The truth is not something outside to be discovered, it is something inside you to be realized.
This short article was inspired by an email we received this morning from a new course student:
Dear Marc and Angel,
I’m in my early forties and facing a troubling reality. I’m a nurse by profession and literally spend 90% of my time every day helping others, but somehow I’ve completely neglected myself in the process, and I’m feeling the pain for doing so. I feel like a siren has sounded inside my mind that I just haven’t responded to. I’m often anxious and miserable, especially on my days off. What should I do? How do I motivate myself during these hard times? Any insight at all would be greatly appreciated.
A Concerned Student
Our reply (an open reply to all who put themselves last):
Dear Concerned Student,
Once upon a time, many moons ago, there was a village of people who lived in handcrafted wood houses. And like other villages in this era, fires were a very real and present danger at all times. One small flame could burn the whole village into ashes within a few short hours. So the villagers developed a clever fire fighting system.
A rotating group of volunteers kept watch over the village from a lookout tower at all times, day and night. At the first sight of smoke, a volunteer would turn on a loud siren that was only ever sounded when warning the villagers about a fire.
The moment the siren sounded, all villagers would drop everything and run to a pre-assigned location for firefighting.
Young, strong men and women would pump water as fast as possible from the village wells, teenage boys and girls would fill big buckets with water as it was pumped up from the well, and all the rest of the villagers would occupy designated locations and ultimately form human chains leading from the wells to the fire. The bravest men and women would stand next to the fire and heave buckets of water until the fire was extinguished.
One day a traveler from a distant village heard the siren and asked someone on the street about it. The woman – who was rushing toward her designated location – quickly explained, “Whenever there’s a fire, the siren is sounded and the fire is extinguished!”
The traveler was amazed, and decided to bring this remarkable siren technology back to his own village, which also had dreadful problems with fires. Days later, he returned to his village with a siren that perfectly matched the one he witness in action on the lookout tower. He gathered all his villagers together, and he said, “You don’t need to fear fire anymore, my friends. I have found a new way to extinguish it. Watch closely, and I shall demonstrate.”
The traveler lit a large bale of hay on fire that was sitting next to his own cottage. The flames quickly began to spread closer and closer to his home. Then he took out the siren he’d acquired and sounded it. The fire only grew in its intensity, so he sounded it again. The fire continued to grow rapidly.
“Just be patient, everyone! It should happen any moment now…”
In a panic he sounded the siren again and again, but still the fire grew and blazed with even more intensity. Within hours the entire village burned down to the ground… because, of course, the traveler had misunderstood the purpose of the siren. It wasn’t used to put out fires. It was simply a signal that directed the villagers to take positive action.
There’s a lookout tower in your life too. In that lookout tower, the siren has sounded.
If you continue to do nothing when you hear the siren, your life, in many ways, will ultimately burn to the ground (dramatic, and true). For a siren extinguishes no fires on its own. But if you listen to the siren and let it motivate you to take positive action, you can save your own life… and create a sense of purpose, peace and resolve for yourself and those who depend on you.
The steps you need to take next won’t be easy, but they will be worthy. You will be one of the strong ones who know what it takes to fight and extinguish even the hottest fires that burn from within.
Truth be told, sometimes we have to learn (or re-learn) to be our own best friends, because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies. We love the idea of being loved and listened to by others, but we forget to love and listen to ourselves.
It’s time to stop putting yourself last.
Make yourself a priority today.
Challenge yourself to listen to what your heart and mind is telling you.
Marc and Angel
Afterthoughts… On Making Yourself a Priority
Resisting and ignoring your own feelings and emotions does not serve you. It leads to stress, illness, confusion, broken relationships, fits of anger and bouts of deep, dark depression. Anyone who’s experienced any of the above knows that these states of mind are horrifically unhealthy… and when you’re in the habit of self-neglect, it’s nearly impossible to escape.
Refuse to ignore your inner siren any longer. Refuse to neglect yourself. Choose to take up lot of space in your own life. Choose to give yourself permission to meet your own needs. Choose to honor your feelings and emotions. Choose to make self-care a top priority…
Here are a few simple ways to choose yourself today:
- Give yourself a break when you need one. – Show yourself some love by realizing that you can’t do everything for everybody in every situation. Do what you can, and do it with a joyful heart. Then breathe and give yourself space to recover. Refill your bucket on a regular basis. That means catching your breath, finding quiet solitude, focusing your attention inward, making time for fun and laughter, eating healthy enough to maintain peak energy levels, and otherwise making time for recovery from the pressures of life. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Passion & Growth” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Listen to your intuition and be honest with yourself about everything. – We cannot speak with integrity about a lifestyle we are not living. We don’t need more dazzling storytellers – we need more genuine ones. Listen to that inner voice. Confidence comes from knowing that what you’re doing is right, and that what you’re doing is right for YOU too. Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside to everybody else.
- Work on things that make you happy. – There’s a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. Life is too short. Invest in the activities (and relationships) you deeply care about. In the end, a good life is about making a good decision to do something every day that moves you. Care for yourself by doing things you care about! It’s a matter of realizing that there’s nothing selfish about self-care. Because we can’t give what we don’t have. You have to experience life on your terms before you can be truly life-giving to others. Build positive daily rituals that support your happiness. (Angel and I build positive daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
The bottom line is: People will come and go. Events will come and go. Day and night will come and go. But a sincere respect for yourself will always remain with you, if you nurture it.
So put these things on your TO-DO list today (and tie them to the points above):
- Spend time doing things that help you love yourself more.
- Spend time thinking about things that help you love yourself more.
- Spend time with people who help you love yourself more.
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which point mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
(Or tell us: What has the siren in your life been trying to tell you?)
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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