What is your first thought as you read these statements? Family comes first, count your blessings, make time for self-care, eating for fuel, move your body, the list goes on and on. To me these are all pretty annoying, though I do use at least one of them every day I’m sure. They are all phrases that make really cute hashtags to add to the end of social posts or to use as justification when you do something out of the norm and want to make clear that you’re not feeling guilty about it. For example, there is a lot on your plate at work but your kid has a big game this afternoon, so you put in about 8 and a half hours of feverish prioritization pumping out as much production as possible and then apologize for leaving “early” but note, family comes first, as you head out to get to the match with not a moment to spare. Or perhaps you have way too many irons in the fire and you’re at your breaking point, feeling overwhelmed, snapping at everyone, so you lock yourself in a room with Netflix and your guilty treat of choice while you tell yourself you’re making time for self-care.
The problem with these, and every other example of when people use these little phrases, is that we wait until we’re at the end of our rope to invoke the one trick, the one skill, the one resource we have. If you’re needing to declare family comes first while dashing off, heart either racing or sinking, trying to think if there was anything you forgot to do, then you’re not really living out that family truly does come first. You’re not setting yourself up to support the fact that your priority really is family, above all else. Likewise, if you’re locking yourself in your bedroom demanding not to be disturbed or crawling into a hastily made bath on the verge of tears, you don’t make time for self-care. You are waiting until the last possible second, or maybe the moments after what should have been the last possible second, to deploy the one resource you can think of in your frazzled state. I can’t help but think it would be the same as if Mario, without so much as a red topped mushroom, went rushing into Bowzer’s lair calling out, “It’sa me, Mario!” Just like all the other catch phrases, it’s technically correct but at the same time couldn’t be farther from the truth.
We, myself absolutely included, are wasting everything available to us up until our breaking point and relying on our own strength when we have nothing left. So how do we change that? How do we go from using those phrases as statements we’re trying to convince ourselves of to true mantras we live our lives by? I like to think of this like the old Super Mario Brothers games, yes I’m sticking with this reference, go with me for a minute. There was always some bad guy at the end of each world that needed to be defeated. If Mario went in blind and without any power up’s you could make it, in theory, but man, you had to be on your A-game and the deck was stacked against you. BUT if you picked up a feather, or super star, or jumped on a Kupa shell and sent it careening toward your enemy, you were in much better shape. You had to be aware of what skills you might need and pick them up along the way. You had to look for resources in the situation you were in and make the best use of them that you could. Prepared or not, Mario was marching forth toward the goal (save the princess) under threat of death. Death was just a whole lot more likely if he was unprepared going into battle.
For those raising an eyebrow at my Mario example and looking for something a bit more classical, I give you Nehemiah. (Yes this is likely the only blog that uses classic video games and books of the Bible as parallel story lines.) Nehemiah had an end goal in mind that was pretty simple, build a wall. He could have just run off tools in hand but it likely never would have gotten finished. He started by praying (started there, not as a last resort), then he sought support of the king, he enlisted help, and he recognized the immediate and future opposition and organized people to work against it. Nehemiah never gave in to the nay-sayers even when he felt his life depended on it.
So I ask you, what are you chasing after? Be it princess or the rebuilding of a wall or anything in between, are you both willing and prepared to chase after it? Take a moment, or a few of them, to understand what you’ll need in what you’re going up against. What skills do you need to sharpen? What are your resources do you need to organize or find? What is literally laying around (stones and rubble or an old Kupa shell perhaps) that is just waiting to get discovered? Finally, are you seeing it all the way through. Like all the way. Mario just ran left to right straight head on into whatever came next, picking up all he could along the way until or unless he literally died (little extreme but a nice illustration none the less). Nehemiah didn’t come down for anything. When he was enticed he said no, what I’m doing is more important. When he was in pain, he asked God to strengthen his hands.
At the end of the day, could you make it through most of your situations surviving on determination and adding a fun hashtag afterward? Most of them, sure in theory, and the deck will be stacked against you. If you take a note from Mario and Nehemiah however, and prioritize what is truly important to you and set yourself up for success by relying on the skills and resources throughout, you’ll be much better prepared to take on what comes at you in the end. You’ll accomplish your goal without compromising your priorities and be ready for whatever lies ahead.