teachers I’ve talked to, who just accept the fact they can’t do what they really want, like find time to exercise, get back into painting, or even (gasp – I’ll say it) get out of a school district or profession that isn’t serving them anymore. The Element isn’t necessarily about just your job, it’s about you finding a place where your passion meets your talent, a place where you feel most alive, a place where time just escapes you as you partake in the activity. For some, this IS their job: teaching art. For some, it’s a hobby, and for some, their fire has not been lit for so long, they don’t even know what they would choose to do with an extra hour of their lives.

The Element is kind of deep. If you aren’t ready to”Go there” then you probably need it the most. I’ll say that again. If the things I said above make you feel uncomfortable and squeamish, you need it the most.

Summer is here, and you may have a little time on your hands, but where do you see yourself by this time next summer? Staying the same or growing into who you really are meant to be?  Someday I’ll be a runner… Someday I’ll paint again once I retire….. Someday I will actually cook with the herbs in my garden, someday I’ll start an art camp for special needs kids…Make someday today, and start discovering what gives you that “feeling” of living in your Element.

Where do dreams become reality? What is realistic for you? How can you take one small portion of your dream and bring it into your everyday. How can you rediscover the lost self?

The Element sin’t just about you. It’s about helping your students find their Elements, too.  Once you understand “The Element” for yourself, it’s very easy to translate the information in order to better help your students find their strengths and choose a profession, project, or hobby that best showcases their talents.

The Element was a wake up call for me. I felt a pull a few years ago, I felt I was ready to grow, but I just didn’t know into what. I wasn’t unhappy, but knew there was something else I could be doing in addition to teaching that would make me feel whole and alive. Some people might say this is selfish. Why mess with a good thing?  I don’t think it is. You are the only person who has to live with yourself, and your choices, and you are the only person who can make a change.  No one gets to decide that for you, and to be frank, no one is going to come up to you and say “Now, don’t you think you should spend a little more time at yoga class?”  It’s all up to you, and it’s something I am still working on every day. (who isn’t!?) Every time I read The Element again, I find one small thing I didn’t learn before and it pushes me to the next level.

So if you are ready to listen to that little voice inside yourself that is telling you to make a change for the better, then I suggest you read this book at the beach this summer. The reason I am talking about this today is because I think the message is so powerful, I want to extend the reach to as many people as possible, regardless if you take our course this summer. That’s not the point. The point is the message that I feel is under heard or minimized by our society.

However, if you do want to dig even deeper into the text and do activities to help you get in touch with your Element, and need credit, we are offering AOE Class “The Element” from June 1st – July 6th.  By the way, the book we use is called “The Element” by Ken Robinson – Look it up! and Sign up for The Element Today!

If you are fine with saying the same, year after year, that is cool, too, but don’t read The Element,  because it’s contagious.

What goals or passions have you left behind?

What do you wish you had more time for?

What is holding you back?

Take a risk, and put yourself “out there” in the comments section below. I want to hear from you.  Everyone who comments will get a little personal 1:1 coaching via replies from me.  I love this stuff!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Marciadotcom

    Hey!  I totally know what you mean.. I’ve read this book.  It was great.  No matter what it is always important to set your priorities straight.  You NEED to do something that makes your heart sing.  No matter how “busy” you are or how crazy your life is.  I always make time to do things I love.  After my toddler goes to bed, I will spend time reading a good book or painting.  Turn off the tv and do something soulful!

    • Thanks for your reply! I am glad you see what I see in this book and idea. Life is too short, and I like the quote: “how you live your days is how you live your life” so true!

  • Yes! I find that with the ECONOMY the way it is those changes come in the form of smaller inner changes. The economy has made many people, including myself, look at more realistic options rather than dreams. 

    I, for one, know my reality is supporting my family and keeping life as stabile as possible for my baby. Teaching in overcrowded classrooms with stressed out faculty isn’t making my heart sing zipideedoda for myself or the students (although I am always smiling like there’s a blue bird on my shoulder;).  I know there is a school like that out there that is full of the creative energy that I long for, but there are always trade offs. I would be missing many of the students who I got into the profession to work with. In this economy and at this point in my life I’m finding it’s scarier to fail because there is a lot more to lose! 

    • On a side note, I feel this is not just an epidemic with art teachers (falling out of their element) but woman! Sorry guys, it just seems like I hear about more men who are able to put their life on hold to go find their element. eh hem! this is not an autobiographical story;)

      • I agree! It seems we have a really hard time giving ourselves permission to even take 10 minutes to paint my toes, how am I going to find time to “follow my dreams”? Perhaps it’s baby steps until something clicks.
        I always ask people how much time they spend on social media, Facebook, and tv and add that up, and then ask if they replaced even half of that with a passion activity how they would feel.

        • You hit the nail right on the head! AS USUAL:) Just eliminating Facebook would be a really interesting experiment. I am going to try it for a week. I just got a pit in my stomach saying it! My excuse is always that I have family that doesn’t get to see my baby (especially my hubby) so always put pics of Stella on FB. I’ll let you know how long I last! THANKS FOR THE ADVICE! And since we are Facebook friends, you’ll know I’m not lying:) I don’t watch TV so that just leaves grad school work and blogging for computer time!

    • Erica,

      I agree, we can’t all quit our jobs as need to find ways that are manageable but bring us joy. You seem to find a good balance and any goals can be gradual. I am thinking of the new restaurant and wondering how that plays into your family living out their element?

      • I think what you are doing know is a great example of living your element as a family. You both have a shared vision! It is a beautiful thing that we will all benefit from! Isn’t it amazing that what you are happiest doing makes the rest of us happy!!

        As for the restaurant. . . The new restaurant venture is really the element of my husband’s family. I fell in love with the chef but definitely not the restaurant industry. My family has a long history in the industry and I know from experience it’s a tough life! My husband is two states away right now full time.

  • I don’t spend enough time creating. Between teaching, two children, and a husband who is often out of town, it just doesn’t happen as often as I would like. My goal this year was to spend at least a small amount of time quilting. I got a little better in the spring, until the end of the year. I am looking forward to doing more this summer, though!

    • Angela,
      I think this is a very common problem among art teachers. Maybe it’s about changing what we create. Something that doesn’t have to be a long drawn out series of paintings, but a quick sketch. I even see cooking and decorating as my art on some days – at least I am creating something of value that didnt exist before. What would you like to create?

  • Dartist25

    hmm… you really have me thinking. Yes, it’s been time to do something…start something new…it’s been in the back of my mind for awhile now. Tomorrow I’ll have time, or next week I’ll be done with this, summer’s almost here,  etc etc etc.   Maybe I’ll take a peek at the book and/or take the class??? And get credit for it? Maybe you’re just a good salesperson!

    • Hi! Well, I only teach/talk about what I am truly passionate about! :) I can’t fake it!! For you, is the something new perhaps a new hobby, a switch of schools or just changing the way you do things? The change doesn’t have to be big (but sometimes it is) what matters is how the change makes you feel inside.

  • My fire has been lit! 
    I have this inner passion that I can’t ignore any longer.  I’m so excited that you’ve given me the
    opportunity to be a writer for AOE to help me take steps towards making a difference
    in the art education world!  It’s only the

    I definitely think it’s a lot easier to make excuses that to
    take a leap of faith and go with your gut.  After months of excuse after excuse, I now get
    up most mornings and exercise before work.  No more excuses! 
    I finally realized that maybe I am a morning person after all!   
    I wish I made more time to blog and continue my
    education.  I certainly am one of those people
    who wastes  a lot of time online doing a
    whole lot of nothing.  I definitely could
    be more productive during that time.  I
    also love professional development and graduate classes.  Someday I will get my doctorate.  For now I think I’m going to work towards my
    national board certification.  How
    exciting and scary at the same time! 
    I commend you Jessica for following your passion with AOE and making some large life changes in the coming year. Bravo to you (and your family!) I’m excited I get to be a part of it.

    • Cassidy,
      You will be so successful getting your national board certification, and I can’t wait for you to share the process with us here on AOE, the good, bad and ugly! I love how your goals are so definitive. Someday I will get my doctorate. There was not a “maybe”- This is at true testament to you as a person. This tells me you will reach your goals! 
      Someone told me when you get up in the morning to exercise, you can own it all day long. I love that feeling, too. You are inspirational to me as well. Keep following your Element and it will come back to you trifold! 

  • Knighth

    I remind myself that I CAN do it all, just not all at the same time. There are definitely phases and stages that I go through, where different parts of my life are in the back burner, and I think it’s important to keep rotating them around and not let one important area get too neglected. My family always comes first, then after that I rotate personal goals like housework, my own art, extra things at school, relaxing, etc. We often feel guilty about what’s getting left behind, but keep in mind that you can’t do it all every day.

  • Kmason

    Excellent book. I wish I could take the class this summer because I love AOE classes and I love the book.  Developing a focused action plan to find and develop my own element would be exciting. Hopefully I will be able to reread the book later this summer when my vision clears up (I had eye surgery).  Thanks for reminding me again about the book!