You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive your car and never refuel, right? Even new electric vehicles need to recharge from time to time. How about changing the oil? Skip that long enough, and eventually, things break.

We all need to refuel, recharge, and change our oil from time to time.

I’m writing this from the lobby of my car dealership as they’re changing the oil in my truck – that’s what got me thinking about the importance of maintenance and refueling. If I don’t change the oil in my car regularly, the engine will eventually fail. Similarly, if I don’t stop along my journeys to refuel or recharge, eventually I’ll roll to a stop along the side of the road.

I had one of those “run out of gas” moments recently where I could feel myself approaching empty. I needed an internal oil change. Yes, I was excited about my projects, working with clients, and my writing. Life with my family was good, too. Everything was coasting along nicely – so why was I feeling such a desperate need to refuel and recharge?

When I slowed down to check my gas tank and oil, I saw the issue pretty quickly…

Over the last few years, I’ve become more focused on self-care. I know it’s good for me and helps me stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. I need it. That said, self-care requires a lot of intention. For me, especially when things get busy, it can be easy to set my own self-care on the shelf for a time. I need to pay attention to this project, help this person, make sure my wife and kids are good, put out this fire… and I’ll come back to taking care of me in a little bit. 

But what happens when “a little bit” never comes?

Hours stretch into days, and days quickly become weeks. In what seems like an instant, my self-care practices evaporate. When that happens, I find my tank empty. I find myself in need of a refuel and an oil change. 

That’s what caused my recent “out of gas” experience. My need to do everything caused me to change my morning rituals – the things I do every day to keep myself healthy. Your routines may look very different than mine, but I try to begin my mornings with some quiet time – meditation, prayer, and scripture. These are the things I used to think were woo-woo and important for other people. What I’ve noticed, though, is that when I begin my days with this quiet time I start off feeling refueled and recharged. When I skip it, even for just a day or two, my internal balance starts to shift, and my engine starts to run a little rough. 

Skip it for a couple of weeks, and I’m left sitting in my car dealer’s lobby feeling out of gas and in need of a personal oil change.

With this in mind, I got intentional again about protecting my morning rituals and the opportunity to recharge.

Here’s the “how-to” part…

Even though the “busy-ness” in my life didn’t let up, I stopped myself from rushing into my days and slowed down to make sure I hit my quiet time. Rather than hoping it would happen when I wanted it to, I had to schedule it by creating meetings with myself on my calendar to protect the time. By blocking the time and then treating it like a meeting with a coworker or client, I worked to ensure I wouldn’t blow it off. Those scheduled meetings created space for this time to happen and protected it from being stolen or hijacked.

Almost immediately, when I restarted that daily routine, I could feel myself getting refueled. Like an engine with fresh oil, things began running smoothly again. The second thing I did to help me maintain these routines was to include some notes in my journal about the effect that this morning ritual had on the rest of my day. Journaling allowed me to connect the dots and see how my investment in morning quiet time was impacting my work, relationships, and how I was showing up.

Last, I put some time on the calendar to slip away with my wife for a long weekend. No work, no writing, no distractions – just time dedicated to changing my mental oil. Again, scheduling this time for recharging was vital. Without intentionally creating that space, I would have filled it with a million other things and kept my self-care up on that shelf. 

Creating these rituals, and making time for personal recharging and self-care, are fundamental if we’re chasing depth in our lives. It’s impossible to go deep into what’s important if we’re not taking care of ourselves first. There’s simply no way to make it work – when we’re not in a good place personally, we can’t give anything else the attention it needs to create success. “Me first” isn’t selfish; it’s essential. 

Your version of recharging may look very different than mine. Faith plays a huge role in my life – it’s the glue that holds everything else together for me. For some, recharging involves time in the gym, making our bodies sweat, and long runs. For others, it’s a quiet walk through the woods or time with family and friends. A good book by the fire or time spent watching a sunrise might fill you up. The key is that we find those things that refuel us and begin building habits and rituals around those – so we don’t find ourselves out of gas on the side of the road.

The Takeaway

Refueling and recharging require being intentional. There will always be things in our lives, some of them very important and good, that demand our attention. The key is not giving those things our attention at the expense of the things that keep us filled up. So ask yourself, what things in my life fill me up? Have I set aside the time and space to ensure I’m getting filled up and changing my oil consistently? 

Grab your calendar right now. Don’t wait! Start setting time aside for your own rituals and self-care, and then see what happens on the other side!

I hope this was helpful for you! Want more? Subscribe here where I’ll keep sharing lessons like this one – the reminders we all need as we’re trying to create more depth in our lives. Til’ next time, keep refueling! – John