Where Are You on Your Priority List?

A few weeks ago, I shared with you that my boyfriend and I had surrendered our busyness badges of honor and had committed to one another to take Saturdays off. This past Saturday we went rock hounding. I can’t tell you what a difference being out in nature in the middle of nowhere had on our psyches. No cell phone service. No to-do lists. No people in sight for miles. Just rocky outcrops, cliffs, birds, snakes, katydids, butterflies, and praying mantises galore! The calm that washed over me was incredible.

And then Sunday came.

Chores, bill paying, email, and life intruded upon the peace and serenity we had found on Saturday. Todd spent most of the day working at his third job while I took care of things around the house and got some work done myself. Sunday night, over dinner, I remarked that my goal is that by the end of the year, barring the necessary chores we don’t have time to get to during the week, we’ll be taking the entire weekend off – and most weekday evenings too. Todd’s response? “We’re going to have to get really creative then.”

He couldn’t understand what we could do to fill all that extra time.

Then it occurred to me: that’s really the crux of the matter, isn’t it? As a society, we’ve gotten so good at filling every single moment with something on our to-do list that we: 1) feel guilty when we are not doing something ‘productive,’ and 2) we’re not even sure what to do with ourselves when we have time off because we are so far removed from that thing called relaxation.

In between chores and work on Sunday, we had lunch with my mother. Todd asked her when the last time she took a vacation was. At first, she couldn’t remember anything since my childhood in the 80s. Then she finally said, “When I was in the middle of moving up here, driving a U-Haul, I stopped to see my friend on the way. That counts as a vacation.”  Really? Having lunch with a friend in the middle of moving across country counts as a vacation?

I’m not sure when the busyness badge of honor became such a valued accessory – I actually do remember a time when shopping malls were closed on Sundays and everyone I knew went to church on Sunday morning and then went home and rested. But regardless of when it started, I think it has to stop.

At the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama said, “The world will be saved by the western woman…Some people may call me a feminist … but we need more effort to promote basic human values — human compassion, human affection. And in that respect, females have more sensitivity for others’ pain and suffering.”

I agree. Due to the higher number of mirror neurons in the female brain, most women do have a greater capacity for empathy and compassion. Here’s the part that I think was missing from that speech: “The world will be saved by the western woman,” but not at the expense of herself. After all, you can’t save the world if you are trying to do so from an empty cup.

If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ve probably heard something similar to this as part of the flight attendant’s safety spiel: “In the event of an emergency if the cabin pressure drops, oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above your head. Please secure your own mask before helping those around you.” Bingo. You can’t help others if you don’t have any oxygen.

But would you actually do that? Would you secure your own mask first –or would you first help your spouse, your kids, the elderly woman behind you – before putting on your own mask? I think for many women, the answer falls into the latter category – we help ourselves only when we’ve made sure everyone else is taken care of. The problem with that? By then it’s too late – you have nothing left for yourself; you don’t have any oxygen left, metaphorically speaking.

But how do we learn to do this? To actually put ourselves on our own priority list? I gave a talk last week called the 7 Principles of the Well-Nourished Woman (you can get the replay here) where I outlined just that: how to prioritize self-care. It’s doesn’t have to be a big thing – I’m not asking you to spend hours at a spa each day (although, wouldn’t that be nice occasionally?). On the call, I shared simple strategies you can implement every day that don’t take a lot of time. I realize though that sometimes we need to be held accountable when making a change – even one that might be good for us. So I also designed a 7-week group coaching program, The Nourished Temple, where I take you more deeply through these 7 principles of self-care and give you the help and support you need to take care of you – even when you don’t have a lot of free time, and even though the holiday season is around the corner. After all, isn’t the holiday season a perfect time to get support and find some balance and calm in the midst of all the chaos? I’d love for you to join us!

How can you prioritize you today?





  • Justine Bingham says:

    I really appreciate how you’ve articulated this busyness as a badge of honor that we carry around as a valued accessory. It seems that this mode of thinking is ingraining itself, more and more, as the expected norm. Putting myself on my priority list gives me some hope–even when I have to hide from guilt to do it. And oh yes, that spa day sounds really nice sometime! 🙂

  • Dr Mary Pritchard says:

    Yes, Justine! But I think the more of us that take a stand and refuse to wear busyness as a badge of honor, the more we will embrace who we are truly meant to be – I think that is the Western Woman the Dalai Lama referred to as the one who will save the world! 🙂

  • Justine Bingham says:

    I so agree, Mary. That badge of busyness feels frustrating when it’s worn too long! It’s so relieving to surrender it to take time for that human compassion and affection. 🙂

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