September has been a month of ‘getting back on it’ after a reasonably quiet and lazy summer for me. By back on it, I mean focussed on the things that matter and that make a difference, not withstanding the importance of having a break. It has also coincided with what Action for Happiness had dubbed Self Care September, the premise being that if you are not the best version of yourself, you can’t be the best version of any of the other roles that you play in life.

The famous and oft quoted (especially by me) Jim Rohn had a wonderful perspective – in his book ‘The Art of Exceptional Living’ he spends a bit of time talking about how he learned a valuable life lesson and shifted his focus from helping others at the expense of himself, to looking after himself in order to help others. He captures it perfectly –

“The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you’. Now I say, ‘I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’”

It took me a while to really get that because “selfishness” is often frowned upon and a focus on you at the potential expense of others could be perceived as selfish. However, this is clearly not the case, there is a reason that airline safety briefings urge you to put on your own oxygen mask before fitting that of your small child. If you are not strong, healthy, firing on all cylinders and in great shape then you are absolutely not going to be the person that a friend or loved one can totally rely on day in day out, or worse still, in an emergency. We all have tough times – bouts of illness, injury or circumstances where the name of the game is just survival for a bit – but outside of these episodes when life is ‘normal’ (whatever normal is) how well focussed are you on looking out for your physical and mental wellbeing, in order that you can be there for people that matter.

I have revisited important health habits in September – quit alcohol for the month, started my gratitude journal again, started running and hockey training as the new season approaches, as well as returning to daily meditation and exercises. Now one of the drivers was just to feel healthier and better about myself – but the other driver that I am trying to focus on and cultivate is that of being in a better position to help people around me. I do a lot of coaching, have teenage daughters and provide support to a number of leadership teams. If I don’t look after me then I am not able to effectively look after them to the best of my ability. This driver has helped me deal with occasional feelings of guilt that surface when I am focussed on things that are all about me and that may or may not get in the way of other priorities. Heading to bed early, going to play golf with my Mum, taking the dogs away in the truck for some ‘me time’ or climbing a mountain, is all about investing in me.

My daughters and I have an on-going dialogue about “wants and needs” and unfortunately I have been hoisted by my own petard. What was a campaign to help my girls see the difference between wanting something and actually needing it has backfired spectacularly. This is especially true of the Overland truck I have been doing up and every time it comes back from the garage with the latest thing I absolutely ‘needed’ I get the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played at full blast. Although to be fair it is a little too late by then 😊

So I guess the culmination of these ramblings is a call to action – are you looking after you so that you can look after whoever it is that matters in your life? How are you feeling about yourself right now? Are you investing in you? Are you looking after yourself to the best of your ability in the way that you would encourage someone you cared about to do so? It may be a funny question to ask yourself and perhaps sound a little trite – but in essence it does come down to whether you love yourself enough to care about you.

My encouragement is to take a step back and look at areas in your life that you are doing a great job of putting yourself first in order to grow and areas that could do with some attention. It may be health habits, exercise, shared hobbies or work life balance you need to address. I am sure that we all have people that we want to take care of and be there for, so what will it take to look after you so you can do that more effectively from now on?

I would love to hear your ideas, stories or observations – drop me an email.

Onwards and upwards yet again.