I was at the gym, chatting with someone. He told me he’d put on 25 pounds in the past year. How, I asked him. He neglected his health because he had to take care of his mother, who was in the hospital, he explained. But he was at the gym because he realized that explanation didn’t hold up. Taking care of her, and taking care of himself, weren’t mutually exclusive.
There’s a reason why the friendly voice on the plane always tells you, in case of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first. If you save yourself, you have a chance of saving your family, your kids, the other people you’re travelling with. If you try to put the mask on them first, you’re going to pass out — possibly before you even get the mask on them.
There’s a fine line between being helpful, and dealing with other people’s problems because you don’t want to get started on your own. Joe Rogan explains on his show:
“When you find someone whose problems are greater than your own, it lets you concentrate on things other than your problems, which you are not fixing because you are a lazy fuck. So you procrastinate. And people find really strange ways to procrastinate. One of the ways they find to procrastinate is create other problems in their life that take precedent over the problem they’re avoiding.”
That type of escape is also where workaholism originates. It’s tempting just to immerse yourself at the socially-accepted escape of work, especially if you’re good at it and you get fulfilment from it. But sometimes, we make these problems for ourselves. We chase promotions, start businesses, and juggle multiple side projects in order to avoid the problems we really should be dealing with (but don’t want to). The ones that we really fear. The ones that we’re embarrassed or ashamed of. The ones that are the most important.