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Insights: Put Yourself First
April 01, 2009

Put Yourself First

“There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.”

- Aldous Huxley

From time to time, I reach back into my ‘article archives’ for inspiration on the weekly newsletter – and from time to time I come across an article that I feel worthy of a repeat issue, perhaps with some minor ‘touch ups’.

So here goes…

A good time to reflect

April is a beautiful time in the Cape. The weather tends to settle into a stable pattern with warm days, cool nights and little wind to speak of. It’s also the month in which the Easter holidays bring some respite from the work or school routine that we either love – or hate so much!

Isn’t it amazing how quickly the year speeds by. It seems like yesterday that I was speaking about New Year resolutions. Now, as we bid farewell to the first quarter of 2009, is a good time to think back to all the good ideas, goals and intentions we dreamed up over the festive season, while temporarily freed from the shackles of demanding daily routines.

I remember only too well, during my corporate career, how all the holiday season commitments I had made to myself, with the aim of bringing more joy, richness and meaning to my own life, would vanish into obscurity with the onset of the daily work routine and the stresses and strains brought on by the demands of my employer.

At Easter time I was too often left thinking “Well, maybe next year will be different?” Of course it never was!

I was pretty much a career driven individual, determined to give of my best to my employer in the belief that my dedication would pay off with more money, more status and more benefits. This in turn would bring more personal freedom, more enjoyment and more leisure time. Or at least, so I liked to think.

More of everything… except life!

But after many years of the employment routine, it started to dawn on me that although I was earning more money, receiving more benefits and – at least in theory – enjoying a higher status in the company, my continued dedication to realizing someone else’s agenda was giving me less and less freedom, enjoyment and time to myself!

Hence the gnawing feeling of discomfort and restlessness I would feel during the reflective Easter breaks.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not slating corporate life. I’d be the first to admit that I worked for a top class employer, was paid a good salary and enjoyed a challenging and varied career. Clearly, there are many excellent employers around who contribute greatly to society.

No, it’s abundantly clear to me now that the problem lay, not with my employer, but fairly and squarely, with me.

Abrogating responsibility

I had made the classic mistake of putting my employer’s requirements and needs ahead of my own. I had reasoned that by diligently doing a good job for my company, my own needs would be taken care of. Without consciously realizing it, I had literally abrogated responsibility for my own personal growth!

Perhaps this rings true for you?

Perhaps you are currently abrogating your responsibility for your personal growth and happiness, assigning it instead to your employer, to your spouse, to your friends, to your church, to your family, to the government?

Take back control

If so, my message to you is this: Learn to put yourself first – not in a selfish, arrogant way – but in a way that allows the radiant, authentic, joyful you to raise your head and TAKE BACK CONTROL of your life so you can achieve what the inner you truly desires for you.

OK, let me share a little advice that I got from my personal life coach and that worked wonders for me.

Write down, in the most concise and meaningful words you can, a powerful little reminder to yourself, and stick it in a place where you can’t fail to see it every single morning when you get up to face your daily routine.

A couple of years ago, when I was contemplating a major change in my life, I wrote the following note to myself - and stuck it up right next to the kettle of the kitchen in my London flat (as a morning coffee addict, there’s no way I could miss it).


The most important thing this did for me was to provide a constant reminder to put myself first. Again, if this sounds selfish, I assure you it isn’t meant to be. How do you live your life?

I invite you to reflect for a few minutes on how you live your life.

Do you feel like your life is spent constantly in service to someone or something else?

Do you find yourself putting off doing the little things that make you happy, arguing that you simply don’t have time?

Do you offer a happy, smiling personality to those around you, while feeling tiredness, lack of motivation, frustration and resentment inside?

If so, it’s time to start putting yourself first!

You see, by doing what you instinctively know is good for you and what makes the inner you truly happy, you start to become someone who is more pleasing to be with, more inspiring, more caring, more confident. You grow as a person and you enjoy greater inner peace. And the abundance that life has to offer then ‘magically’ opens up to you.

Start small

Start by taking a small action step. Forget for a minute what others may think or say or how it may affect them.

Go for a short walk to clear your mind, take yourself out for coffee, join a dance class, stop at the beach after work for a half-hour refresher, go to the movies with a friend, treat yourself to that book you’ve been dying to read, spend your lunch break in meditation… Take whatever small action you intuitively feel is right for you.

Then reflect on how it feels to put yourself first in this small way. Write a note to yourself – just a few words or a sentence that will remind you how it feels and why it is so important. Put that note in a place where it will be a constant reminder, motivating you to take more and more such actions.

Change will come quickly

Very soon your life will change. As you start to nurture the inner you, the meaning and joy will return to your life.

Have a wonderful week.

With warm regards,


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