Think back to the last time you were on an airplane. While taxiing the runway, the flight attendants direct you to the video screens where you receive safety instructions in the event of an emergency during your flight. There’s one part of those safety videos that always sticks with me.
About halfway through, they show oxygen masks fall from the ceiling. The narrator directs you to put your mask on first, before helping other passengers. In those videos, the passenger who needs help is always a child.
When I was younger, before I had kids of my own, I had trouble understanding this. Why would the adult be encouraged to look out for themselves before their child (or any child)? How selfish and irresponsible could they be? I would never leave my kid there, unprotected, while I made sure my oxygen was taken care of.
Of course there’s a very good reason for this. And now, having been a parent for a little while, I understand it better than I ever have. But it wasn’t until recently that the lesson was really driven home for me.
Committed to a Better, Healthier Me
In January, Dani began a diet program called Isagenix. Technically, it’s a 30-day cleansing and fat burning system. It relies on meal-replacement shakes and a healthier diet overall to jumpstart your metabolism. She lost about 15 pounds in that first month, and has lost about 45 pounds in the past six-months. Though it’s taken hard work and sacrifice, she has transformed her body and her life.
Seeing her profound success inspired me to give Isagenix a shot myself. I’ve never been very good at dieting. I enjoy eating too much and success is too gradual for me. Well, in my first two weeks on the program, I’ve lost almost 15 pounds. More importantly, I can feel the difference in my body. No more bloating, no more sluggishness. My mood is more positive, and most importantly, I have more energy and patience to do my job as a parent.
Prior to taking on the challenge of this lifestyle change, I was comfortable in a pattern that was holding me back. I was so comfortable there that I didn’t even realize what I was sacrificing. My normal had become one of discomfort and trying to use coffee to overcome the sluggishness——a habit which was less than helpful to my aggressive heartburn.
Since getting into this new system, I feel like an entirely new person. I’ve noticed improvements in mental clarity and focus. My overall disposition has always pointed towards optimistic happiness, but now the needle sits even deeper into that range. In two short weeks, I’ve felt myself becoming a better husband, father, and person. But in order for any of that to happen, I had to become a better me.
There is a Time and Place for “Me First” Thinking
You can’t be your best for others if you aren’t your best self. If the adult on the airplane doesn’t look out for themselves at first they risk running out of air, eliminating their ability to help their child (or anyone else) later on. If I had continued eating poorly and ignored any opportunity for personal improvement, my overall performance as a parent would continue to suffer.
We all want what’s best for our kids. We all want to help them as much as we possibly can. And, like every generation before us, we want their lives to be easier, better, and full of more opportunities than ours. Many times that means we sacrifice our own needs and wants to do what we can for them. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past two weeks, it’s that we will never provide for our children the best way we can unless we put some of that same time and energy into our own self-improvement.
Applying Our Oxygen Mask
There is nothing noble about becoming a martyr when it’s not necessary. There is also nothing selfish about taking care of yourself. The days are busy and time is limited, but if you don’t designate some of that day to shape a better you (whether it’s through exercise, reading, hobbies, meditation, or any other form of personal development), you can’t be at your best as a parent. We need to make sure our oxygen supply is adequate first. Then, and only then, will we be properly equipped to help other passengers.
What do you do to make yourself better? How would your life be better if you had more time, energy, or focus?