Life on the Front Burner
Louis Morganti Kaelin


How many times in your life have you had to put something "on the back burner", letting an idea or a project simmer in the background while you focused on something else? How often were the things that went on the back burner your personal hopes, dreams or needs while you concentrated on the hopes, dreams or needs of someone else?  There is nothing wrong with that decision and in some cases it can be admirable. However, it's not admirable if your personal needs never come off the back burner.

We all know that, during the safety instructions on an airplane, we are instructed to put the mask over our own mouth first, then on our child's.  Why? The reason is simple -- if we are knocked unconscious there will be no one to look after the child, endangering them even more than those few moments it takes to put our own mask on. The wisdom of this is readily apparent once we think about it, and is good advice to take forward into all areas of our lives.

For many years, I put the needs of others first. As I evolved personally, I came to understand that it was okay--healthier, even-- to put my needs equal to the needs of others. In fact, it is how I now define the word "selfish," and use the term "self-centered" for someone determined to live as though the world revolves around them.

Even with that advanced understanding, however, I still didn't take care of my self as much as I needed. That included delaying doctors' appointments or working past the exhaustion point because someone else needed me. Even though I felt my needs were equal to the needs of others, the reality is that 90% of the time I still opted to take care of others before myself. This isn't bad, either, because for the most part these were conscious choices I made.  Unfortunately, there has been a physical and emotional cost that becomes harder and harder to bounce back from.

Where does that leave me today? With a new understanding, one that suggests that, in fact, I need to opt for myself more than 10% of the time.  However, I'm still basically someone who likes to give, and I like that about myself, so it's really important for me not to become that "self-centered" person I described earlier.  And that brings me to the concept of choosing to put me on the front burner, to live on the front burner.

This analogy is really appropriate for me.  I think it works because I
still am a person who cares for others.  So, while I may have neglected myself on the back burner, I find that I do not neglect others back there.  The result is that I am truly taking care of myself and caring for others at the same time, for the first time in my life. Sometimes we just need the right analogy or framing for an idea to really take hold. This 'front burner' idea is perfect for me. In fact, I now keep the tea kettle on the front burner on the stove.  This way, every time I walk into the kitchen I am reminded of this shift in my thinking and it helps me remain focused and clear about this positive new action and change in my life.

So, where in your life have you been putting yourself on the back burner and forgetting about you?  A harried parent, juggling work and family? An over-conscientious leader or manager? Oldest sibling? Youngest sibling?  Caught between aging parents and developing children? No matter how overwhelmed you might be feeling, it is possible to find some moments of time just for yourself. The key is remembering that it is not an either/or situation.  You get to take care of yourself and handle your responsibilities to others. Make a conscious decision to live YOUR life on the front burner!

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Louise Morganti Kaelin.  Louise was a Life Success Coach who passed on in 2011.  Rest in peace, Louise!

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