Anyone who has ever been on a commercial airline flight will have heard the safety procedures over and over, to the point where some feel like they could repeat the demonstation themselves from memory.

Thankfully for me, I do not fly as often as I once did, and I have almost trained my brain to be able to tune the instructions out, especially since most of my flights originate in Montreal, so I get to hear the message repeated in English and French.

There is a nugget of wisdom in the standard message though, which applies to life in general, and not simply to what you should do in the event of a loss of cabin pressure.

Although I have yet to experience an incident in which those famous oxygen masks instantly drop from overhead, I am 100% certain that I would obey the directive that I first put on my own mask, before attempting to help others to put theirs on.

Quite simply, if you have not made sure that you are taken care of, you may soon be unable to help anyone else. Let’s look at some other areas in life where this is also the case.

One of my all-time favourite speakers was Zig Ziglar (1926-2012), motivator extraordinaire. I used to love to listen to his tapes, with his southern accent, going on about how motivation is important, but is not a one-time thing, like getting a vaccination. It was more like hygiene, something you need to do a little bit of, every day.

In one of the first lectures of his that I heard, he spoke about his need to lose weight, because he was about to become a motivational speaker, and he realized that his credibility would be very low if he got up on stage and everyone’s first impression was “what is this ol’ fat boy gonna teach me?”

I was also a big fan of the Sopranos TV series, where Tony Soprano often visited his psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi. I remember being intrigued the first time that they showed her visiting with her shrink. Hmm, the shrink has her own shrink, interesting.

Of course I also now understand that good coaches have their own coaches, and these relationships are sometimes symbiotic, and create a win-win situation.

There is an area that I am currently working on personally too, which is integral to my work with families, and it comes from Bowen theory. Dr. Murray Bowen (1913-1990) was an American psychiatrist who carried out some ground-breaking work in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

He began by working with schizophrenia patients, but soon found that his theories also applied to almost all families. His Bowen family systems theory is based on the premise that the person in the family who is deemed to be “sick” is best treated as part of the entire family system.

The “problem” does not reside “within” this person, but is more likely caused by the interactions of this person with the other members of the family system.

The term “systems theory” is used in many fields, notably in medecine, and is all about how changes in one area undeniably cause changes in other areas as well, since the entire “system” has many inter-related components.

I am currently half way through a course on Bowen theory, and I find it fascinating. I had an A-Ha moment during our December class on the family projection process, and I am still coming to terms with some of the things that I am learning about myself, and the way that I am, thanks to the relationships that I had and have with my family of origin.

I am working on better understanding myself, and it is a process, like everything. But that’s alright, as I am very much a “journey” kind of guy, as opposed to a “destination” guy.

I have put my mask on, and I am breathing normally, so that I can now help anyone else put on their mask too.