I’ve found myself on an airplane more times than I can count, and there is one thing that never quite sat right with me as they would go through the pre-flight safety procedures.

Buckle up – check. Find the exits – check. Put your oxygen mask on before helping your child – huh?? Aren’t they smaller? At greater risk of panicking and grasping for breath first? And how in the world could someone be so selfish as to put himself or herself before a child?

It wasn’t until years later that I found an analogy to help me understand that the reason for this is actually quite simple. If you meet an unfortunate end, you will not be able to take care of your child, in an airborne emergency or otherwise. Now this is a strange and simplistic example of what may seem to be an anti-generous act – taking care of you, first -- but it serves as a helpful lesson for how we can think about moving through our daily lives in a way that better serves both you and others.

In comparison to any previous generation, we seem to find ourselves in a constant state of busy, moving from work to social obligations to errands to check-ins and check ups on our electronic devices.

With pressures of work, school, friends and family, it is easy to find yourself running ragged from one obligation to another. We work ourselves to the point of high stress and beyond and sometimes allow life to move past as a blur. 

Much of the time we tell ourselves we are doing it because we “have to” when in reality, what we are also doing is introducing the same frantic, unhealthy, stressed out energy for those around us.

You may have heard it said that we are each the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time, most often with a reference to physical weight. This would seem to make sense as we take social cues from others and whole cultures are built through people collectively adopting a value system.

Whether or not this is scientifically accurate, the spirit of it certainly has a resonance. If your closest friends are going out every night drinking, you are more likely to do this as well. Similarly, if your friends are starting to learn about healthy living, it is somewhat likely to spark that same curiosity in you as well.

Over the past few years, I have invested greatly, both time and money, to learn things that I thought would contribute to a better life. This list includes yoga, nutrition, meditation, relationship development and more.  Without any direct suggestion or prodding, I have found that many of my friends and family members are starting to do the same, sometimes with my support and other times on their own.  As a result the way we spend our time together has shifted slightly toward activities that further this healthful lifestyle like taking a walk rather than going for coffee or joining a class instead of walking into a bar.

It may seem an anti-generous act to focus on yourself first, perhaps turning down a social obligation in favor of a healthy meal and a good workout, but if you can take the time to find your own center point, to get healthy and grounded with a good daily routine, then you will be in a much better position to serve those around you in a sustainable way. By doing so, you may even inspire them to do the same.

Live your generous spirit. Find your oxygen mask, and put it on first so you can help others find theirs as well.  With the busy holiday season fast approaching, it is the perfect time to give the gift of inspiration for a healthy, grounded way of living.


Ingrid Sanders is the founder & CEO of popexpert, a company that makes it easy to get better at life, work & play with the help of experts. She is focused on making it easy to fit lifelong learning into a busy lifestyle and considers herself a forever student of healthful living.

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