“There’s no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”
-Elaine Dickinson, Airplane

“Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure  your mask on first, and then assist the other person.”

Ever wonder why you are supposed to, “secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person”? Because you need to take care of number one so you can take care of others. Get your mask on first! And then assist others. Get your mask on first, because you don’t know what is going to happen next. There are a thousand events that can happen in a split second and you will be more prepared to take care of others if your mask is secure. Your kid sitting
next to you might suffer for a few seconds, while you take care of you, but after those few seconds you will both be better off.

Here is the problem though. You are in that situation when the plane is malfunctioning for whatever reason. There is a sudden panic in the air. Maybe you feel the plane losing altitude or there is severe weather outside and the plane is being tossed around. You feel a pain in your ears and you realize the cabin is losing pressure. A few people scream as you embrace your sweet little girl on the seat next to you. You gaze into her grief stricken eyes. She thinks death is imminent and you assure her that everything is going to be okay. You can only sip the air, and oxygen masks suddenly fall from above.

Who in their right mind is going to put their mask on first? Think about it. Who is going to rip and push away from their little girl to put their own mask on first? Not Mama Bear. Not your wife on the best day of her life! Certainly not you! Is it the right thing to do? Heck yes it is (Napoleon Dynamite voice)! But you cannot possibly do it. Only a small percentage of people can actually follow this rule and do it right.

Ned Flanders and Mr. Rogers would do it. Anyone anal enough to follow instructions to the tee no matter what. Also pilots, flight attendants, and anyone who flies so much that the words, “secure your mask on first” have been imprinted on their brains and they have trained themselves for that actual situation. Service professionals like some firemen, EMT’s, and military who know there is value in following the rules in spite of what their instincts tell them. Forest Gump would probably secure his mask first. Still, only a small percentage of people are going to follow that rule.

And therein lies the problem! You won’t secure your mask first just like you will not take care of yourself first. Even though it is the right thing to do, your instincts are too strong and override what is right. It becomes habitual putting every task, every job, every person above yourself. Pretty soon you are the last person on your priority list. Because you don’t take care of yourself first, you don’t take care of yourself like you should or at all.

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