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The Empty Well – When You Have Nothing Left to Give

“You cannot give what you don’t have.”

– Dr. Wayne Dyer

Let us imagine that a thirsty traveler happens upon a remote homestead.  The woman who resides there, eager to help this poor soul, offers a large glass of water.  The stranger is so grateful; and so, the woman goes to the well, only to find out that it is now dry.  Although she has offered, there is nothing left to give.

Soon the stranger and the woman become very ill with dehydration, their bodies slowly shutting down.

Although this is just a story, it is how many women and men operate. Unfortunately, they offer to give from an empty well. They try to give when they have nothing left to give at all.

The reality is that we cannot give from something that is not there because, in doing so, we end up like the traveler and the woman — eventually, we become ill.

Many people are great givers.  They love to give of their time and their resources.  People like this are the first people others call when they need advice, help moving, a contribution to a charity, or any other type of assistance.  The only challenge is that by saying ‘yes’ over and over again, the inevitable result is burnout, fatigue, anger and potentially sickness.  Although it is important to give, it is equally important to fill our wells, and for many that is the hardest thing to do.

We have some friends who sold their home and left to start an orphanage in the Philippines and another in Africa.  These beautiful people were incredible givers.  If there was an emergency in a local village in the middle of the night, they were there.  If a child was frightened and awake with nightmares, they woke up to console them.  Many of their days were long.  Things like remembering to take malaria medication, healthy eating, taking rest days, or getting exercise were all thrown to the wayside in their complete devotion to helping the children.

Eventually, they both became very ill, suffering a variety of health problems, including malaria for her and a heart attack for him.  His blood pressure became dangerously high, and the stress of this lifestyle forced them to move back to North America and re-build an extremely quiet life.  Although they had done great things, the cost had also been great.

One of the things we focus on in our company is to teach women and men how to fill their wells.  We are conditioned to believe that putting oneself first is selfish.  But the truth is, putting everyone else first ultimately ends up being more selfish, as this inevitably leads to breakdown, resentment, overwhelm and even illness.  What good are we to anyone else if we are stressed, overwhelmed, and sick?  We can be extraordinary givers as long as we hold true to the notion that we must invest in some form of daily care, putting ourselves first.  Even Mother Teresa took a nap every afternoon.

Filling our own wells can be simple.  Taking a few minutes in the morning for prayer or meditation is tremendously helpful.  Many of our students adopt this daily practice and report feeling calmer, more centered and much more productive.  And many top corporations, like Apple, Google, and Nike, offer meditation for their employees during their workday, as it has been proven to improve clarity and focus.

Daily exercise is also key.  Moving our bodies to release toxins, keeping our energy up, burning excess calories, and maintaining a youthful form will help us to be extremely productive.  The late Dr. Wayne Dyer, a wonderful inspirer to millions, used to swim in the ocean, participate Bikram yoga classes, or take brisk walks every day.  In a conversation I asked him what he does when he travels, which is often, and he said that he schedules time to exercise and meditate even when he is on the road.  That would help to fill his well; no wonder Wayne was such a loving soul, able to continuously serve others.

Fueling our bodies with water and proper nutrition will also fill our well.  The goal is to maintain our energy without the use of caffeine, sugar, aspartame or fast food.  All of these foods make our bodies weak, and whatever makes us weak prevents us from operating at a high level.  To fill your well, try to consume whole, organic foods and drink a minimum of twelve glasses of pure water every day.  This will give you an extraordinary amount of energy.  Additionally, supplement with daily vitamins if needed to fill in the gaps of your nutrition.  Personally, I also have one to two protein shakes that are loaded with enzymes and probiotics to keep energized all through the day.

Another key factor in filling our well is rest.  Studies have shown that, optimally, our bodies require seven hours of sleep every night.  Many function on less sleep because they don’t realize what it feels like to be truly rested.  If you are finding yourself short-tempered, irritable, have challenges releasing weight, lack focus and desire, then it could be as simple as getting more sleep.  It is perfectly fine to have the occasional night of less sleep, but over time this will catch up with you.

Lastly, find some activities that truly fill your well.  It could be taking a class, attending a workshop, listening to a favorite speaker, dancing, painting, reading, hiking, or anything else.  Set the intention to do one well-filling activity every week.  This is so good for our souls and truly allows us to serve from a place of pure love.

I encourage you to fill your well every day.  Developing new habits may at first be daunting, but once you start feeling more energized and focused, you will be able to operate, produce, and serve at a higher level.  As always, know that I believe in you and wish you every joy and success in filling your well.

Susan’s Strategies for Filling Your Well

  1. Create a morning ritual that includes prayer and/or meditation.
  2. Eat whole organic foods.
  3. Drink twelve glasses of pure water every day.
  4. Get seven hours of sleep whenever possible.
  5. Create time for exercise.
  6. Stop eating processed, artificial foods – these drain our energy.
  7. Do at least one major well-filling activity every week.


Susan Sly is a best selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of four children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.




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