So many of us have been taught that taking care of ourselves is selfish. Many of us have also been taught that we shouldn’t have any emotional needs. The thing is, we can’t really show up for each other if we’re not tending to ourselves and if we are not fully resourced. Believe me, I’ve tried and it never works. Today, it still stands true that as a relatively new business owner, mother, and wife, I have to tend to my own emotional and physical well being in order to show up with presence and authenticity – two values that are very important to me.
In the midst of this collective pause, it is essential that we keep checking in with ourselves to stay grounded, present, and in our bodies. It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed right now. It’s also really easy to get caught up in the collective fear around this pandemic. Just one scroll through Instagram, or listening to another news bulletin, one can sense the hysteria, which is coming from a place of fear and scarcity. All completely valid and understandable.
However, in the midst of these tough times lies a massive opportunity for us to optimise our daily nutrition and lifestyle practices; to form new habits that will set us up for a lifetime of optimal health and well-being. We all have the resources whether we are aware of them or not. And now is the perfect time to dig deeper, go within, realise our power, make the daily choice of mind body freedom, practice our rituals, and truly embody well-being and wholeness.
What does living optimally look like?
Let’s say your definition of living optimally is: to live healthily and joyfully with an excess of energy everyday, doing the work you love and still having time for you and your family. Sounds like a nice definition don’t you think? What if I told you this is totally achievable. Would you believe me? Maybe you don’t believe it’s possible to have such a life, or maybe you think that it could be possible for other people to have such a life, just not you. The truth is that self-sabotage overrides any desire to live in abundance, which is, by the way, actually meant for all of us.
Here’s the thing. Life will basically carry on as it is if you are not prepared to make a change. If you are not ready now, when will you be ready? Are you going to settle for an attitude that if you can’t change the habits that govern your future health then it’s OK to stay stuck with habits that over time will rob you from freedom and an optimal life?
The time is now
The way I approach change is to define a list of “non-negotiables,” a set of actions that will happen no matter what. For example, one of my non-negotiables is this journal post. Every Thursday night, without fail, I post an article on the 3 Sources journal. I usually write these articles in advance, but every Thursday night I spend time doing the final edits, upload an image, send out an email to my community and create social media links. Every Thursday night my husband knows this and so our evening is planned accordingly. Why? Because I’m passionate about serving my community with strategies that will empower them on their journey towards optimal health and wellness.
Another one of my non-negotiables is practicing mindfulness and breath work every morning before I do anything else. Why? I knew that starting my day in this way would improve my stress levels and help me stay grounded and present. And it has. For the past 3 years I’ve had a regular, daily practice almost every single morning.
Start with your why
The first step is to think about your own specific health and lifestyle goals and how they will impact your life; physically, emotionally, financially, socially, intellectually and spiritually. How will reaching these goals impact your ability to show up in the world? How will they impact your well-being, relationships, your family and those you love? Why do you want these results? What are your reasons? What are the ‘why’s’ that back up your ‘what’s?’ Write down as many compelling reasons as you can.
Interview yourself with curiosity and compassion and let your inner procrastinator make its case (we all have one). You want to hear its case because this information is golden and will help you become aware of your inner voice. This will help you create automatic mental responses to your inner procrastinator when it tries to talk you out of your own plan. When approaching this step, come to yourself with a childlike curiosity that has no agenda, with a genuine desire to understand and always with compassion. Finding your why is about getting the details and applauding whatever you find.
Step two is to draw up a list of what you do not want: stress, strain, excess weight, fatigue, mood swings, more to do’s, less freedom etc. Once you’ve completed this first list, draw up a second list of the health and lifestyle goals you are considering: improved health, energy, time to work on a new project, more time for you, more time with your partner and/or your children. These goals should be deeply important to you. Each one, if you achieved it, would make a tremendous impact on your life.
Next, evaluate your goals, one by one. Work through each possible goal and what action steps you need to take to move you towards achieving that goal. Using the example above, your non-negotiable action steps could be:
- A twice weekly yoga or Pilates class
- A green smoothie each morning
- A clear day to work on a new project
- A weeknight date night with your partner
- A weekend outing with your children
Make sure each action is specific, measurable and achievable. It’s important to set yourself up for success, not stress. Make sure the actions are challenging but still doable. If you have any doubt, re-adjust your action step so that it is something you know you can make happen with focus and dedication.
Set your intentions
Step three is to solidify what you’ve learned, gleaned, and now understand about your why’s, your inner voice, about the reality of how life can work, about what you want and what you’re moving towards. Remind yourself about the road you are taking. It’s helpful to write out some intentions. An example might be: “Healthy habits increase my freedom in life.” Try to affirm and reaffirm your intentions on a daily basis. Over time and with dedicated practice, an intention becomes less of an affirmation and more of a reminder or remembrance of what you learned. Remember to get behind your intentions with a good feeling. Intentions only work if you believe in them. Reaffirm as many times a day as feels good to you – especially first thing upon waking, right before sleeping, or during a meditation practice.
Step four is about setting yourself up for success. You’ll need to organise your time around what’s most important i.e. your action steps toward your goals. The biggest excuse we are all guilty of is:
“I don’t have the time!”
From this moment on, I encourage you not to use this excuse again. If your goals are important enough to you, you’ll make the time. If not, you’ll make an excuse. We all have the same 24 hours; it’s up to you how you choose to fill the time you have.
Next, you need to schedule your actions. Many studies have shown that deciding in advance when and where you’ll take specific actions to reach your goals can double or triple your chances for success. You don’t have to get it perfect straight off the bat, you just have to get going. Start by writing down at least 3 concrete action steps you can take to start bringing your goals to life. Open up your calendar or diary and block out dedicated non-negotiable chunks of time to carry out the necessary actions towards reaching your goals. Remember to include the action you’ll carry out during each time block and the location where you’ll do it.
Step five is to make preparations to help you stick to your actions. For example, if your non-negotiable is to do 20 minutes of yoga every second morning, then have your yoga mat ready. If your non-negotiable is to make a green smoothie every morning, then keep your blender on top of your kitchen counter, not in the cupboard. If your non-negotiable is to work on a new project on Friday mornings, then switch off your mobile phone, or put it on airplane mode.
Ultimately, the secret to success is to define your non-negotiable action steps and let nobody talk you out of them. Non-negotiables are the building blocks that are going to lead you to living more optimally day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. Because success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently.
Important note: If feeling over-committed and overwhelmed is a common occurrence for you, it’s time to start setting boundaries and saying no to sink holes and unnecessary obligations. Take an honest look at your current daily habits. Identify any sink holes that distract you from following through i.e. hours of TV, mindless scrolling on social media, constantly checking email, comparing yourself to others etc. Review what you have found and start conditioning yourself to say no to habits and activities or obligations that don’t nurture your soul and fuel you.
Now take the time to go through the 5 steps and write down the 3 non-negotiables you will put into practice this week. What will your non-negotiables be? Please share below in the comments to inspire others!