5 Things Only You Can Do (and Courage to Do Them)

Let's be courageous in putting the important stuff first, knowing the rest will follow. No one else can for us.

It seems about once a year I'm reminded of what's really important for me to do. Well, maybe once a season, when something comes up and I'm not myself and I have to consider on a very practical level, what is essential for me to do everyday?

This usually starts with some sort of fatigue or not feeling "myself." I lack motivation or energy to get the important stuff done. The cause varies depending on the year or the season. There's been depression or deficiencies in Vitamin D or iron, and the times in between when I self-diagnose and self-treat based on past experiences.

The effect is a real come-to-Jesus with what's essential in my life. What can only I do with my limited energy, and which things maybe aren't as important, at least for this season? Usually chores and creative work get lumped in the ask-for-help or okay-to-neglect categories. This evaluation of priorities when I'm not feeling well is now influencing my focus even when I'm feeling motivated, energetic, and healthy.

Ultimately, when my life has been lived and it's all memories in the past, what will have mattered? Will I be proud of how I lived and the legacy I've passed on to my kids?

With those questions in mind, I realize in all of my busy list-making and task-doing, I often leave off my most important and highest priority tasks. I forget or negate or assume I already know/do the tasks that only I can do. These are vital things I should be paying attention to that no one else is going to do, and sometimes no one else can do, for me.

Here are those things only we can do for ourselves, just in case you also need a little courage to daily do what matters most.

1. Love your people. And pray for them.

I originally saw this idea as a tweet from Lysa TerKeurst: Pray for your kids. If you're not going to, who will? I've taken that to heart, and even broadened the umbrella. If I'm not loving on and praying for my husband or my friends or my parents or my siblings or my grandparents--who is? Maybe someone else that cares for them. Or maybe I'm missing the opportunity to love and pray for people in my life that really need it--nevermind the bonus of getting to stop thinking about myself and my own problems for a minute. Imagine if we all started openly caring for and praying for our people as if no one else was? I can feel the love already!

2. Commit to Jesus.

I know how we can all relate to being too busy for a devotional life and not knowing where to start and feeling like our prayers aren't going anywhere. But either we're spending time with Jesus regularly because we're His girls (and guys), or we're not. No one else can make that decision for us. No one else can make that time to grow that relationship for us. When all is said and done in this life, I don't want to regret not making Jesus the priority He always should have been--I believe He really is the One that matters most.

3. Tell your story.

We all have a story to tell. A story of the ways we hurt and the ways God heals. A story of struggle that's been overcome or a lesson learned or a blessing experienced or a miracle witnessed. Only we know and can tell our own stories. These stories that make us human also bring us life, make us relate-able, help us connect with each other, and ultimately help us reach others with God's love. We can find little everyday opportunities to tell our honest, heartfelt stories with friends over coffee, in a small group, in a blog post or social media update, or even in a journal or to a counselor as we process them ourselves. Or we can keep our stories to ourselves and lose the connection and gospel that comes with vulnerability. May we all find opportunity to share our stories and find Jesus's love in the retelling.

4. Take care of yourself.

Sure, others can extend love and grace and acts of kindness to us, and that sometimes happens when we need it most. Still, when we become adults, we mostly become our own responsibility. That means if you're sick, you take a day off; if you're regularly fatigued, you go to the doctor; if you're overwhelmed, you de-stress or see a counselor or ask for help; if you're feeling discouraged, you focus on and choose positivity and gratitude; and if you've slipped into unhealthy habits, you start making small changes toward healthier choices. Taking care of ourselves makes a huge difference in our quality of life for years to come, and no one else can do it for us.

5. Choose your thoughts.

I don't know about you, but my thoughts can get out of control. A seed of negativity spreads like weeds of discouragement, and a quick what if can spiral into anxiety. It doesn't have to be that way unless I let it. Thoughts might pop into my head unwelcome, but I don't have to let them take residence. The more I let a thought linger, the deeper the pathways it makes in my brain so I'm more likely to think that negative or anxious thought again. Or, I can turn it all around by countering negative or anxious thoughts with new, positive thoughts. I can fill my mind with positives and truth to counter and replace the negative. This happens by consuming (reading, watching, listening) to good things, and repeating (thinking, saying out loud, writing) those good things. Since our thoughts lead to action, we can do a lifetime of good only if we start it in our thinking.

Sure, there's other things to we have to do like our jobs or home upkeep or run errands. I just want to make sure I don't let those daily tasks crowd out what I really value and want to do in this life. When all is said and done, I want to be at peace that I focused on and did the things that matter, and did them well.

Let's be courageous in putting the important stuff first, knowing the rest will follow. No one else can do it for us.