I was just getting comfortable and dozing off, trying to ignore the all-too-familiar preflight instructions from the flight attendant as we taxied to the end of the runway. But I found myself listening anyway. What struck me was the part about putting our own oxygen masks on before assisting anyone else in putting on theirs. It made total sense, of course. While you selflessly help another, you could easily pass out from lack of oxygen and be of no help to anyone.
It's something I've learned before, but seem to have to relearn over and over in different circumstances; to help others, you have to take care of yourself. I originally recognized this in my family. I often put everyone else first and didn't take care of my own needs. I falsely believed that if I did something for myself I was taking something away from others. In fact, what happened was that I had less of me to give.
A few years ago, I had to take a hard look at what kind of support I was giving my staff. Things had been extremely hectic. We had recently added new people and we were taking over new office space. I hadn't seen the inside of my health club in two months and had been working 70-hour weeks for several weeks straight. I was trying to do everything myself and wasn't asking for help. I was sapping my creative energy and contributing to the tension in the office. I thought that what I was doing was best for my company and the people who depended on me. My intentions were good, but the results weren't.
By stepping back, taking the time to exercise, delegating more and spending some time to myself, I became more resourceful, easier to get along with and more productive. There seemed to be even more time available and work was definitely more fun.
It's important that we look for ways to nurture ourselves. I keep a list in my planner of ways to indulge myself —things like going to a movie, getting a massage, taking myself out to breakfast, skiing or sailing during the week, and so on.
What are some ways that you can take better care of yourself? Here are some key methods:
Taking Time to Yourself. This is so very important. You need the time for revitalizing the spirit. Don't neglect this.
Pay Yourself First. There will always be bills to pay. Get in the habit of making things like a savings deposit a priority and doing it off the top rather than trying to make it after everyone else is paid. This is a super prosperity consciousness builder.
Exercise. This is one of the easiest things to let slide, either because we don't feel that we have the time or that we just aren't worth it. You will actually have more time, or at least more productive time, if you see this activity as a must-do.
Only you know what special treatment is best for you, but the ideas mentioned above should get you started.
Our society doesn't give much recognition for being self-indulgent, but being there for others requires that we take excellent care of ourselves.
Young children are great at knowing and asking for what they want. Of course, they usually do it incessantly. They are not yet concerned about appearing selfish. But in our attempts to teach our children generosity and being unselfish, we sometimes make them feel guilty for staying true to their own needs.
As grown-ups, we often choose to do things for others that we really don't want to do because we fear being criticized as selfish or uncaring. Acting out of duty or obligation isn't the answer. It usually leaves us feeling resentful. We need to do those things that revitalize us and give us the energy and clarity to be supportive of others. From this space we can offer our best.
I'm also convinced that people respect us more for valuing ourselves. Think about the people you know who always say yes to everything and everybody. Do you respect them? Now think of those who are selfish and self-respecting enough to not try and please everyone. Do you think less of them? I don't. They may not do all the things that I would like them to do, but I respect them. What I've found is that people tend to treat you about as well as you treat yourself. When you value yourself, people tend to value you more. You owe it to yourself and those you love to take good care of your most valuable resource — you!
Michael Angier is the founder and president of Success Networks. Download their free eBooklet, KEYS TO PERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS, from http://www.SuccessNet.org/keys.htm. Copyright 2001 Michael Angier & Success Networks International.