Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Have you ever sat down and considered what is most important to you?

In  David Cottrell‘s Monday Morning Leadership: 8 Mentoring Sessions You Can’t Afford to Miss, he emphasizes the importance of having focus on what we do, no matter what obstacles we may face.

Keep the main thing the main thing. The ‘main thing’ [is the] purpose or priority.

Many times in our journey to recovery, we stumble and fall. We feel disempowered and lost. Many times in our journey in life, we feel overwhelmed and stressed out with the vicious cycle we seem to be trapped in.

Several months ago, I was enrolled in university, employed part-time, and afflicted with depressive episodes constantly. I couldn’t make up my mind on what is most important to work on:
♠ I needed to continue with my education so I can finally graduate with my bachelor’s degree. 7 years is too long. I’m getting tired of it.
♠ I needed to keep working because 1) I need money for daily expenses and other bills, including tuition & book fees, 2) rent won’t pay itself since I decided that moving out is best for my mental health, 3) I don’t want to burden my parents with more financial stress, and 4) I don’t want to depend on anyone else financially.
♠ I needed time to heal and figure out how best to manage my depression.

For some, it’s quite obvious that I should focus on my mental health first. But I never saw it that way. I didn’t want to be left even more behind from my friends’ lives by putting off school. It’ll just make me more depressed and lonely. I didn’t want to stay in my parents’ house because it seemed like the overall atmosphere there wouldn’t help me. I felt trapped and suffocated, not because my parents are strict or my siblings are abusive, but because I’ve lived my whole life with so many people that I needed a change in my environment.

I kept pushing myself to my limits and expected too much of myself. I forgot that, although these things in my life are interconnected, my priorities are not cyclical in and of itself; it is hierarchical.

I forgot that the main thing is to keep myself healthy and happy. How could I succeed in my studies if I can’t focus on my school work because of the depression? How could I demonstrate my reliability and efficiency at work if I can’t even take care of myself well?

Like Cottrell said, “I’ve let the circumstances dictate [my] actions rather than [my] mission dictating [my] actions.”

I let myself fail and lose. It wasn’t necessarily the depression’s fault. It was mine for letting it take over and control my life.

It is only when everything fell and I reached rock bottom that I realized how far off from the target I am. It is only then that I realized that all I’ve got is me–and I best be taking care of that one true treasure I’ve got.

Cottrell’s mentor Tony Pearce says, “If someone asked us to do something that was not part of our main thing, our manager would support us when we said that we couldn’t get it done. We were a focused and productive workgroup because there was a clear understanding of our purpose.”

Don’t wait for more misfortunes to come your way. Stop being a passenger and be a driver instead. Focus on the main thing: what is most important to you? Overcoming your mental illness and managing it, leading to a better future where you can handle most things that life throws at you? Being focused and productive by making sure you take care of yourself? Or taking on everything and overwhelming yourself, losing yourself in the various responsibilities that society expects of you?

You can’t give others what you don’t have. So make yourself a priority. Build from the inside, and the rest of your outer life will follow a successful path.

Stay strong,

Last week: “The First Monday: Drivers and Passengers”
Next week: “The Third Monday: Escape from Management Land”

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