12/02/2014 05:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Compassion Is Not the Most Important Tool for Success


It's true. Compassion is an incredible tool, a way of thinking, a way of being. But it takes energy for those of us who are still practicing and learning. So you can't deliver compassion without energy. And food only goes so far.

It's sleep. Yes, I said it. I, the biggest breaker of this rule. But I have so much to do! I have a long list! I have blah blah blah.

Here's my own experience. Tell me if this resonates with you.

When I get eight-plus hours of sleep, things roll off my back easier. I don't take things personally. I can see other people's perspectives before they even need to explain.

When I get six hours of sleep, I need to remind myself not to take things personally. I lose my cool and rein it in quickly. I have to work at seeing other points of view.

When I get five hours of sleep, I'm angry. Grumpy. Curt. Impatient. I think everyone is an idiot.

And when I get five to six hours of sleep a few nights in a row, steer clear, please. Mama's not a happy camper.

There are few things we can control in this universe. (Some would say none, but I did decide when to brush my teeth today, so I'm feeling cocky.) One thing we can control is when to lie down. And then we can also decide to do a guided meditation or deep, slow breathing exercise or count sheep.

Don't underestimate rest. It's a beautiful gift we can give ourselves. Rest the body, rest the mind, rest the heart. Rest is a gentle segue to sleep and, for most of us, we need to rest before we can drift off to sleep.

I know I'm a better mother/friend/sister/colleague/etc when I get enough sleep. So why don't I take this seriously? I'm too tired to answer that.

Here's my theory. Like the patient who starts to feel better and stops taking the last of the antibiotic only to have the infection return, we get lazy (get it ha ha) about taking care of ourselves. What's a few hours here and there? And then it builds up and we get cranky and make mistakes and suddenly we're in bed by 8 p.m. to catch up. Roller coaster sleep -- from deprivation to indulgence.

Maybe we also feel guilty about sleeping when there's so much to be done. I know I have this sometimes.

Bottom line: I want to be my best in all interactions, so I need sleep.

Good night.