The Everyday Guide to Putting Yourself First: Protect Joy


Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting. – William Shakespeare, Henry V.

We rarely reinforce the idea that putting ourselves first is a healthy practice. We might reflect on what that might look like. Rehearse what we might say or do. We may have even explored practicing self-love or even becoming more selfish. Yet somehow, putting ourselves first escapes us.

Well — it could be that our starting point poses the problem. In this case, we need to stop thinking big and start thinking small. To put ourselves first, we must identify our own personal sources of joy. Secondly, we should protect that joy at every turn.

My father would frequently mention the brilliance of the “small things” in life. He would also contend that milestones (in contrast) were much fewer and far between. In retrospect, he was trying to teach a vital lesson concerning joy. The little things in our lives can also bring joy and satisfaction. (He frequently shared his passion for listening to Deutsche grammophon recordings. The Overture of 1812 will always be quite memorable.)

The small things are worth the time we devote to them.

These moments are approachable.

They are attainable.

They are sustaining.

None the less, we let life encroach on these discoveries. We forget them. We fail to indulge in them. It’s almost as if we grant permission to spoil the ending of every great book or movie. You have to protect the joy to come.

I challenge you to make space to put “you” — and put those small things first (in both life and career). Carve out room to include the elements that might bring everyday joy to your world. This is not about ignoring your tasks or responsibilities. It is simply about recognizing a responsibility to yourself.


  • Protect the roots of joy in your life — wherever and whenever possible.
  • Recognize (and discern) the importance of the small things. Revel in the joy of a good laugh, your YouTube playlist, or a great New Yorker cartoon.
  • Play to your strengths. We have plenty of opportunities to focus on weaknesses.
  • Value your time. Say “no” if you mean to say “no”.
  • Have lunch with someone that always sees the very best in you.
  • Leave behind those that choose to misunderstand you.
  • Align your work with where you wish to be.

Be fierce. It’s alright to put you first.

Now, go ahead.


What are the small things that bring you joy?


Read more on the topic:

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: http://gretchenrubin.com/

The Miraculous in the Mundane, Brain Pickings.

Happiness Habits That Will Make You Thrive at Work, by Jennifer Moss.

Work On Yourself First, by Donna Stonehem,

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

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