It’s an indication I hear every time I’m flying. It’s part of the safety instructions.
But does it also apply to other areas of life than survival?
Well, survival is a basic task. Surviving is enabling us to help others.
But there is more to it, as putting on the oxygen mask is not only about surviving, it is an instruction that serves our ability to help others by allowing ourselves to breathe the oxygen that enables us to stay conscious and fully present.
That’s what putting on the oxygen mask is for.
The action itself, however, is independent of our motivation. Some people will put the mask on to serve themselves and others to be able to help others.
It is where people have to become real with themselves. Why do they do what they do? Is it for self-actualization in its own right or is it about helping other people? Is the motivation an extrinsic one that is linked to fame, money, power, or pleasure? Or is the motivation an intrinsic one that is linked to faith, family, friendship, or meaning through work that is there to serve others?
People are individuals with different preferences and characters. Someone who is delivering a service will have different needs than those receiving the service. In both cases, the service remains the same. What changes are the circumstances in which it is delivered. This might impact how it is delivered as well as to whom. But it starts by establishing the conditions in which the person delivering the services feels competent and at their best to deliver it. To do so, they metaphorically put on the oxygen mask first.
An interesting side note is that whatever it is the person seeks to serve the other with, it might be what they are seeking to earn for themselves too. And delivering the service becomes what enables it to earn its results. That is because many of the challenges we are confronted with in delivering the service are what the service is about.
Take teaching leadership skills for example. It requires to step in and teach something that those who are learning it need to use and may just as well use to confront the one teaching it. The very act of teaching creates the vulnerability of a possible failure, which in fact can be the result of successfully teaching a concept. The more one teaches it, the better one becomes at it.