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One of my past personal training clients, Mark* was having a difficult time prioritizing his fitness. He told me he really didn’t have time to exercise regularly because he had three sons who were involved in so many activities that needed his time. If he wasn’t driving his oldest to karate class he was dropping off or picking up one of his younger sons at baseball or soccer, or watching from the sidelines. He worked all day and felt after work time should be for them. Stuck between a rock and a hard place he said, “They need me! What kind of father chooses to exercise instead of being at his kids sporting events?” He had a point … to a point. You see he had gained 30 pounds and lost his own health just so his kids could keep theirs. While he was indeed a supportive and loving father, he certainly wasn’t a role model for health and fitness.
Several years ago while presenting at a day-long wellness conference I had a chat with a woman named Tracy who admitted to me that she felt guilty doing indulgent things for herself. She felt guilty for being at the event, she felt guilty taking time away from home responsibilities to go exercise or spend time with friends, she felt unworthy of praise bestowed upon her, and when it came right down to it she didn’t believe she was worth any of it.
These people had everyone else’s needs and best interests on their mind all the time that it made me wonder who was taking care of them? It made me sad.
Yes, when life gets busy and the ‘to do’ list is long it is exceptionally easy to put everyone and everything else before your own needs. Reality check: if you keep that up for too long you’ll burn out and have nothing left to give anybody.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
Put yourself back on your priority list if only to stay fuelled up and energized for your continued life of martyrdom. Decide that you’re worth a little selfish self-care if only so you can continue to give unselfishly to everyone and everything else. Wait, I have a better idea…
Make a decision right now to do what it takes to generate more energy, experience greater health and recharge your life just the way you’d like. Decide that a little time devoted to yourself is a good investment in your own needs.
After much discussion and brainstorming Mark devised a plan to put his ‘sideline time’ to double-duty. When he was at the soccer pitch, instead of sitting with all the other spectators he began walking the sidelines – one end to the other – back and forth all game long. At the hockey arena he climbed the stairs – up and down – for at least ten minutes every period. Not only did he get a varied perspective of the game going on, but he burned hundreds and hundreds of calories when normally he would be adding them on sipping hot chocolate and eating Twizzlers as he used to do while he watched. Over the weeks his energy soared and his weight plummeted and Mark wasn’t forced to take one moment away from being a good dad.
Tracy was a tougher nut to crack. She realized that she undervalued herself and knew it likely had something to do with how she was raised. As the oldest child of four siblings she was always expected to help out, be responsible, take care of the younger kids, and since her parents were busy running a farm she rarely got the praise she deserved and more often than not it was the opposite. She chose to see a counselor, which was probably the most self-indulgent (read: wonderful) thing she could do for herself and over time she talked her way out of her martyrdom and into new and wonderful experiences for herself. She told me a couple of years later that once she found herself and began doing for herself, her kids began treating her differently too “With respect,” she told me with much surprise.
No surprise there! How about you? When was the last time you threw caution to the wind and put yourself at the top of your priority list? How about today? Do something great for yourself just because. Become a more interesting healthier version of yourself just for you. Do it just because you can.
Michelle Cederberg, CSP (Canada’s Newest Certified Speaking Professional) MKin, BA Psyc, CEP
Helping people with full schedules and a long list of responsibilities maximize their personal energy.
My GOT TO IT Accountability journal helped me realize I was being less productive than I needed to be (read October 2009 blog to see why). Use it to plan and track small daily self-care steps in your physical activity, healthy eating, even how much sleep and fun you have.
I take 2-3 minutes each morning to plan my day, and that way I remember to keep myself on my priority list.
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Wondrous possibilities are steps away