I’ve been talking to a lot of givers lately.
-Employees giving unpaid hours to their employer.
-Parents giving money to their children.
-Adult children giving care to aging parents.
-Salespeople giving energy to their clients.
One thing unites all these people – the crushing guilt they feel when challenged to give a little of their time and energy to themselves.
Society praises selflessness and shames selfishness. Selfish people are greedy, ugly, and evil individuals. Selfless people are caring, lovely and angelic individuals. Only in extreme circumstances are we allowed to be selfish.
You’ve heard the airplane analogy. In an emergency put your oxygen mask on first, then help the person next to you. This story is often used as an example, giving people permission to take care of themselves first. But the example is flawed because it implies that you are only allowed to put yourself first in an emergency, when you have no other choice. Only when your situation is dire are you allowed to take care of your own needs.
If you wait to focus on yourself until your health, your sanity, or your bank account is on the edge, it might be too late. You can’t wait for an emergency to take care of YOU.
A better analogy is the carrying pole.
This tool is so simple, but only works when there is balance. If one basket becomes too heavy, the entire contraption fails. The balance doesn’t have to be perfect because you can adjust the pole on your shoulder to favor the front or back. The beauty of the carrying pole is that it allows you to carry more with less effort. Think of the awkwardness of carrying just one of those baskets in your arms or on your back.
Now, imagine that the front basket holds all the time, energy and money you give to OTHERS. Imagine the rear basket is all the time, energy and money you give to YOURSELF. Givers have a natural tendency to put others’ needs before their own, that’s why the OTHERS basket is in front. We often turn our backs on our own needs.
You must be conscious and deliberate to add to your own basket.
If the Indonesian pictured above only had fruit in one basket would you call him selfish? No, you would call him stupid. He would be making more work for himself, promoting injury, losing sales at the market and wasting a good tool.
Putting focus on yourself is not selfish. It’s smart.
For the carrying pole to work optimally, finding balance between the baskets is key. For YOU to work optimally, you must find balance between the time, energy and money you put into others and into yourself.
When the voice of guilt creeps in to tell you to feel bad for focusing on yourself, picture this Indonesian man and his carrying pole. Remember that balance is the key to success.
What can you do today to find more balance in your work/life?