Seth Godin’s blog is one of my favorite daily reads. Every day he offers up pearls of wisdom around marketing, business, and personal help. The posts are brief, yet powerful and inspirational. I found one of his recent posts about “The wisdom of the water tower” to be especially interesting. While the metaphor can be applied to many areas, I found it particularly applicable to caring for one’s self.
What could a water tower possibly teach us about caring for our self? Well, as it turns out, it can teach us a lot.
As Seth so astutely observes, in many cities, wooden water towers adorn the rooftops of many buildings. The idea is so genius, yet so simple when you think about it. Demand for water typically occurs in bursts – early morning when residents are getting ready for work and school, or early evening when people come home to prepare dinner and get ready for bed. Instead of having an expensive pump to handle the peak demand periods, smaller inexpensive pumps are used to fill the tower during low demand periods. Then, during peak times, the water stored in the tower meets demand using gravity.
The key to the system is making sure there are sufficient periods of downtime to fill the tank so you can meet peak demand. Otherwise, if you run the system continually, the tank eventually runs dry and you can’t meet demand. Even worse, you run the risk of burning out the pumps.
The same goes for life. If we don’t take time to care for ourselves and to refill our proverbial water tanks, we run the risk of burning ourselves out.
One option is to refill in bursts by pushing ourselves to the limit for long periods, and then taking a big vacation or extended time off to recharge. To me, this is the equivalent of installing the expensive pump to meet peak demand. It’s expensive, subject to breaking down, and not always feasible.
A better approach is recharging through activities that we can do on a regular basis that don’t break the bank. These activities restore us in small bursts during our downtime so we can perform at our best when required. It’s the simple things like making the time for a meal with friends and family, walking the dog, hiking in nature, reading a book, writing, exercising or working out, or enjoying a hobby like playing music or baking. The list is endless. It just requires identifying the activities that work best for you.
Despite what popular culture may say, there is no badge or award for burning yourself out. It’s not a way to go about living life. Instead, take the time to regularly refill your reserves. There’s plenty of ways to engage the mind and body that won’t break the bank or take inordinate amounts of time.
Bottom line, make regular self-restoration a priority. Your future self will thank you.