We have enormous resources at our disposal. We each have 24 hours a day, each packed with 60 fresh minutes. We have a beating heart and lungs full of air in a body capable of incredible things. And there is usually even a little money.

So why is it that despite all of these resources, we often find ourselves stuck, unable to do anything, unable to make desperately needed changes in our life? Let me tell you why. Because it has all been spoken for. All of our resources have already been allocated.

A Personal Story

This used to be me: selfless and sacrificing. Life was busy and stressful, and there was never quite enough time to do what I like, to pursue my dreams or even just relax.

I thought that this was how life was meant to be, that this was as good as it gets, until, as if out of nowhere, my marriage was falling off a cliff. This was three years into what I thought was the perfect marriage, and we already had a small child.

I found myself sitting at the therapist’s office with tear is my eyes, mumbling “My life is an endless stream of obligations. I can never do anything want.”

That’s when I knew it was time for a change. Pushed to the edge of my limits, having donated all of my time and energy to my family, I was utterly miserable and my life was falling apart. Enough was enough.

I became acutely aware of everything that I have been giving away. Suddenly, it was clear how to make a change. This is my life, my time, and my energy. With this realization, things started to change very quickly. I became a lot more assertive. I learned to say “no.” Virtually everyone started to take me more seriously and treat me better. Even waiters at restaurants became nicer.

For the first time since I was married, I had my own space in my house: A large room with my piano and a glass desk to work and practice music.

I experienced tremendous personal growth. I put aside time to sing every day, something that I’ve always wanted to do, and improved very quickly. I stopped piling work on myself. I rested when I was tired.

It used to be that no matter how much I earned, there was never enough money for what I really wanted. But then, I got a nice hair cut and some new clothes. I found money for additional singing lessons.

My life was better than ever. I woke up every morning excited to start the day. I finally had enough time and resources for what I wanted and I felt more alive than ever before. What’s more, no one was hurt by any of this. Within a few months, my marriage was back on track.

The Apple Pie Analogy

Imagine everything you have – all your time, energy, and money – as a fresh apple pie. Some of this pie belongs to your boss. Another piece goes to your partner. There’s a piece for each of your children, your friends, your parents, and your neighbors. Don’t forget the random guy you helped in the mall yesterday… where is your piece?!?!?

We try to be selfless. We try to be generous. But, sometimes, we go too far. We give, and we give, and we give… and then, all of sudden, nothing is left for us. NOTHING.

Of course, it’s good to treat others well. You need to devote time to your job and your partner, and, obviously, your children need you. The problem is that many of us go too far, to the point that there is nothing left for us.

Is it any wonder then that we find ourselves unable to move a muscle, even when we desperately need to change our lives?

To effect change in your life, you need some resources. There is simply no way around it. You need some time. You need some energy. And, yes, for some changes you may even need a little money. But the good news is that most likely you already have all these resources. You just need to reclaim them.

Reclaim Your Time

You want to change your life, but you just don’t have the time.

You don’t have time for yourself? Where did it all go? You have given a large enough donation already. It’s time to reduce your contribution. Reclaim your time. Start small. 10 minutes, just for you. Then an hour. Then an evening. You desperately need some time for you, time to do what you and only you want to do. Time that you use to feel better, to improve your life, to bring about change.

It is time to stand up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” It’s ok to give yourself some time. You are not being selfish. You are being kind – to yourself. We are all here for a limited time. It is our responsibility, indeed our duty, to use some of it for ourselves.

Reclaim Your Energy

You want to change your life, but you just don’t have the energy.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about how we treat ourselves, is that we typically give ourselves the lowest quality time there is. It’s 20 minutes before bedtime. Here is my “me time”! This is not going to cut it. Less time, but when you have more energy, would be a lot better.

This is your energy! Should you not get first dibs at it? Reclaim your energy. Use it towards your own means. Give yourself some time when you are at the top of your game, and you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll be able to do for yourself.

Reclaim Your Money

You want to change your life, but you just can’t afford it.

It’s absolutely amazing that most of us don’t have money for ourselves. We can afford huge homes, sometimes with extra rooms that are hardly ever used. Some of us can afford more than one car per household. We somehow find a way to send our kids to college. We work so hard, and find a way to afford everything – except that which we really need and want.

Sometimes the problem is that not a penny of our money is really ours. Before you even have a chance to look at it, it’s already made its way into a shared account. If that’s the problem, give yourself an allowance. Surely you should be allowed to keep a small percentage of your income. But sometimes our partner is not the problem at all, or maybe there isn’t one in the picture. Most often, we are the ones stopping ourselves from using our resources to our benefit – even when we desperately need to. So I say, reclaim your money. Use at least a little bit just for you. You can start small. But it is well worth the effort – sometimes, a little money used well can make a big difference.

***

Now I know that it’s not easy. When you get into the habit of giving, it becomes very difficult to take, even from yourself. We grow to view ourselves as generous, loving, and considerate, and we are afraid to shake this image. But “those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” You have the right to your own resources. You have the right to affect change in your life.

So go ahead. Take the first step. Reclaim 10 minutes of your best time starting today. Today, give yourself permission to use your own resources to improve your own life. You have everything you need at your disposal. You need only use it.

When you use what you already have, there is nothing that you cannot achieve.

Photo by birterohden

Margareta Ackerman

Margareta Ackerman, PhD. is a granddaughter of Holocaust survivor Srulik Ackerman and author of Running from Giants: The Holocaust Through the Eyes of a Child. She also authored over a dozen academic publications, including research on applications of traditional Jewish study methodology to the modern classroom. In addition to her academic career, Margareta is also a semi-professional singer. Born in Belarus, Margareta spent much of her childhood in Israel. She lives with her husband and son in San Jose, California.

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