[NOTE: I previously posted this on BLOGGER on June 20, 2010.]
In his book, Choices That Change Lives, Hal Urban presents a powerful activity that I have adapted and used in many of my workshops. There are three steps:
- First, write the three (or five, or ten, or fifteen) things that are the most important in your life. These could be people, things, processes—whatever you place a priority upon.
- Next, list the three (or five, or ten, or fifteen) things that take most of your time each week. (Do not count the time you sleep.)
- The final step is to compare the two lists, do they match; do they connect?
In every audience I have used this activity with, I see heads shaking as if to say, “What I say I value is NOT where I am investing my time.” It is a quick activity that can be an effective reality check. At the very least, it provides pause for thought.
Recently, I did this activity with an added twist. After the audience compared their two lists, I asked, “How many of you listed yourself at the top of either list?”
In a professional grouping of approximately 75 people, very few people put themselves first. I asked them to think about that. How could they be good for anyone else if they were not taking care of themselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually? I suggested they think about being “selfish”—that is, spend time strengthening and maintaining balance in their lives.
Later that day I received an email from one of the participants: “If you are spending time on the things you value, is that not putting yourself first? One’s own name wouldn’t need to be on either of the lists!”
It was (and is) a great question that stimulated an energizing email exchange. We can renew ourselves by “spending time on the things we value.”
This same participant also wrote: “I believe what bothers me is the ‘taking care of me.’ This ‘taking care of yourself’ philosophy is being interpreted into ‘It is totally ok for you to be selfish at whatever costs.’ We make choices in life. Choices to have a family. Choices to own a home. Choices to work outside the home. Choices to strive for a particular income level. All these choices come with it responsibility of time and demands on oneself. To bail on any of it because ‘you deserve to take care of yourself’ shows lack of character and responsibility and commitment to something you made a choice to do.”
Again, good points. But I do not believe that “taking care of yourself” has to equate with a “lack of character, responsibility, and commitment.”
What I am suggesting is that we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am NOT saying we should shirk responsibilities because I deserve “it” (whatever “it” may be). Yes, we do make choices—and we have to live with those choices.
For instance, parents have an all-encompassing job that, at times, does take every waking moment. The same happens from time to time in the workplace. And the parent and worker can very well value what they are doing. That is, they love their children; find their work exciting. However, if that person collapses physically, emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually, will that person be any good to those he/she has made a choice to provide for (for example, children, spouse, employees). If I make sure to carve out time each day for physical conditioning, I know that I will be a better person for those I work with and live with. And, with discipline, I can do that and not “bail” on any of my responsibilities.
Perhaps “selfish” is too harsh a word; carries too much baggage. Whatever we call it (“selfish” or “investment” or “…”) this does not give us license to disregard our responsibilities. In one of my books, I write, “Think of balance as being in a condition of contentment when you feel intellectually alert, emotionally stable, and physically strong.” This is living in a healthy, respectful, and responsible manner.
Is this selfish? Does this show a lack of character? What do you think?
© Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog, 2010.