Who is the most important person in your life? Think about it for one moment. I’ll wait. Go ahead and really give it some thought. This isn’t a test question and you won’t be made to announce your answer in front of the class. There’s no expectation here so you shouldn’t feel any pressure to answer one way or the other. So honestly, who is the most important person in your life?
When I ask that question during live seminars, most people usually respond by stating, “my spouse/partner,” or “my children,” or they name an aging parent. Some folks will sit silently in their chair, avoiding eye contact and (I can only imagine are) praying that the question is just rhetorical so they won’t be called upon to publicly share their answer. But no matter how many times I’ve asked that question (and I have asked it a lot), there’s one answer that I’ve rarely heard.
That seldom heard answer is: “Me. I am the most important person in my life.”
I imagine there are a number of reasons why most people won’t initially acknowledge themselves as the number one person in their own life. On the surface perhaps it sounds selfish or ego driven. Some might even feel that this line of thinking will lead straight down the path of narcissism. However, I beg to differ.
People look to leaders for guidance, inspiration, and support. Leaders put in long hours at the office and then come home to serve the family they love. Most leaders that I know directly also donate large amounts of time and energy to nonprofit organizations or community groups. Does this sound familiar? Chances are it sounds intimately familiar as you’re probably thinking of a routinely busy schedule that is jam packed with activities, many of which are in service to others.
Face it; you do a lot for other people. You selflessly serve others and you do it with a big smile on your face – and that’s a good thing. But I’m willing to bet that in many cases you have so much going on that you feel like you’re being pulled in multiple directions or there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. I’m also willing to bet that at least once this week you’ve gone to bed physically and mentally exhausted, already not looking forward to the day ahead because you knew you had to do it all over again. Am I right?
If you’ve been nodding your head in agreement because this describes you then remember: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
You can’t give what you haven’t got. You give and you give and you give and you give, but how can you truly expect to keep going when you’re running on empty? At some point, you must replenish your stock and reenergize yourself, or you’re going to burn out and won’t be of value to those who are depending on you. Surely you’ve traveled by airplane before and hopefully paid attention during the preflight safety announcement. Do you recall the flight attendant’s instructions? In the event of an emergency, properly secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.
There’s a reason they tell us to do this. Humans (and all living creatures on this planet for that matter) need oxygen to live. In stressful situations like that, where people are panicking and the amount of breathable air is decreased, it’s easy for individuals to pass out or, worse yet, die from lack of oxygen. In either case, your collapsed and lifeless body is of no use to that small child or elderly neighbor sitting nearby.
Hopefully you’re never in a situation like the one noted above. While our day-to-day affairs are generally nowhere near as life threatening as the aforementioned visual, the principle remains the same and is just as important. It’s vital that we first take care of ourselves so that we can be of greater service to those around us.
The truth is it doesn’t take much effort to start putting yourself first and focusing on self-care. Start off small by making sure to get a good night’s rest so that you’re present and alert the next day. Keep properly hydrated. Eat nutritious meals, and if necessary, prep your meals the night before to avoid those quick fix fast food stops. Set aside at least 15 minutes a day for exercise and physical fitness. Listen, I don’t care how busy you are because we can all spare 15 minutes. This includes eliminating lazy behaviors like taking the elevator when you’re only going up two flights of stairs.
I also recommend dedicating another 10-15 minutes a day for meditation or quiet reflection. This is a great way to start your day, serve as a mid-day break, or end your day in a peaceful state.
You are important.
Isn’t it about time that you care for yourself as much as you care for others?