While doing yoga, Sarah Beth, the yoga instructor I follow on YouTube said that too often people find themselves giving and giving and giving and never ever giving to themselves. You’ve heard that term, you have to fill your cup before you can pour out to anybody else? Well, here’s that lesson to fill your cup. I would very much agree with that statement.
Fill your cup
Duelling on the statement, how can you give happiness, smile, positivity to someone if you don’t have it yourself first? You can’t. Same as in the before flight instruction: put your own oxygen mask on first before you help others. If you do it the other way round you will pass out from lack of oxygen so you won’t be able to help anybody. Not sure why but most of us are brought up with the belief that you need to look after others first and lastly after yourself. The idea of doing something for yourself first is selfish and wrong. That if you put yourself first you might come across as a narcissistic snob. Well, let’s not confuse being an asshole with doing things that make you happy and healthy. I often heard from my ex-partner that I’m a snob and I love myself more than I love him. Of course I loved myself more than I loved him. Question is why did he stay with me and didn’t dump me before I dumped him? Guess I never know. However, I wouldn’t agree with the snob part as looking down on others’ behaviour makes me very very angry.
I always looked after myself first, maybe because my Dad was always reminding me – first you then everybody else. Only last year I discovered why it is so important to sort out yourself first. For the experience, for figuring out what you like, what you don’t like, what makes you smile, what makes you happy, why is it important to let go sometimes,
that shit happens sometimes and there is nothing you can do about. Most of all the make peace with yourself and to be happy with yourself. After figuring out all that and having some ups and downs I started to help others. Mostly by telling about my mistakes so that others don’t repeat the same ones 😛
During the contract in Hong Kong my boss dragged me through hell and back. However, he always had time for a discussion if I faced an issue. During those discussions my boss never gave me a solution for the issues I faced. By telling me about similar situations he faced, he was making me think about the options, actions, and approach. After some time, I figured that his approach was very effective.
Surprisingly I adopted a similar approach when I got my first team to manage. During meetings I never gave my team ready to adopt solutions. I’d had discussions with them saying that for example, I had a similar situation in the past. I told the team how that situation made me feel and how I came up with my action plan.
Think it was working as at some point one of my team members said, Alice, it’s extremely rare that someone can speak so openly and likes to share their experience with others and help them to get better.
Point is that I’ve filled my cup and was more than happy to help others fill their cup too. Only it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped filling my cup. I do fill it with new stuff on a rolling basis. Same as helping others.
However, I think that giving back what you learned or experienced is important. Look if somebody showed you kindness in a situation the next time when the roles revert show the same kindness to the other person. Filling your own cup doesn’t mean that you have to be an arrogant asshole.
A good example here are instructors or personal trainers. People who already have a robust know how as they experienced it themselves by hard work, blood sweat and tears. Now they are not only training others they are also learning new things as well. The ski instructor I had lessons with in winter. He has been skiing for 16 years, he is an instructor but also learns off track skiing and taking part in competitions. Just as the before flight instruction: put your own oxygen mask on first before you help others 😉
The importance to relax
There was a time when I was working 10, 12 hours a day. During the weekend I couldn’t be bothered to do anything apart from sleeping. I was stressed out, my hair started to fall out and when the stress level was getting extremely high I was getting a rash on the feet and neck. I took it as a sign that I did a good job because everything was done, all deadlines met, all deliverables in place, everybody happy. Last year I realised it’s not the right approach.
Now I also meet all deadlines and deliver all deliverables and keep everybody happy however I don’t work 10 or 12 hours a day anymore.
I learned how to prioritise my work tasks, how to approach my responsibilities. Most of all how to ask for help instead of spending hours and hours figuring out how a process works – a 15 min catch up over zoom provides enough clarity.
Now the term work life balance has more meaning for me. Previously I was convinced that work is my life. I was thinking about work all the time. In the morning when I brushed my teeth, in the evening under the shower, during weekends. Sometimes I even dreamt about work. I was waking up suddenly on a Saturday, for example panicking that I overslept and I’ll be late for work. My work is still very important to me, it always will be only I figured out that being stressed out and constantly tired I won’t be able to deliver good outcomes all the time. Last year I didn’t take nearly any leave during the year. One week in March and one week in August. Reason for that was the uncertain travel situation during covid pandemic. Though it’s OK to focus on work all the time while the travel situation clarifies. Well it wasn’t. As I had lots of leave days take to utilise, I took four weeks off in December. Only it took a lot of strength to survive till December. Somewhere in the beginning of November getting out of bed in the morning was difficult. I was so fed up, so tired, so exhausted, so done that doing even basic tasks was challenging. I had the urge to shout at everybody around to leave me alone.
Eventually I didn’t shout at everybody but mentally it was difficult to keep up a high performance. That was a lesson learned for me. This year is very much different. I take a week off every three months and have things to do after work. However, as a true workaholic last weekend I wanted to spend my Sunday reviewing stuff for work. Thought to do some sports in the morning and for the rest of the day to go through an urgent piece of work. Luckily my friend Gonia suggested we go hiking. That proposal came just in time. The workaholic in me got suppressed to a certain extent. Today I started work two hours earlier to go through the urgent stuff. Have to say two hours for the review were enough and luckily I didn’t waste a whole Sunday for it. Yes, OK sometimes I’m very tempted to look at my blackberry after office hours or during the weekends. Yes fine I look out of curiosity but at least I know what’s coming at me the next day 😛
It’s actually funny how much time it takes to digest and understand some things. Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time and tell my 18-year old self all those things I know now. Question is would 18-year-old Alice listen to 35-year-old Alice? Dunno, possibly not 😛