Fire in the Mouth or Self-Care
I really love dried mangoes. So, when I saw that someone had brought them into the break room, I grabbed a few and took a big bite. Unfortunately, the mangoes were actually Chili-flavored Mangoes and instead of a nice little, sweet fruity snack I found myself frantically searching for a water bottle and a trash can so I could spit them out.
After taking care of my mouth, I took a closer look at the bag. The product was labeled ChiliMango and had I just taken a few seconds I would have seen that they were not a snack for me. So, how did I miss it? I missed it because my focus was laser-locked into the hunger signals my brain was getting. I missed other factors that were at play in the couple of hours leading up to this moment. I hadn’t eaten a healthy breakfast, I had a colleague come into my office to discuss a tough topic and then I moved directly into another meeting.
By the time I was in the break room I was feeling hungry, sad and some mild stress. I wanted to find a quick snack before I went into two more hours of meetings that were just about to start. I hadn’t taken care of my emotional or physical needs and so I set myself up to narrow my focus to the parts of the bag that advertised mangoes rather than taking the time to really look at what the contents of the bag held. Fortunately, the outcome was just a bad taste in my mouth.
It was a good lesson to remind me of the importance of self-care. When we don’t take care of ourselves, as a general rule, our focus will narrow to satisfying the need that feels the most urgent. Once our focus is narrowed it becomes much more difficult to pause and shift our attention. Consider this scenario, you are driving home after a long day that included deals that didn’t close, meetings that ran long and no lunch where is your focus? Likely on your physical needs; you want to eat something and relax.
So you open your door to find your two-year-old running towards you holding a still wet artwork with his still wet fingers dripping with paint. Your focus stays on your needs, not his. So, in an effort to miss the wet paint, you grab him by both wrists, look him in the eye and sternly let him know that he can’t run around the house with wet paint. You march him to the kitchen sink to wash the paint off and the opportunity for connection is lost. Now added to your physical fatigue, hunger, and your high-stress levels, you add disconnection.
Pay attention to what you are paying attention to. Take a minute right now and jot down the first three things that come to your mind.
Does the list look like it is focused on the next five minutes, five days, five months? Is your attention focused on the right timeframe and the right task? If you focus on the three items on your list for the next hour, what will be out of your focus? What do you have the potential to miss?
Answering these questions will help you determine more clearly what needs your attention.