One thing you'll learn about me is that I travel a lot for business. On every flight, there’s the part where the flight attendant tells us that if the oxygen mask comes down, to put our own mask on first and then help others with their masks.
We probably all know someone who is living the equivalent of slowly suffocating to death while they hold the oxygen mask onto someone else’s face. They constantly do for others before themselves to the point of exhaustion, frustration or even depression.
A key component of my Personal Strategic Management methodology is that YOU are the central point of energy.
YOU are the CRITICAL CORE.
YOU have the find the energy source within yourself and nurture that to the point that no matter what else is going on around you, you will survive and thrive. This is not only possible but absolutely vital if you are going to love this limited and undetermined time on earth.
For my martyrs out there… no matter how much you think your purpose in life is to help everyone around you, what I’m telling you is the absolute truth. If you turn blue, everyone else is screwed.
(** OVERSHARE WARNING**) Here’s a little story about how I started figuring this out:
It was the early `90’s and I was married to my first husband. He was an alcoholic with multiple other addictions. Let’s call him “Jim.” Admittedly I came into the marriage with a self-storage bin of emotional baggage and no key. But Jim was also a professional manipulator. No matter what he did or what we fought about, I’d end up apologizing. My self-esteem at an all time low, Jim had me convinced that if I left him I’d be alone forever because no one else would want me.
Eventually I started seeking support in a quest to change my reality. To be honest, what I was searching for was how to change him.
I proclaimed, “I know he’s a jerk, but I love him!”
I resisted the unsympathetic feedback I received, particularly from a counselor who often reminded me, “Um, yeah… but he’s still a jerk. Just so you know, that part probably won’t change.”
One day I was sitting in a Friendly’s restaurant commiserating with a friend from Al-Anon about how different my life would be if only Jim would stop doing what he was doing and if only he would go to therapy and if only he would do x, y, z.
I recited scripts of carefully crafted conversations I would conduct to make him wake up and finally admit, “Oh wow – I’m so sorry. I’m SUCH a jerk.”
I was desperately trying to get some sense of control. I was convinced that my happiness depended upon having a happy marriage and that to have that, Jim would need to get with the program.
My Friendly's friend who was herself a “recovered codependent” patiently listened to me cry and rant and ramble.
Finally she took a last sip of coffee, pointed to a server nearby and said, “Do you see that waitress?”
“Yes,” I nodded.
“Do you think you have any control over what she thinks or feels or what she is going to do after work?” my friend asked.
Of course I acknowledged I had no control over the waitress whatsoever.
She continued, “So what makes you think you have any more control over Jim, than you do of that waitress?”
I think about what she said next constantly:
“The only person you can control and are guaranteed to be with twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of your life, is YOU. You better make damn sure you are happy with that person. If you’re not, you don't have a chance in hell at true happiness.”
Okay, so I know some of you are thinking, “Take care of you. No kidding. I already learned that from Oprah.”
But just think about it. What's the external thing in your life that you secretly feel is keeping you from being as happy as you could be? Maybe your job or your boss is the problem? Maybe this "difficult economic climate" is the problem? Your mother-in-law? Your teenager?
It is possible to get to a place where no matter what our expectations are of those around us or our external situation, we have the ability to be content. From that place of balance, we are better able to positively affect our own lives and the world around us from the inside out.
True life balance is internal.