Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

If you’ve ever flown commercially, you’ve heard the preflight warnings about putting your oxygen mask on before assisting your child in putting on theirs. But it feels so counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? In today’s world, most parents believe their job is to do everything possible to provide an incredible and meaningful life for our children: send them to great schools, enroll them in excellent extracurriculars, teach them how to swim and play the piano, make sure they spend time with friends. We’ll do just about anything to make sure our kids have it all. 



But where are you in that equation? How many piano lessons have you had in the past 10 years? Maybe that’s a bad example - becoming a pianist might not be your dream - but from a time ratio standpoint, many of us spend almost no time focused on our own well-being and all our time focused on our kids. For some of us, that was true even before COVID, but now that we’re all superupcloseandpersonal (since we’re all at home all the time), you may be wondering if you even get a say any longer. These days, it may feel like it really is all about them. 


However, it’s not about them. It’s about you. You can’t pour from an empty cup, just like you can’t take care of your child’s oxygen mask when you’re already blacked out from lack of oxygen. You’ve got to make sure your cup isn’t empty. And to do that, we’re going to need to go a little deep (not quite Brene Brown deep, but a little more than just running across hot coals real quick, so stick with me).



When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Some of you just immediately thought “COFFEE,” and trust me, there’s a giant “AMEN” coming right back at you from over here. However, I mean deeper than that. I want to know: Other than the fact that you have a 9 am meeting, and the kids need breakfast, why do you keep doing this day after day? How do you muster up the strength and energy to get out of bed every morning? What drives you? What thought or belief are you so compelled to fulfill that it’s worth starting over every single day, no matter how little sleep you got? 


Society, the world, and even your circle of friends may offer to help you define impact and success. And it is really easy to believe you are winning because you have what the world tells you you should want. But why does that matter? Are the car, the house, the tropical vacation, etc. what you want? If all that were taken away, what would matter most? Are they your motivation? Or do you want more… maybe more impact? Simon Sinek is the loudest voice in the conversation around “starting with why,” but dare I ask, “Why start with why?”



Knowing what matters and what drives you is not a magic pill by any means, but there is a reason the self-improvement industry is worth $11 billion and growing fast. Plus, knowing yourself is kind of important since everything in your life starts with you: your job, your family, your health, your happiness, your mental health and so on. So, I will ask again: What drives you? What matters? And why do you think that it matters so much to you


Only you can look within to find your driving force, whether it is internal or external. And why wait? An old Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today.” The sooner you hone in on what drives you, the sooner you’ll be able to plant that seed and watch it start to grow. As you do, I bet you’ll find you have more energy than you have ever experienced before. 


If you discover you aren’t quite ready to jump into overdrive the minute you figure out what you’re passionate about, that’s okay. In fact, pausing for a moment can actually be beneficial so you can figure out where you want to invest your energy next. The beauty and magic is that simply having this knowledge about who you are, what motivates you, and the difference you want to make in the world will make every single thing you choose to do in life from that point forward so much more powerful and meaningful. 


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