I woke-up early yesterday after a sound night sleep (I managed to get to bed before 10) and hit my running route around the city parks and lakes near our house. The sunrise was at full peak: bright red fire clouds across the sky and that calm glow on the water’s surface. I stopped for a minute to breath and smile at the dawn, being mindful and thankful for a new day. The rest of the run felt good, restorative even, as maybe my eating habits are paying off and giving me the energy to run strong and recover fast. I return home at 7, just as my wife and daughter are getting to the breakfast table. They’ve been guessing what I was up to: still sleeping? gardening in the backyard? birding?
“I knew you were running,” my little girl exclaims. I mix my bowl of yogurt, cashews, and raspberries and join them. We talk about the day ahead and what we’re looking forward to, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to get in my workout as the day will clearly be quite busy.
After they head off to work and school I sit down at my home office to think through this entry, and realize that my morning run encompassed the eight key areas of the Wellness Wheel, a set of activities that I encourage leaders to explore to discover their wellbeing:
1) Exercise ~ Some type of program that keeps you healthy and that you feel good about and committed to more than for just a new year’s resolution spurt. For me, that’s running (along with yoga and some strength training). It might take trial and error to find your exercise bliss, but it’s out there.
2) An Outlet for Frustration ~ Something that releases stress while not being further detrimental. Like me, that may be one-in-the-same as an exercise routine, but it might also be a hobby, time with friends, or a fun activity that works for you.
3) Prayer and/or Meditation ~ I think of this one as mindfulness: a moment to stop and be aware of the day, how we’re feeling, and what’s around us, and to show gratitude. I use sunrises, beautiful clouds, stop lights, and music to bring me back to the present moment.
4) Sleep ~ This should probably be #1 as it is the turnkey, yet we manage to take great pride socially in the caffeine we consume and how few hours of rest we’re operating on everyday. I’m still refining my routine as getting to sleep before ten to make a dawn wake-up (a sleep theory I subscribe to) is tough. But I know it matters.
5) Diet and Hydration ~ Certainly a science of one and a LOT of options are out there. But engaging in trial and error once again of what works for you and what makes your body feel great is critical to dialing this one in for your health. I’ve found that sugar and white flour hurt me in a number of ways, and while I miss certain treats, life without them is energetic.
6) Social Support ~ Friends, family, community, colleagues … whomever it is, we need people in our lives to laugh with, to share happiness with, to get through the tough times with, and to encourage us to keep up the good work that is making us whole. Coming home from a run to the breakfast table with my family is a deep blessing. Are you making time for your community?
7) Predictability ~ I know that my day gets really busy as soon as 7:30 am hits, and it can be difficult to get out for a run or other exercise. An early rise (when I feel rested enough) ensures that I’ll get the movement in that I need. Making our days as predictable as possible reduces stress and anxiety. But we also have to be able to cope effectively with surprises, as we all know that life is far from predictable. If I can schedule my run in early, I can predict that I’ll at least be ready to respond to the rest of the day as it comes and evolves.
8) Control ~ Somewhat related to predictability, there’s also a facet of this that you are able to control the action you take in a way that matters to you. I’m not advocating that everyone wake-up at dawn to run and enjoy the sunrise (though I encourage it), but that you find goals, and strategies to reach those goals, that you know you can control as much as possible. Finding what works for you helps reduce stress and sets you on the path to exceeding your expectations. I know I can’t train for ultra marathons or fast 10ks, but I can run for the enjoyment of running, and be ready to sneak in a longer adventure when the opportunity presents itself.
Now, often times people see these eight components and it has the opposite, unintended effect of causing all sorts of stress, “oh no, I don’t do any of that well.” Slow down. Engage in a growth mindset and incremental change. Where you are now is fine. What small step can you take tomorrow to start working towards the wellbeing you want?
Which of these areas is the low-hanging fruit? Where can you change your habits with ease? Where are you motivated to change your habits? Delete the ideal image you have about these areas, and focus instead on what’s important to you. And since time is always a limiting factor, remember that after a good night’s sleep, you can address almost all of these in a focused hour complimented by mindfulness throughout the day.
I’m passionate about these small steps and this work, because the most effective leaders I see out there are balanced leaders, and attention to their health ensures they can maintain balance. That’s sustainability that matters, because we need you, the effective community leaders, making an impact for the long haul.
Your BREAK THROUGH, Post 66