Oxygen Mask

Fighting the urge to take care of everyone except yourself

Some of us have a serious problem not helping others. We give time, resources, and money until we are overbooked, drained, and broke. We give until we are bitter, empty, and exhausted. And sometimes, we are sad we couldn’t help more! This is a problem.


You enjoy helping people. I have the same disease. Why say no when it’s only a little inconvenient? Why charge money when you can give it away? Why not go the extra mile, and the next?

Because it’s selfish.

Selfish? How am I selfish by giving so much of myself?!

You are selfish because you only want to “help” people for a moment. You are not preparing to help people long term. You are thinking only about how to feel good right now.

If you were less selfish, you would preserve your energy. You would get more sleep. You would have an emergency fund. You would document your best tips and advice and blog them. You would charge for your services and products. You would ship your art to everyone instead of showing one person at a time.

You would take better care of yourself.

If you were thinking big picture, you would realize burnout is just around the corner. And then how many people will you help?

You are useless to the world if you burn out. What you call “helping” people is not helping anyone. The people who need you really need you to take care of yourself now, so you will be around later. So you can share what you’ve learned publicly. So you can share your solution with many people.

So you can reach further than your needy coworker, your broke relative, or your emotional friend.

This is why you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first.

You can’t save the world until you are on your feet. You can’t give tons of money to charities if you are deep in debt. You can’t run around with your grandchildren if you don’t eat right and exercise. You can’t share your creativity unless you create a self-sustaining machine that lets you create. You can’t give of yourself next week, next month, or next year if you fail to plan that far ahead.

This is why we must preserve the goose which lays the golden eggs.

How can you help?

The best way for you to help — really help — is to realize your full potential.

Time to stop being so selfish.

What are two specific ways you can take better care of yourself?