05/01/2015 05:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Everyone Else Is Not You


People need more from you and from me. They need more of your undivided attention, which I know already feels so limited and so stretched out among the hundreds of commitments you have in a day.

But in the world of chronic health issues and anxiety and depression, Infertility and detox, people need more. This is true and it is difficult to manage if you are a therapist, wellness coach, life coach or doctor. We are not living in the minds and bodies of people, who from the moment they wake up, are reminded of their illness with a sharp stab of pain, a blinding headache or the strong desire to just go back to sleep again. This kind of day-after-day of illness wears people down and wears people out. All the energy goes just toward getting through the day. All the vital parts of a person, their laughter, their passion, their hear t and soul is suppressed. The only focus is to stop the pain or discomfort. These people are connected to a web of other lives that their illnesses affect. A woman who can no longer use her hand to type due to rheumatoid arthritis, has to leave her job thus decreasing her family's income by half. At the same time she is put on lots of medication which is expensive. She has trouble getting out of bed to be there for her granddaughters when they come home from school. She experiences anxiety attacks when she goes out in public so she no longer goes to church. She can't remember simple things and worries that she may have Alzheimer's. Her husband watches her and feels afraid. He now carries her burdens and his. He misses her laugh and being able to go out to dinner. Her grandchildren go off to school, they carry a little seed of sadness in their bellies. Doctors offer her 15 minutes and more medication. Despair sets in. Think about what this woman could do if she had her health and her vitality back. Think about that.

As therapists and coaches and doctors we have an incredible opportunity to reach people and change lives. We have good intentions. We get busy. We have to make a living and keep our businesses going. How can we scale our business when there is only so much time in a day and only one of us?

These are questions I ask myself every day. And I go back to the simple mantra of taking one thing at a time. One person at a time. I know that getting better is not just a question of putting on your big girl underwear. People who struggle with mental health issues and physical health issues often feel profoundly alone and thoroughly judged. Friends and family sometimes give up on them. It can be maddening to try and help someone who does not seem to want help. So, we get frustrated and we try once or twice and then give up. I am not suggesting that you should chase people who have made it very clear that they do not want your help. Personal responsibility is important in anyone's healing. The fact is that most of us have chances every day to really make a difference for someone else and we don't do it. We reach that crossroad where we could spend ten more minutes, letting someone finish an important thought, or make that phone call to check in on someone who you know is struggling, or if you can't talk, sending a quick email or text letting them know you are thinking about them. Yes, schedules are important and you can't operate a business living fast and free with all your time. Still, how much time do we waste every day being mindless? I include myself in this. I can easily lose an hour on Facebook and Instagram.

The thing that really changed my practice for me, that really brought the fulfillment and joy was during those times where I did stop to build those relationships. In a world where no one has time, one of the most precious gifts you can give is showing up fully for others. Several years ago I started weaving in education and resources about alternative health into my practice. I talked to my clients about trying acupuncture and meditation and yoga. I gave them reading and videos to watch about the mind/body connection. I offered email support in between sessions. I encouraged them to join support groups and end their isolation. I saw amazing results. When people feel cared about they do better. Don't expect someone else to do it. Everyone else is not you. Don't feel that it is all too overwhelming and let that stop you from trying. On the days where I am feeling low and uninspired, my clients are the ones that keep teaching me lessons.

My first "real" job as a social worker was in 1992. I was attending American University and had completed every course I needed for a Bachelor's degree in Psychology except for Statistics. Oh, how I loathed Statistics. I would take it and stop going to class and withdraw or sometimes not withdraw in time and get an incomplete. I had a complete mental block about Statistics. So I decided to leave school and go work for a year. I applied for a counselor position in a residential home for children who were placed there after being removed from unsafe home situations. I was a middle class, white girl entering into a world I did not know much about. I had passion and a desire to make a difference and the director saw something in me and decided to give me a chance. There were two young brothers who had come to the home a week before. They were angry. Bigger brother always had an eye on his little brother and little brother had a penchant for getting into trouble. We started using a point system where little brother could earn points for good behavior and cash them in at the end of the day. Little brother took a liking to me and decided that he wanted to cash his points in every day to take a 15 min ride with me in my car. On our rides we would play music and talk. The only downside to this was that the rides often could not happen until I was done with my shift and ready to go home.

So four times a week, I stayed an extra 30 min and little brother and I went for a ride. He liked to put the windows down and feel the wind on his face. I can still see his grin, his big brown eyes, asking me to turn up the music, just a little bit louder. We talked about what he wanted to be. I told him he could be anything he wanted to be. I told him that his past mistakes did not define him and that his parent's mistakes were not his. I told him I cared about what happened to him. After a month he stopped acting out as much. He started reading more. Eventually he and his big brother were reunited with their mom and went home. I remember driving home one day, listening to a song that was one of his favorites and it dawned on me that I had given him advice that I was not following myself. I went home, signed up for the summer statistics course at my university. I did nothing but eat, breath and sleep that course for five weeks...and I passed. I got my degree. Now I had more options. I will never forget that little boy and he will never know how those evening drives with him changed the course of my life.

Everyone has something unique and important to offer someone else. Everyone else is not you. Whose life can you impact today? Who can you help shine?