You’ve heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”  Shockingly, I’ve been giving that saying some thought.

You see, it seems that we’ve been putting the wrong spin on the word “teach” in this saying – specifically when it comes to self care.

I’ll get to my case later.

First, let’s look at this saying and its inherent metaphor.  The first half is obvious.  If someone doesn’t know how to provide for their own needs, it’s easy to just give them a little help.  And keep in mind that the saying doesn’t imply that giving help is bad.  Just, maybe, good instead of great.

(I’m not sure I could eat for a whole day off a fish, unless it was a big fish.  Preferably with a light beurre blanc sauce with lemon and capers, and a glass of chardonnay..,)

The second half is where we get tripped up.

We (yes, the collective “we”) misunderstand the word “teach”, or perhaps just get lazy with the term.

You can teach someone to fish by telling them to get a stick, a string, some sort of “hook-y” thing and stuff fish like to eat, put it all together, and drop it in the water.  Good to go?  Great!  Have a great lifetime of fishing!

Yet ask a true fisher.  Someone who spends weeks each year fly fishing in the Snake River.  Someone who sport fishes for sailfish daily.  Someone who has their bass boat in the lake every other weekend.  There is so much more.

  • What kind of gear to use?
  • What kind of bait?
  • Where to go?
  • What technique to use?

Just a short list of things that go through their mind, unconsciously at this point, as they fish.

To “teach” this well enough that someone could be assured a lifetime of good eating takes some time.  Enough that perhaps “coach” is a better word.

Now, back to the point.  Self care.

Self care, self improvement, personal development, or anything you want to call it, often gets short shrift.

You can go to a gym or fitness class, and learn one component.  You can go to a dietitian (and not many people do this…) to learn another component.  Spiritual teacher.  Meditation app.  Financial planner or financial guru’s book.  Career coach.  The list goes on and on.  Each gives you some level (whether surface level or a deep dive) of insight, and potentially coaching, in one of these areas.

What would happen, though, if you went to a fishing gear coach, learned everything there is to know about the gear, but didn’t learn anything else about fishing?  A lot of trial and error, after which you’d likely take up farming instead.

The same thing happens if you go to a fitness trainer, do all kinds of working out, but never address anything else in your life.  You go for 2 months, don’t really reduce the belly size (we all know most people go to the gym to deal with this…), and then you give up and take up professional YouTube watching.

Our selves are highly complex.

Everything is highly intertwined.  What we eat, how we move, how we think, how we interrelate with others, how we create.

And when we look at that short list, we can break it down even further:  Interrelating with others can be family, romantic relationships, friendships, community, work relationships, and on and on.

As we break it down into smaller pieces, the intertwining becomes even more apparent.  Our family influences our eating, our opportunity for movement, our thinking, our opportunity (or belief in our ability) to create.

In ancient, tribal societies, this was never an issue.  Your tribe of 50 helped moderate relationships as you all had to depend on each other.  You moved to get food, which was extremely natural at that point, and you created to entertain yourselves because there was no other entertainment.

As life has gotten easier, we have lost many of our opportunities for having our self care routines to be built into our daily activity, so we have to deliberately add them in.

When we deliberately add them in, we only do what we know to do.

We need to be taught, coached.

But we need to be coached in all of it, with an eye toward how each aspect influences other areas.  Ironically, that coaching often leads us back to a lifestyle more similar to our tribal selves than our modern life.

If you’ve read this far, let me know what you think.  I would love to develop ways to teach and coach with an eye toward affecting the entire tapestry of our lives instead of honing in on one or two components, and your thoughts will help me with that.

Love and peace to you all!