Take stock of what's important this new year

By Carol Zernial
WellMed Charitable Foundation Executive Director

All of us probably know someone who is really good at small talk, has many acquaintances, and probably a steady stream of Facebook friends. I am not one of those people. I’m better at the big discussions and have a few really good friends. This means that I’m not very good at parties. Oh well. I’ve always thought that it went along with my personal motto that I don’t want to just skim along the surface of life. I want to dig deep and get involved.

As caregivers, skimming through life may be a survival technique. With so many hours in the day, and so many doctor’s appointments, prescriptions to pick up, laundry and other errands, the days can go by. That’s okay.

But what if we want do live more deeply while we’re caregiving? We have a concept at work we call “blue chips.” Think of a jar that is filled with lots of white round chips and only a few blue ones. The white ones are the easy tasks, that are not really that important. They’re only worth 10 points. But the blue ones are the most important activities, and they are worth hundreds of points. Obviously, the goal is for us to focus on the blue chips.

Life is about choices. There are plenty of white chip activities that we can do, but we can choose to carve out time for the blue chips. It may take time, money or energy, but it will be worth it, because blue chips are the things that are important to us in our lives.

I once met a very sad and angry caregiver who said that caregivers have to give everything up. They have to completely lose themselves in caregiving, and have no expectations for themselves. We can all guess why she was sad and angry. She had completely lost herself along the way.

Starting a new year gives us the opportunity to pop our heads up from our daily routine and take stock. What are the blue chips in our lives that are important and worth going after? Let’s dig deeply and find ways to make them happen.

WellMed Charitable Foundation Executive Director Carol Zernial is a noted gerontologist, radio show host, and Chair of the National Council on Aging. The non-profit WellMed Charitable Foundation focuses on complimentary programs impacting seniors and family caregivers, including weekly telephone learning sessions, evidence-based classes on stress reduction and more. Find out more at CaregiverSOS.org or toll-free at 1-866-390-6491.