Please put on your oxygen mask first…

You would have heard this announcement before an airline takes off. The key part here is that “if you have someone that you need to take care of, please take care of yourself first and then take care of them next.

The advice is valid beyond the scope of flying in an airline. It’s a life lesson.

Let me explain.

If you have a reasonable amount of competence in any field, you will be bombarded with help requests from people that are close to you and people that met you at a cocktail party a few days ago. That’s just the way life is going to be. In fact, nobody asked you for good help for a long time, you need to be concerned about the value you bring to the marketplace.

The Trap

The trap here is that of over-extending yourself. As you sign up for commitments to do one small thing here and one small thing there, very soon you will notice that you won’t have to do that one small thing there and one small thing here for your own projects. Plus, all the people who you helped with one small thing here and one small thing there are only looking at you as someone who just helped them with one small thing.

On an airplane, everything is leveled because people around you know that there is a lack of oxygen. In real life, there is no way for them to know that unless they are able to read your mind. It is YOUR responsibility (and none others) to ensure that you wear the oxygen mask first before you help anyone else.

The Responsibility

Honestly, if people know that you are in need of wearing an oxygen mask first, they would gladly let you do that. But it’s a double-edged sword for many people. Letting the world know that you are in that situation may not be good for their personal brands. Depending on what and how much you are comfortable sharing, you need to come up with a strategy to ensure that there is time for YOURSELF to take care of YOUR things. It is not optional.

You can only care as much as you have the capacity to care and if your actions have eroded your capacity to care for yourself now or in your future, YOU have to take FULL responsibility.

Photo Courtesy: Coach Robert Simmons Blog