Empty Tanks

It was a hard lesson to learn, but years ago I realized that, I couldn’t give from nothing. I can’t make deposits into people or things without first investing in myself. I needed to first fill my tank, in order to give. Thus began my ritual of “mountain topping”.

Last week however, not only did I have nothing to give to others or offer the world, I couldn’t even give to myself.

Last Monday I chalked up as a wash, and without a doubt, I just knew I’d wake up Tuesday ready to go, having gotten it ‘out of my system’.

I didn’t.

I lay on the floor and watched the clouds pass hoping the beauty of nature would inspire or motivate me.

It didn’t.

My last resort was to turn to the things and people that inspire me on a regular basis…creatives.

I went to the website of some of my favorite innovators and consumed content in the form of podcasts and then I found the gem I needed.

Jessica Lively‘s latest podcast was an interview with Alexandra Franzen, who coincidentally I’d spoken to via email the week prior. The title of her episode was ‘Today is not over yet’ and for her, it was a lazy Saturday that she was about to consider a wash when a small voice told her that the day wasn’t over yet. What surprised both myself and the host, Jessica, was that instead of sitting down and working, when she accepted that there was still plenty of time left in the day was, the things she did with the rest of her Saturday weren’t work related. She took a yoga class, got in the sauna, had a massage, cooked, and a phone call.

What Alexandra did was she took care of other areas of her life, and in doing so she was inspired, and was then able to sit down and write three essays.

“You cannot produce your best work on an empty tank.”

“Make today count, make it feel meaningful to you. That doesn’t mean run to your computer and pound away at the computer. Whatever feels right, do. But it’s not just about work.”-AF

Jessica shared Jonathan Fields’ theory on the three baskets, which helped me realize that the proverbial tank I mountain topped to refill is actually three-fold.

1. Connections– to ourselves, our source, and others.
2. Vitality– how much we take care of ourselves.
3. Contribution– giving to others or career.

Jonathan offered that our strongest basket will always be limited by our weakest basket. He says that you can’t keep pouring into one and hope to fill the others. In order to grow in one, it’s not about pouring more into the already full basket, but pouring into the others and naturally the other two will affect the lacking ones.

That resonated with me, so I text my cousin and asked if she and her family were up for a visit. I needed a change of scenery and some youthful energy; I needed to fill the connection and vitality basket.

CONTRIBUTION (1)So, I took some time “off”.

During that time I allowed myself to do exactly what felt ‘right’ and sometimes that meant sleeping, sometimes working, and most of the time, it meant spending time with some of my favorite little people.

I will continue to mountain-top to retreat and refuel. However, now I will be certain to take better inventory and to determine exactly what area/areas of my life are deficient so that all three tanks or baskets remain balanced and full.