Things I’ve Learned: Part II

You can’t build a house without a solid foundation. A proper house foundation does more than just hold the house above ground. It keeps out the elements, and keeps the entire structure strong against whatever might come its way.  It’s built to last.  I’ve found the same to be true for just about anything in life.  A child raised without a solid foundation of support early in life will likely struggle later.  Same goes for a career or business, a marriage, a weight-loss plan – most endeavors we consider worthwhile.

What makes for a solid foundation may look different, depending on the individual, but it has to be there.  Some people find their foundation in their faith or spirituality, others in strong family support, or education.  Values such as honesty, integrity, loyalty and compassion can all be part of a personal foundation.  Businesses thrive on having a clear objective, a mission, with the appropriate training, systems and management in place to support continued growth.  Without these, the business is in danger of collapsing.

From time to time, I have found it helpful to pause and reflect:   Am I keeping my foundation strong?  My foundation includes my spirituality, my personal values, my family, close friends, my health and wellness, including exercise, sleep and fun, my work and my continued learning.  When any of those are out of sync, I feel it and that’s when cracks in my foundation can start to appear.  By keeping my foundation relatively strong on an ongoing basis, I’m prepared to weather what might come my way.  What do you need to keep your foundation strong?

A commitment to yourself is a commitment.  Most of us are pretty good at keeping commitments to those around us that we care about. What about those commitments you make to yourself?   Do you place the same importance on them, or do you tend to blow them off, make them less significant?

A dear friend said those words to me once, and I’ve never forgotten them.  I was in the middle of a particularly busy time, and feeling more than a little overwhelmed.  She asked me where I could have some breathing room and I’m sure I must have stared at her blankly.  She then said those words to me, and suggested it might help to take a look at what was essential for me to be at my best and function effectively, and make those things just as important.  I’ve tried to keep this in mind ever since and take my personal commitments (exercise, downtime, and the like) just as seriously as I do the commitments I make in other areas of my life.  If I need a quiet night at home, that’s what I do.  If I have time set aside for a workout, that’s my commitment.  I’ve learned that if I’m not taking care of myself, I can’t be at my best for anyone and the commitments I have to my wellbeing are every bit as important as the ones I make to others.

Doing nothing can be as important as doing something.  I used to think if a problem occurred, I had to do something, take some action or steps toward fixing it. Sometimes that’s true.  There are problems that absolutely require immediate attention, or steps toward a solution.  Over time, though, I’ve found out that there can be another way, and it can be just as effective: doing nothing.

What that looks like can be different depending on the circumstance.  Sometimes it means pausing, taking a breath, a step back, and waiting.  I’ve sometimes found that problems resolve themselves this way, without my having had to take any action.  For example, I get a phone call later in the day that the issue was solved.  Even if it becomes clear that I need to step in, taking some time to think about the best course enables me to come up with a more effective solution than if I had acted right away. I save myself time and energy.  Next time a dilemma presents itself and you’re not sure what to do, wait and see what develops before acting.  You may find the problem disappears all by itself, or a better solution occurs to you after taking time to respond.

Sleep is just as important as any component of a wellness plan.  It’s no secret that Americans are sleep-deprived.  Sleep is as vital to health as proper nutrition and exercise.  While you sleep, damaged cells are repaired, the immune system is revitalized, and your energy and brain power are recharged.  Sleep encourages glowing skin, a sunnier mood, and stable weight.  Lack of sleep over time has been linked to depression, anxiety, Type II diabetes, even stroke.  Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.

The general recommendation for adequate sleep is 7 to 8 hours for adults, but the need for sleep is highly individual.  How you feel the next day is the best indicator; you may need more or less.  The bottom line for me is that I try not to skimp on sleep – being rested makes a huge difference in how much I enjoy my day.

From time to time, I may share other thoughts on what has contributed to my living more fully, more healthfully, and happily.   In the meantime, if there are life lessons that have been helpful to you on your own path, please share them with me.  I’m learning all the time!

Coach’s action step:  What is an important lesson you have learned over the course of your life?  How has this lesson impacted you?  How does it benefit you today?  Is it something you might pass on for others’ benefit?

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