The Power of Perspective: Managing Priorities as a Busy Fire Fighter

Author: IAFF Staff

June 22, 2017

As a fire fighter, you’ve got many different priorities vying for your time: work, family and your health, to name a few. Your overall health and wellness impacts all aspects of your life. It’s important that your personal wellness plans are both realistic and relevant to the extreme demands of fire fighting. Spending time with your family whenever you get the chance is just as important, too. When you’re a busy fire fighter, your perspective of priorities and how you manage your time will directly affect your quality of life — at work and at home. But all too often, it’s easy for us to lose our perspective on which priorities matter. How often do you say “I don’t have time,” when juggling life, work and family? Think about it. As fire fighters, we use this excuse when we don’t want to feel guilty about neglecting some important part of our lives. But consider the slippery slopes in the following rationale:

  • “If I don’t have enough time to work out, it’s okay to be tired after a flight of stairs or on a working fire.”
  • “If I don’t have enough time to prepare healthy meals, it’s easier to accept my next unhealthy eating and weight gain.”
  • “If I don’t have enough time to work around the house, it’s easier to accept living in a messy home.”
  • “If I don’t have time to spend with family and friends, it’s easier to accept having distant relationships.”
  • “If I don’t have time to take a hike, go skiing or travel, it’s easier to accept that I don’t have quality time for leisure activities.”
  • “If I don’t have time to go to a doctor, it’s easier to accept feeling sick or emotionally spent.”

When you make these excuses, what you’re actually saying is, “It’s not a priority.” Starting today, challenge yourself to stop saying, “I don’t have time.” Instead, practice “It’s not a priority.” This tactic can have a monumental effect in changing your perspective on your own health, wellbeing and how you spend your precious time. For example, watch how quickly your perspective shifts when meeting life’s challenges with excuses:

  • “I’d love to work out, I just don’t have time,” becomes “Exercising isn’t a priority.”
  • “I’d love to eat healthier, but I don’t have time to cook or do meal prep,” becomes “Eating healthy food isn’t a priority.”
  • “I don’t have time spend with family and friends,” becomes “Family and friends aren’t a priority.”

With this logic, suddenly the excuse of time becomes an incredibly weak argument. It even stings a bit. It can be a difficult shift in thinking because maybe you believe these things are a priority, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. J.D. Roth, co-creator of the hit TV show “The Biggest Loser,” says, “It’s not what we say is a priority, but what we actually DO that’s a priority.” Bottom line: How you choose to spend your time defines your priorities. Ask yourself: “What are my priorities?” What will you make time for when it comes to health and wellness? Are you willing to take care of yourself on and off the job? When it comes to everything you truly care about, are you satisfied with saying you just don’t have time?

It’s true, you can’t make more hours in the day, but you can manage the time you have more effectively. If you’re willing to make changes in your life to make your priorities reality, there’s always a way to make it happen. For starters, change your perspective on time. Not everything has to take up a full hour. All of these things can take 20 minutes or less:

  • Try out a short but focused fitness session.
  • Prepare a quick, healthy meal.
  • Clean out and organize your closet.
  • Take a walk with the family or call a friend.
  • Begin planning a vacation.
  • Set up your next doctor’s appointment.

These 20-minute activities are a great way to get back on track with the parts of your life that are most important. Taking action with your priorities is a great opportunity (and motivation) to improve your health, wellness, work performance and overall quality of life — on and off the job.

Work-life balance can be difficult, but don’t undermine the progress you’ve made by turning to drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you know has found themselves dependent on a drug or abusing alcohol, help is possible. Call the IAFF Center of Excellence today to speak with a caring addiction specialist who can understand what you’re going through and help you get the help you deserve.

We can help. Call 240-545-5141 or

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