#2 Rule of Self-Preservation

March 11, 2008 at 8:58 pm | Posted in Rules of Engagement | Leave a comment
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You can’t look after the needs of others without looking after your own; you can’t give what you do not have.

If you are trying to effect change in any young person’s life or just to merely connect with them, then you need to be going into that relationship with your own tank as full as it can be. That way you can give them more energy and you will be more motivated, which translates into a feeling in the young person that you care. (For the importance of this see Rule of Neutrality).

It also means that you have the energy to deal with any challenging behaviour or general difficulties in a more “Can do”, calm and measured manner. You have to be able to deal with life’s stresses in a way that we would like our teens to. There is no point encouraging a young person to have a more ‘can do’ positive attitude if every time things don’t go to plan we descend into negativity and become a doom-and-gloom merchant. You are a role model- what you do says so much more than what you say. You have to practise what you preach.

The reality of being a parent, or working with teens (or even both!), and also having to deal with everything else in life is that often we will feel like we are running on empty. And perversely it is when we are feeling like this, that we will actually try and avoid doing the things that will make us feel more full, coming out with the reasons such as “I don’t have enough time for me”, “If I don’t do x, y and z for Tom, Dick and Stanley then the world will surely end”.

But this is plain and simply a false economy. Yes you might be doing x, y and z but if you are running on empty you won’t be doing the best job you can, you will be taking longer and will be inefficient, and when time is often our biggest enemy, inefficiency is something we cannot afford. Even worse, you are more likely to behave in front of teens in a way that damages rather than improves relationships – snap at them when they ask you something, or not take the time to really listen to them.

Going back to being a role model- don’t we want the best for our kids or the kids that we work with? Well then what better gift could we give them than teaching them to be their own petrol / gas station.

So how do you practically make sure that your tank is as full as it can be? It’s called quality ‘me’ time. For different people that means different things. For some it is going for walk in the country, for others it is lying in bed with a good book, for some engaging in some form of creative activity, or just regular exercise. It is time when we can be ourselves without the external (sometimes gale) forces of life being at the front of our minds. It is moments of escapism.

It is also about getting re-motivated, getting back to the roots of why you do what you do. So often we can get blown off-course and distracted by the minutiae of life and work and miss the bigger picture. In a parenting relationship this can mean taking time to think about why you care about how your child behaves- you want them to be the best they can be, you unconditionally love them etc. In a working context this means going on conferences and attending training, which sometimes in itself can be a fight with management. Argue for it along the lines of ‘personal development is professional development’, bringing up all the points in this post.

Look after yourself, others depend on it.


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