To do list:

1) Me

2) Everyone and everything else

Look familiar? If so, congratulations. Putting yourself first will give you the time, energy, mental and physical health to play on the A-team. The A-team includes those who give joyfully, laugh, share, listen, cook, clean, set an example, relate, dream, eat with gusto, connect and in general, live a life in line with the principals of happiness. Trouble is, most to-do lists look like this:

1) Everyone and everything else

2) Me

The number one reason people state as their reason for not exercising or eating healthy is “lack of time.” I contend that this perceived lack of time is really the result of being last on their “to do” list. Over and over people convince themselves that there will be time left at the end of the long day, at which point they will finally stake their claim in a luxurious bubble bath, exercise program, healthy eating plan and a cleansing facial. If they ever really did those things, then I suppose it would be OK that they waited to take their piece of the pie after everyone else had taken theirs, but that’s not what usually happens. It’s too much of a vacuum, so any time or energy left over gets usurped OR, resentment builds and instead of doing something for themselves, they need food, drink, smoke, or TV to veg out. They’re barely making it.

Let’s back up. Why would someone be at the bottom of his or her own list? They would assert that they want to be sure everyone else has what they need, then they will take care of their own, but that’s the surface answer. The deeper answer is that the person who is at the bottom of their list will always find someone or something more deserving of their time and energy. Do you find yourself willing to work yourself to the bone for someone else, but then scarf down a bad sandwich in two minutes in your car for lunch? Something is wrong with this picture. It far surpasses the adage that it is better to give than to receive.

If this describes you, don’t fret. Resolve always requires an initial honest appraisal. If you would argue that taking an hour a day is impossible because of the lack of time; or that the guilt of leaving others to fend for themselves is too much; or that it’s not convenient, your option is to continue on the path that you’re on, and people and things will squeeze the blood and life out of you. When you give, it will be martyrdom, and those fruits are tit for tat. But no one can step in on your behalf; you have to decide to take the top spot. Have you noticed that as long as you’re willing to be a martyr, there are people willing to use your resources until there are none left?

There are numerous studies to indicate that exercising an hour a day raises your production and your mood. Eating a healthy diet and managing your weight is likely to increase your lifespan and make it less costly down the line for health care. It’s better to give than to receive, but a joyful heart gives exponentially. If your MO is to help others, I offer that your best giving will come when you are number one.

Fran Scott is an exercise physiologist. She can be e-mailed at

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