You’re listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast, Episode 55. Today, we’re talking all about watering your own grass and the importance of prioritizing yourself. You ready? Let’s go.
Welcome to The Less Stressed Lawyer, the only podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind so you can live a life with less stress and far more fulfillment. If you’re a lawyer who’s over the overwhelm and tired of trying to hustle your way to happiness, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host, lawyer turned life coach Olivia Vizachero.
Hello, how are you today? I hope your day is off to a marvelous start. Mine is not off to a start, because I’ve been up all day and I have the earliest flight ever, probably, that I’ve ever taken. I’ve decided just to stay up and record this episode for you, to finish packing, and to head to the airport super early. That way I don’t have to scramble, and I don’t have to worry about oversleeping.
So, things are just cranking away over here. I’m getting ready to head to Punta de Mita, Mexico to speak at the Women In Trial Travel Summit. I’ve never spoken at that before. I’ve never attended that event before, either. So, I’m really excited to attend it and meet a whole new group of women attorneys, specifically women trial attorneys.
A lot of the attorneys that attend are from the West Coast, and it’s a bunch of people that I’ve never really met before. There are a few familiar faces there, but a ton of new ones.
I’m just really excited to get to go and introduce myself, and to speak about personal development. I’m going to talk about the three P’s: People pleasing, perfectionism, and procrastination. And how it impacts people’s stress levels and how to manage your stress. So, I’m really excited to be able to do that in a couple days.
Before I head out of town, though, I want to talk about today’s topic. I’m super excited to record this episode. Something happened to me recently, that inspired this episode specifically, and it kind of sparked an idea in my head. I realized, when I was on the receiving end of this experience, that I actually used to do this myself all the time. And it was really detrimental to my own well-being, to what I accomplished at work, to what I accomplished outside of work. I see it to be such a common thread between the clients that I work with that I really wanted to be able to talk about it.
So, today’s topic is all about watering your own grass. And a more professional way to talk about that, or to reference that, so to speak, would be to talk about the importance of prioritizing yourself. When I say water your own grass, here’s what I mean. I mean, if you’re watering your own grass, you’re prioritizing yourself and your goals.
You’re not prioritizing someone else and their goals ahead of your own. I want you to be focusing on what you want to accomplish and achieve, instead of tending to what someone else wants to achieve. Okay?
You know I love a good backstory, so let’s get into the backstory. I recently had a client, who’s become a good friend of mine, reach out to me, and they graciously offered to help me with a project. The project actually wasn’t my idea. It’s a project that some of my clients have started conjuring up in their head that they really want me to do.
I actually think it’s a great idea. It is on my agenda, like my future agenda. It’s not something that I’m going to tackle this year, because I have plenty of projects on my plate already with the mastermind and where my business is going. So, I’m not going to get to it this year. But it is a project that is marinating in my brain and something that I eventually want to do.
So, this client reached out to me and pitched this idea to me, and then offered to help me with the project. And while I was so honored and grateful that this client cared enough to offer their assistance, here’s what really jumped out at me. My overwhelming first thought was, why isn’t this client watering their own grass first?
This client has goals of their own goals that require their attention and focus. Goals that require their time and devotion, and helping me with this project will not help them achieve their goals. Not one bit, right? It’s a distraction from what they want to accomplish, what they’re working towards.
I see people do this all the time; they prioritize another person’s stuff before they tend to their own stuff. And I wanted to give you some examples of what this looks like, specifically some of the things that I used to do. Some of the ways that this used to show up for me. Because I was such a people pleaser and I loved prioritizing other people’s needs over myself.
This really isn’t textbook people pleasing because you’re not doing it out of fear, or guilt. You do have a genuine desire to help other people with what it is they’re working on, or what it is that they’re struggling with. So, one of the ways that I used to do this, even when I was super overwhelmed and behind on my work, if a coworker was struggling with a task, I would drop what I was doing, and I would help them.
A lot of that would stem from my thinking of, “Well, I technically can help them. I know what they need to do. So, it would be rude of me to not help. It’s kind of wasteful for me to not help.” And I would deprioritize my own work, my own to-do list. I would help them complete the tasks that they had on their plate.
And ultimately, I left myself at a deficit, right? I’d be behind on what I was supposed to accomplish, what I had promised to other people. Even though I had the time to work on it, I just didn’t spend the time that I had to work on it because I was spending the time helping other people. We do this at work. And we do this outside of work, too.
Actually, a man that I used to date, he used to do this all the time. He loves how it feels to be helpful to another person. And this is how I used to be, too. It feels really good to be helpful, right? So, friends of his would call him up and ask him like, “Hey, do you have time? Could you help me with this?” Or they wouldn’t even ask, he would just volunteer because he would know that they were working on a project, and that he would be able to help with it. So, he would volunteer and help.
He had plenty of his own projects, stuff that he wanted to accomplish at his house, other things that he wanted to do in his business, and he wouldn’t focus on those tasks, on those goals, on those projects. Instead, he would drop whatever he was doing, and he would tend to his friends’ stuff. He would help them with their projects.
So, their projects would ultimately get completed, and his wouldn’t; because at the end of the day, time is finite. And if you’re using up all of your time to help your friends achieve what they want to achieve, you don’t have any time left over for yourself.
Another instance where I see this happen a ton, is spending a lot of time on the phone with people. Listening to them, what they’re struggling with, giving life advice to them, maybe it’s to a friend, or a family member, but they’re having a really hard time. And you technically don’t have the time to spare. You’re behind on things, you have a full enough plate already, but instead, just like the coworker situation, with friends and family, you spend all this time listening and giving advice.
Now, I see people do this all the time, especially when the people that they’re giving advice to don’t even follow the advice. So, I don’t like to think of a lot of things as a waste of time, but this really is something that is kind of indulgent and a waste of time.
Because people just like to cathartically complain and vent, and you’re spending all of this time investing in them, watering their grass instead of your own. And really, they’re not even getting anything out of it, because they’re not applying the advice that you’re giving them.
I also see people volunteer to help others with projects instead of prioritizing their own projects. So, that’s sort of similar to that instance that I was talking about a second ago, with the man that I used to date, where he used to do that.
But think of any projects that you volunteer for, maybe it’s not a house project, but something else. Maybe it’s preparing for the holidays, or someone’s fundraising for a charity event, and you volunteer to give your time or to give money, right? Maybe you’re saving money and you’re planning to use it to really further your own goals, further your own projects, your own dreams.
And instead of devoting that money to the stuff that you want to be achieving, you give it to someone else instead. I see this happen a lot. I actually have a couple of clients who give money to family, even when they’re really in pretty significant debt.
It would make such a world of difference if they didn’t give the money away, but they used it in order to get a better handle on their finances. To pay off their debt and really relieve stress because they’d be in a better financial situation, they’d have greater savings, all of the above.
So, those are some examples where we water our own grass first. And like I said, I was definitely guilty, more than any other instance, of helping coworkers with tasks when I was behind on my own work.
But I also spent tons of time helping other friends and entrepreneurs with their businesses, when it was more comfortable for me to do that and stay in my expert energy, than it was for me to focus on the hard parts of my own business. Solving problems where maybe I felt stuck or really challenged or confused about how to proceed.
I actually once had a friend who was an entrepreneur, and I would spend so much time on the phone with her talking about different issues that she was struggling with. We would spend hours and hours at a time talking about business. But a lot of it was one-sided, where I was giving advice and giving guidance, and I wasn’t getting a ton back.
One day, she came to me, and she said, “Hey, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. But I really think I’m spending too much time on the phone. I think that the best thing for my business at this point, would be for me to prioritize just taking action rather than talking with you about taking action.”
I remember being a little off put about that in the beginning, when she said that to me. I eventually sat with it, I coached myself on it, and it actually made a lot of sense. I could see how I was indulging in spending a lot of time watering her grass instead of watering my own. And when she brought my attention to that, although it was a little hard for me to swallow in the beginning, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
We were, for a while, talking every single day, so I was investing a ton of time that I could have been using and leveraging to build my own business. I’m so grateful that she pointed this out to me, because since then, I’ve really made it a point, and this was years ago that this happened, but since then I’ve made it a point to constrain the amount that I counsel other people or connect with friends on the phone.
I have another really, really great friend; we spend hours on the phone together. But we’re really intentional about it. We normally only do it on Fridays. And when we’re going through busier seasons of our lives, we make sure we’re watering your own grass first, and we’re not indulging, spending that time on the phone together.
We’ve both been really busy lately, and that’s been something that has kind of, not fallen to the wayside, but dialed down a little bit, as we both work through these really busy seasons. Because we’re both so focused on watering our own grass first, as we both should be.
Which I think is really beautiful when you can find friends that really understand that, “Of course, it’s your job to water your own grass first. I’ll catch you on the flip side, when you get through watering your own grass and you get to a point where you can kind of come up for air.” I’m definitely mixing metaphors here. But you get what I’m saying. Right?
Okay. I wanted to give you those examples. And I also wanted to confess that this is something that I’ve definitely had a hard time with myself in the past. And a lot of my work has been here, by recognizing when I am doing this. Why am I doing this? And I wanted to talk about a couple of the different reasons that we do this, as humans in the world.
First, feeling helpful feels so great in the moment, right? I want you, if you do this, if you’re guilty of this habit, watering other people’s grass before you water your own, I just want you to have some compassion and give yourself some grace.
We do this because it feels really good to do this in the moment. We get to feel helpful; we get to feel like experts, we get to feel productive. It’s a false productivity because we’re not getting any further on what we want to accomplish. It’s sort of like making a to-do list, when all you do is make the to-do list or you make a plan, and you don’t actually implement the plan.
You just make the plan, it feels really productive, but you haven’t actually accomplished anything. So, watering your own grass versus watering someone else’s grass is also like this; it feels good and feels productive to focus on someone else and to prioritize their goals and to be helpful towards them.
But you want to make sure you’re being helpful towards yourself first, and I’m going to talk about why in a second. But in the meantime, give yourself some grace if you’re doing this. It does feel delicious and fake productive, to be prioritizing someone else and to be helping them with their goals.
Okay, second, when you neglect the grass on your side of the fence in favor of watering someone else’s grass, you get to avoid all the discomfort that comes from pursuing your own dreams. Pursuing your own dreams normally requires you to feel all sorts of different flavors of discomfort.
You probably will have to feel unsure, nervous, worried about whether or not what you’re doing is going to work, whether you’re going to be successful or not. You might have to feel confused because you’re not really sure where to start. Or you feel overwhelmed because you think there’s so much to do. You might have to feel exposed.
When I started my business and I was putting myself out there for the first time, I had to allow myself to feel exposed. It was extremely uncomfortable. I also had to allow myself to feel embarrassed. So, if embarrassed is an emotion that you don’t like to feel, that’s going to probably be another big one, too, as it comes to watering your own grass and prioritizing your own goals.
Another big one for people who were raised a particular way, and I’ll talk more about that in a second. But when it comes to prioritizing yourself and your goals over other people’s goals, you might feel quite a bit of guilt, right? You might feel selfish, you might feel rude, you might feel unhelpful. And those are going to be some of the negative emotions that you’re going to have to allow and wade through, in order to make progress on your own goals.
So, when you’re prioritizing someone else’s goals, and you’re watering their grass instead of your own, this is really an escape route for you. All of the discomfort that comes from pursuing your own dreams, you get to avoid that when you’re not pursuing your dreams, and you’re helping someone else achieve theirs.
And like I said a moment ago, you get to stay in your expert energy when you’re being really helpful towards other people. We typically don’t offer to help people with things that we’re not good at, right? We offer help in the areas where we already know what we’re doing. So, we get to feel really accomplished, really certain, really capable, really competent, instead of all of the negative emotions that I just listed a moment ago.
Now, the problem with this, when you don’t prioritize your goals and you don’t water your grass, your grass dies, right? Your dreams are the dreams that don’t come true, not the other person’s. And your life ultimately doesn’t become what it could be, what you want it to be. So, even though you get some temporary benefit because you get to avoid temporary discomfort, in the long term, really, there’s discomfort both ways.
Because there’s the discomfort that comes from embracing those negative emotions on the front end and watering your own grass, and prioritizing the goals that you want to achieve. And then, there’s the discomfort that comes from not watering your own grass first and not making yourself and your goals a priority.
It’s that regret, that disappointment, that your life doesn’t end up becoming what you plan for yourself, what you hope for yourself. So, we want to make sure even though it is easier in the short term to avoid all that immediate discomfort that comes from focusing on your own goals, that you recognize the truth of the matter is that there’s discomfort both ways.
We always want to embrace the discomfort that gets us closer to the life we want to be living. Which in this instance is going to be all those negative emotions that come from pursuing your own dreams. Feeling unsure, feeling nervous, feeling worried, feeling exposed, feeling confused, feeling overwhelmed, all that stuff. Okay?
The third reason that people water someone else’s grass over their own, is because they’re not comfortable putting themselves first, based on how they were raised. It’s really because of their upbringing and how they were socialized. Now, this is especially true for women.
I don’t want to create an overgeneralization here, but women especially, they’re socialized to put other people’s needs before their own. So, they really struggle. Not everyone, but a lot of women really struggle with prioritizing themselves and watering their grass before they tend to everyone else.
Now, I want you to think for a second, how were you raised? What did you learn growing up about putting yourself before other people? About tending to your own grass first? The other kind of cliche or cheesy way that people talk about this, is by making sure your oxygen mask goes on first.
I want you to think about what you were taught. Were you taught to embrace this and water your own grass? Or were you taught to avoid it and prioritize the needs, desires, and goals that other people have? Were you taught that it was selfish to focus on yourself and to prioritize yourself and your goals and your needs and your dreams? Were you taught that it’s rude or inconsiderate? Were you taught that it’s something that only arrogant people do?
I really want you to take a second here and think about what did you learn as you were being raised, as you were growing up, about watering your own grass versus watering someone else’s? And then ask yourself, does that thinking, does whatever you were taught growing up, serve you now?
Do you want to keep choosing to think those beliefs? Or do you want to choose to think something completely different about prioritizing your own goals, your own dreams, your own wants, and desires? Do you want to choose to believe something different about watering your own grass first?
You actually get to decide anew, right now. Anything that you were taught when you were younger, it’s just someone else’s belief system. It’s not truths of the world. Okay? It’s just someone else’s opinion about you prioritizing yourself over other people.
And the thing that I always love to look at here is, who benefits from you believing whatever it is you believe about prioritizing yourself? Who benefits from you believing that it’s selfish to prioritize yourself and water your own grass first?
See, if you like that answer or not. Typically, if you believe that it’s selfish to prioritize yourself, other people are benefiting from you believing that, right? You don’t benefit from believing that. So, take a second and decide: Do you want to choose to keep what you’re thinking right now about watering your own grass first?
If you don’t, you get to change your opinion right now, and you never have to believe that stuff again. It really is that simple. Now, why is it so important to water your own grass first? I really want you to answer that question for yourself. You can even pause this episode, and come up with your own answer to that question before I give you my answer.
Because I want you to be in the habit of selling yourself on why this is so important for you to do. Why it’s imperative for you to start focusing on your side of the fence. Why it is crucial for you to begin to water your own grass before you water someone else’s.
Now, the reason that I think this is so important is because as I see it, it is literally no one else’s responsibility to make sure that you achieve what you want to achieve in this lifetime of yours. Okay? The only person’s responsibility to make sure that you achieve what you want to achieve is your responsibility. That’s whose responsibility it is.
It’s no one else’s. It’s up to you. You have to be the one that makes your goals the most important thing to you. Everyone else is going to be focusing on themselves, as they should be. You can be resentful of that or frustrated by that, but again, that’s not going to serve you here. Because other people are best positioned to focus on themselves and you’re best positioned to focus on yourself, okay?
Now, when you make peace with that, A- you’re going to feel so much less resentful on a day-to-day basis, because you’re not going to be expecting other people to water your grass just because you’re watering theirs. You stop expecting yourself from other people.
You start to see that everyone is responsible for watering their own grass first, because it’s only their responsibility to make sure that their grass doesn’t die. And it’s your responsibility to make sure your grass doesn’t die, no one else’s.
From here, you get to decide today, to commit to watering your own grass. You get to decide to focus on your side of the fence first, always. You get to decide to make yourself your top priority. And if you decide to accept that challenge, if you decide to accept that responsibility, you get to start identifying when you have the urge to help someone else before you help yourself.
You want to opt out and resist that urge, right? You want to notice it and then you want to not indulge and answer the urge by helping other people instead of prioritizing yourself. So, as you’re doing that, as you’re noticing those urges come up for you, you just want to ask yourself, why.
Why do I feel pulled to help someone else? To prioritize someone else’s stuff over my own, right now? What’s going on? What am I thinking about focusing and accomplishing and working on my own goals, right now, that’s creating this resistance to me prioritizing my goals? And driving me and creating cultivating this urge to prioritize someone else’s stuff instead?
Figure out what’s going on there beneath the surface. When you do, when you start to gain awareness, what’s the discomfort that’s coming up for me, as I focus on my own goals, that I’m looking to avoid? What positive emotions am I craving, that I get temporarily, by prioritizing someone else’s stuff over my own? What positive emotions am I foregoing by watering someone else’s grass over my own?
If you’re watering someone else’s grass over your own, you’re delaying the gratification that comes from achieving your own goals, from creating the results that you want in your own life. So, there is some discomfort there too, as well, right? You’re prolonging feeling accomplished, feeling proud of yourself, feeling really competent and capable, feeling sufficient because you’re finally making progress and getting where you want to go.
Be on to yourself, what could you, instead of getting the instant gratification that comes from being helpful towards another person, what’s the delayed gratification that you can get when you prioritize yourself and water your own grass first? I really want you to sit with this question.
What would be different about your life if you made this change, starting today, and started watering your own grass first? Started making yourself your top priority? It is a game changer, I promise you. You will start getting so much further faster.
When it comes to achieving the goals that you set for yourself, when it comes to creating the life that you’ve been really desperate to start living, it becomes so much closer within your reach when you start watering your own grass first.
That’s what I want you to do be on the lookout for when you want to prioritize other people over yourself, when you want to neglect your own grass. All right? And then don’t neglect your own grass. Water your own grass first. That’s your job in this world. You’re going to be so thankful that you did.
Okay, that’s what I’ve got for you this week. I’m so excited for you to take this and really start to implement it. You’re going to blow your own mind with what you accomplish when you start focusing on what you want to achieve first and foremost. And then, with whatever you have remaining, if you have anything remaining, and it’s okay if you don’t, but then, whatever you have left over, you can pour that into other people if you still feel really called to do so. But we start with you.
As my mom likes to say, “Charity starts at home,” so we start with our own grass. We start by prioritizing our own stuff, and then you can move on to other people. Okay. I can’t wait to see what you create when you start doing this. Report back to me.
In the meantime, I hope you have a beautiful week, and I will talk to you in the next episode.
Thanks for listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast. If you want more info about Olivia Vizachero or the show’s notes and resources from today’s episode, visit www.TheLessStressedLawyer.com.