Significance and Self-Care

Our need for Significance is the focus this week in my series on self-care in anticipation of the publishing of my forthcoming book, Choosing Me Now . You will find the blog Safety & Security and Self-Care.

Self-care is more than just taking care of our physical needs like diet, exercise and sleep. Strategic Self-Care is about learning how to balance your basic needs of Safety & Security, Significance, Freedom, Joy and Connection. Practicing strategic self-care requires understanding how strong your needs are and whether they’re underwhelmed, overwhelmed, or just right. Just like Goldilocks, you want each of your needs satisfied “just right.”

When your need for Significance is large, or it isn’t satisfied, or you have more than need, Strategic Self-Care tells you what to do about it. Having a large need for Significance will require that you find ways to feel important, listened to and respected. Satisfying Significance is done best by sharing it with others or in the form of exceeding your own personal best, rather than getting yours by putting others down.

A strong way to begin satisfying this need is to focus your time, energy and attention on the things you have control over. When you think about all the things that happen in life, there are many things we don’t control—the weather, traffic, the past and other people, to name a few. If you measured the time you spend complaining, criticizing and agonizing over things beyond your control, would you cringe at the number or feel content? Because one second spent complaining, criticizing and agonizing over something you can’t change is a second you can’t get back—nothing productive could come from it. When you engage in Strategic Self-Care, you stop yourself before going full steam into something you can’t change. You recognize it is out of your control, accept it instead and decide what you want to do given the circumstances. Jimmy Dean’s quote comes to mind: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

Stress is one of the most efficient robbers of self-care. One of the best ways to eliminate stress is to determine what you can control and what you can’t, taking action with what you can and accepting the rest. We know we can only control ourselves, so we need to stop trying to change others and look inward, changing ourselves to handle the situation more appropriately.

Another part of Strategic Self-Care in the area of Significance is understanding what you are passionate about and then pursuing that in service to others. There are three parts to this. Do you know what you are passionate about? Not just what you are good at, but what you love, lose time doing and never feel like you’re working while doing it. What are you exceptional at that you might think is no big deal, but others recognize you for it? Are there childhood interests and dreams you gave up on that may contain seeds of your adult passion?

Once you know what you are passionate about, are you engaging in it? Do you tell yourself it has to wait until you retire, the kids leave the house, or you save more money? What are you waiting for? If your Safety & Security need is so high that you are fearful of leaving your regular job, that’s fine. Stay employed but make it a point to participate in your passion during your non-work hours. I recently met a man who has a regular job with the Airforce but loves doing leatherwork. When he’s not working, he’s busy making gun holsters that he sells online. Before I quit my job, I worked training and consulting on my days off, often taking vacation days to do it. Don’t allow anyone or any job to stop you from engaging your passion. You are not too old, too plain, too scared, too lacking to be able to make a difference. You are enough!

Finally, you were given gifts and passions to use in service of others, not to hide away in secret to keep from letting others know what you can do. When you have a passion, talent and gift, how can you use that to improve, help, or support humankind? If you have a voice like Celine Dion and only sing in the shower, you are robbing others of your talent and their ability to enjoy your music. If you are able to see the win/win solution in situations people are arguing about and you don’t offer a solution because you are shy and don’t think it’s your business, you are robbing others from benefitting from your insight.

If you have a hobby or interest but you can’t conceive of how to use it to help others, then start talking to the people around you. They will have ideas. There is nothing better at satisfying your need for Significance than knowing you are operating in your passion to make things better for others.

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