It’s 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning and already my phone chimes with a text message. Life can be a marathon. And with technology creep granting our accessibility to anyone and everyone 24/7, life is not only a marathon, but also a deep sea dive, a Grand Prix race, a steeple chase and a space launch all wrapped up into one.
I’m not complaining. It’s a glorious wild ride. And every day we are alive, is a gift. So how do we meet the marathon-sea-dive-racecar-steeple-space-launch in a way that engages our possibilities, but limits our burn-out?
In the bestselling book, The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz argue that managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal. ‘Every one of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors has an energy consequence,’ they write. ‘The ultimate measure of our lives is not how much time we spend on the planet, but how much energy we invest in the time that we have.’
Using the bio-dynamics of athletic training as an analogy, the authors provide a lot of accurate common sense. They assert that ‘seeking stress’ is actually a good thing. ‘Stress is not the enemy; paradoxically it is the key to growth. In order to build strength in a muscle, we must systematically stress it, expending energy beyond normal levels.’
This is pretty radical thinking in a culture that is all about ‘reducing your stress’. And of course the key word there is ‘systematically’. What they are pointing to here is an ability to build capacity through a rhythm of rest and exertion so that our bodies (and minds) can carry us into a life of passion and purpose.
However, this rhythm is not the only secret to life’s strength training. We must also nourish ourselves by tending to our emotional, physical and spiritual bodies as well.
We have to access our inner ‘elite athlete’, and treat ourselves with the same loving discipline. When I was pregnant with my two children I learned the importance of befriending my body, and engaging with it in a collaborative way to meet my ultimate goal—an easy birth and a healthy child. It was for me the ultimate gold medal. I learned that the more I listened to my body, and tended to it, the more it gave back to me in terms of energy, strength, resilience, wellbeing, clear thinking and optimism.
But in our culture, we treat our bodies like machines. We fill up the tank every now and again, and wonder why we wake up with pain or anxiety. We expect our bodies to put up and shut up. And when our body begins to speak to us through unwanted symptoms or disease, we seldom inquire into the source of that symptom. The usual approach to symptoms is to prescribe some kind of Band-Aid, something to soothe us and make us feel better. We seldom ask ourselves—and certainly our doctors rarely ask—‘What is out of balance that needs to be changed?’
We can’t wait for a culture hostile to rest, nourishment, reflection and self-care to change. We have to make changes in our own lives. What if I told you that in just one week you could be smarter, happier, more successful and have better relationships?
Here are 10 super easy ways to a better, more delightfully engaged, more passionate and more present you right away –
Get enough sleep — what more is there to say here? No more arguing. In keeping the Nike tagline…just do it.
Pump up the vitamins — don’t get lost in vitamin-land. Just take the basics – a good multi, omegas, and B’s. Buy from companies that source from high quality botanicals and ingredients. If you are really depleted, ask your doctor to treat you to a B12 shot, or even better, a Myers Cocktail. You’ll leave the office with wings.
Reward yourself — any time you achieve a small victory. Say you finally made that really hard phone call to a client you’ve been putting off for weeks, or you signed a great contract. Immediately go out and reward yourself with something, not necessarily expensive but that feels indulgent. This fires reward centers in the brain, and reinforces courageous neural pathways for doing difficult work. We tend to overemphasize our failures and ignore our wins. I just bought myself a pair of groovy socks after telling a difficult client I was no longer going to work with them.
Have solitude time every day — and do what nourishes you. Make it a non-negotiable. Read poetry. Meditate. Draw. Journal. Unplug the phone and get away from the computer. This does not include exercise time. This is downright soulfully luxurious you-time.
Don’t stress about stress — stress is good. Just find a way to create periods of rest and nourishment within it, so you can sustain the mental, emotional and physical endurance needed.
Exercise — besides all the other benefits, this keeps oxygen flowing into your brain so you can solve problems better, and generate inspired ideas.
Eat a rainbow — when my kids were little, instead of eating their ‘fruit, veg and protein’ we ate from the colors of the rainbow. If you are getting greens, reds, purples and yellows, you’re doing pretty well. Get yourself a Ninja blender and a smoothie recipe book and have fun throwing the entire rainbow together for an easy way to pump yourself with nutrition on the go.
Watch energy eaters — this can be people, projects or activities that just suck the wind right out of you. You know who and what they are.
Keep your eye on the ball — don’t waste energy on ‘what you don’t want’ and instead engage in ‘what you do want’. The former breeds negativity, victimization and stagnation, the later keeps you moving forward.
Be generous — when you start taking care of yourself, and setting better boundaries to protect what you want in your life, you’ll have more to give away to places you really do want to give.
You probably have your own list of ways to keep you at the top of your game. Feel free to share them on the blog comments. Or email me and I’ll start a new thread. We can support one another to be the winners we know we can be.