Yes, You Are Your First Priority

I know it sounds selfish, but it’s true. You are your first priority. And that’s where a lot of business leaders have got it wrong. Everything else, from minute-by-minute text interruptions to late night spreadsheet updates, gets their attention instead of taking care of themselves.

But let me ask you, why do airlines tell passengers traveling with children to put their oxygen mask on first in the event of an emergency? Because they want parents in a crisis to be supremely selfish? No. They do it because if a parent gets the oxygen they need to breathe, they’ll be able to ensure the same for the child traveling with them. In this way, their oxygen is top priority.

And so is your oxygen. If you don’t attend to the very important task of being healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, you’ll have nothing to give to those who are traveling with you: from colleagues to coworkers, family to friends.

This is not to say, of course, that you are your only priority. That would be like putting an oxygen mask on yourself and not the child traveling with you. Not only is that selfish, it’s criminal. Our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, then, is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. That being to care for the other priorities of our life, both personally and professionally.

So let me ask you these questions:

  • Are you taking care of your body, eating right, exercising regularly, and sleeping well?
  • Are you taking care of you mind, learning new things, keeping it sharp and alert?
  • Are you maintaining emotional equilibrium, leaving enough margin in your days to rest and relax?
  • Are you attending to the deeper things in life, honestly seeking God in faith?

If you’re lax in any of these areas, not only will you pay a personal price, those traveling with you will pay a price as well, because, ultimately, you’ll have nothing to give them.

You can’t pump water from an empty well. And if your well is empty, or nearly empty, it’s time to take care of a top priority: yourself. “Watch over your heart with all diligence,” the ancient proverb advises, “for from it flow the springs of life.”

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