Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend four hours sharpening the axe.” This is wisdom at work. Only a fool would labor with a dull axe. Honing the tool responsible makes perfect sense.
And yet, if we swap “chop down a tree” with “live a meaningful life” or even “make it through another grueling afternoon,” the thought of sharpening the metaphorical axe—that is, ourselves—induces stress or disdain.
In recent years, the term self-care has been known to garner cynicism. For some, it has become the epitome of our popular culture’s self-indulging tendencies. For others, self-care means failing in productivity, as if pausing to prioritize self means missing the mark. How can we afford to take time out when day-to-day life demands so much?
But true self-care—that is, monitoring well-being and practicing life-giving rituals—is perhaps one of the least selfish disciplines. The familiar charge for airline passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before helping others is an illustration that underscores the selflessness of self-care. Without first tending to our own needs, we cannot adequately tend to the needs of others. Self-care begets community care. We are better friends, better colleagues, better parents, and better citizens when we prioritize and practice personal well-being.
In this issue of Simplify, we challenge you to see self-care as an opportunity. While this issue addresses some heavy subject matter—negative self-talk, grief, and fear—it also is brimming with hope and possibility. We’re providing real-life reflections and simple exercises to promote wellness from the inside out. We’ve called on the expertise of counselors, coaches, and authors. We wrap things up with an extended take on happiness, just to put a smile on your face. Making space for laughter is, after all, its own form of self-care.
May we suggest that, instead of simply leaning over your screen and skimming the words, you tuck yourself into a comfortable corner and put your feet up while you ponder this issue? Let’s make this an immersive self-care experience.
With you on this journey,
Joshua Becker & Brian Gardner
P.S. We love hearing from you, our readers. We think you’d enjoy reading each other’s comments too, so we’ll be including a “Letters to the Editor” component in each forthcoming issue of Simplify. Send your thoughts to email@example.com. We’ll be engaging with readers over email between December 1 and 15. The most thought-provoking comments will appear in the next publication.
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