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You Need to Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

2 October 2012

Allison read the Safety Information Card on her latest flight and was reminded of an important balance lesson that makes so much sense but sure is easy to forget.

Tags: allison read, balance, leadership

If you’ve ever flown before, then you know that when the flight attendant goes through the safety protocols for the plane you’ll be reminded that if the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling you need to put yours on first before you help your children or other people who need assistance.  Whenever I teach our Choosing Balance and Leadership course, I remind people of this important safety message because it’s actually a great metaphor for a critical balance lesson. You can’t help others as well or attempt to be an effective leader, if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

Often I find that my clients are so busy taking care of everyone else that their own needs fall to the bottom of the list. They have a hard time moving themselves up the list let alone putting themselves first because they feel selfish. I remind them that words matter so let’s call it, “taking care of self” instead of being selfish. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be stronger for the other important people in your life. That’s why the flight attendant reminds you what to do with the yellow mask every single time you fly.  This seems obvious, right? But like many things in our lives, the obvious isn’t always the easiest to implement.



I just returned from a nine-day vacation so I’m feeling particularly rested since I followed a lot of the creative advice in the article I blogged about last week. I didn’t check email the entire time so I’m working to get those 777 messages under control, but so far so good, and I think I’ll be caught up by the end of the week. I’ve been taking email breaks during my vacations for more than five years now and I can promise you the inbox deluge is never as bad as you fear it will be. Somehow the break leaves you able to process the backlog more efficiently than you can possibly imagine before your vacation begins.

Anyway, I’m thinking hard about how I can maintain this since of restored energy and wellbeing that I found on my vacation. I’m certain one of the things I need to do is to put more emphasis on securing my own oxygen mask. We asked Jennifer Hux, one of our longtime contractors, to become our Office Manager in April. Happily, she said yes and things have been getting more manageable for our team ever since. However, I’m still not doing a good enough job of handing off some tasks that Jennifer is eager to take off my plate (she’s the kind of team member you dream of having). For example, there are several things Jennifer can’t help me with until I find the time to explain to her how to do them so I keep falling into the trap of thinking it’s just faster to take care of the tasks myself. My oxygen mask commitment is to get out of my own way and figure out how to slow down, ask for more help, and let go of the things I shouldn’t be doing anymore. What do you need to do to put on your oxygen mask?


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