The Profound Life Lesson of Oxygen Masks

We hear it each time we get on the airplane. “In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others.”

A simple concept that makes sense.  You can’t help others for very long if you don’t take care of yourself first.  And yet, how many of us carry on assisting others with their oxygen masks and giving little thought to how long our own oxygen supply will keep us going or if the mask is even on?

What if, in life, you metaphorically put your oxygen mask on first, not because you’re selfish, but because you can do more -- for others and for yourself -- if you prioritize your own needs?  It can be counterintuitive.  But, imagine a life where you have more energy, more time and are more positive. In this scenario you’re more present with others and more creative.  Who doesn’t want that?  What family, work environment and world doesn’t need or want that?

What’s that look like? 

Nourish your body, mind and soul: Eat well, meditate, create.  Create time to do this.  If that means getting up at 4:30am in the morning to make time, do it. Cultivate compassion towards yourself and find courage to move toward creating the life you want, in any small way. Today. 

Don’t put off the joy:  Find a piece of joy in as many small life moments as possible.  Walk in the sun at lunch. Call your friend for drinks. Take the kids hiking or to the movies. Today. Not this weekend.

Inspire yourself: What inspires you?  Whether it is music, art, literature, nature, people or something else, make it happen. Turn the music on at work, call someone, read a poem.  Pull yourself out of the daily grind with a small piece of inspiration. 

Find time for Reflection and Gratitude: Take a moment to broaden your perspective. Where have you come from, where are you going and what is your place in a vast expanding universe? 

As Carl Sagan said: “We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”

Considering that perspective, it makes sense to just make the time for what you need and want.  On this plane called life, we are all going down. It ends the same for everybody. So, put on your own mask first. Take responsibility for meeting your own needs. Right now. Today. Not this weekend.


Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited