As you learned about me when I discussed the creation of my willpower routine, I sometimes have a hard time deciding how to take care of myself. Part of that is because I am acutely aware of my many flaws. I’d like to fix them all and I’d like to fix them now. Part of it is because it’s so much darn work to do self-care and it seems too overwhelming to start.
The hardest thing for me to decide is where to start.
The Barrel Theory or Liebig’s Law of the Minimum is a principle developed in agriculture that I have used with myself to determine where I need to focus my energies.
Think of your life as a barrel. Each slat of the barrel is an important aspect of who you are. For instance: one slat is your relationship with your family, another slat is your relationship with your closest friends, another slat is your relationship with your significant other, yet another slat is your relationship with God, another slat is your hobbies, another slat is your physical health,another is your mental health, one slat is your occupation. Etc.
Take a minute and “build your own barrel”. Which of the slats that I just listed do you claim? Would there be other slats that you would add?
Now, imagine the perfect barrel. Something like this:
In this barrel, each slat is the same length. This barrel can hold a lot of water or ferment a lot of wine.
What if the slats were different lengths? Now your barrel might look something like this:
Now the barrel can only hold water up to the lowest slat.
The slat that I have been neglecting recently will usually be the lowest slat. If I haven’t worked out in months, my physical health slat is probably my lowest and that is where I need to start focusing my energy. Other times, the lowest slat is the slat where things are the toughest. Maybe things at work have been stressful? Maybe I’m in a fight with a loved one or a friend? Those slats will be the shortest and will need the most care.
As you tend to your different slats, they will grow so that your barrel can hold more water. The water is an analogy for the vibrancy of your life. You can feel more alive when your barrel can hold more water. You can handle more stress, give more of yourself to your friends and family, feel more energetic when your barrel can hold more water.
Once I know what slat(s) needs the most attention, I know where I need to focus my self-care. Once I know where to focus, I can create a plan that will help me grow in that specific area of my life.
Which of your slats needs attending to at this time?