Think of success as your business. It’s not a hobby. Or something you dabble in from time to time. Or something you think about when you wish things were going better than they are...
I don’t want to tell you how to run your life. I can only tell you what has worked for me – and the people from whom I’ve learned the business of success over the years. So if this session seems too much like ‘lifestyle’ stuff for you – or it it’s already something you’re doing – feel free to glance over it and move on. But first, ask yourself: are you satisfied in yourself that you’re always as healthy, energetic, mentally sharp and emotionally stable as you’d like to be? Honestly, now...
In training for success
Athletes know it. And so do many successful business people. If you want to perform at your best, you need to get into training. Investing in your health and fitness can pay dividends in terms of your:
• Mental alertness
• Energy levels
• Ability to maintain and project a positive, proactive outlook
• Ability to cope with challenges and obstacles
If you are going to be positive, responsible and proactive, now is the time to make these areas a priority – and commit yourself to some lifestyle goals.
Different people need different amounts of sleep. You are the best judge of whether you wake in the morning alert, refreshed and ready to take on the world – or bleary, tired and stale. Experiment with different amounts of sleep until you find your optimum number of hours: research suggests that eight hours per night is best. (You may need more at first, in order to make up a ‘sleep debt’ from getting too little rest over an extended period.)
You may think you’re a night-time person, but in general, it’s better to get in the extra hours by going to bed earlier than by getting up later: every hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after. If, even with eight hours’ sleep per night, you wake up feeling groggy or tired, you may need to investigate
a bit further.
• Are you literally 'groggy'? Heavy drinking in the evening destroys the rest value of your sleep...
• Are you a restless sleeper? If you wake frequently in the night, or toss and turn, you may need to take steps to deal with this. Try limiting your food, alcohol and caffeine intake in the evenings. Try mindmapping or jotting down everything that's on your mind, just before you go to bed – and then telling your conscious mind that you can safely forget about it until tomorrow and you want to sleep now. Try controlling your breathing: restless mind is often reflected in restless breath. Listen to your breathing; feel it and control it so that it becomes slower and deeper. (This works with anxiety and irritation too.)
• Do you feel 'tired' for other reasons? You might want to consult your doctor or naturopath: that dragging feeling may be due to hypothyroidism, low blood sugars, vitamin deficiency or a number of other (easily treatable) disorders.
Again, you know what your health issues are. You are the best judge of whether you feel full of energy and alertness or not – and what might be draining you rather than building you up. Think about the obvious things first.
• How much exercise do you get? I’m not talking about becoming a fitness fanatic (unless your success goal is to run a marathon under two hours...). If you lead a reasonably active lifestyle, you may be OK – but consider it seriously. Do you feel as fit as you might?
• How much alcohol and caffeine (in coffee, tea or soft drinks) do you consume in a week? I don’t want to be a kill-joy, and in moderation these things can loosen or pep you up – and that’s fine. But you know when you’re beginning to poison your system, impair your alertness and fitness – and become addicted.
• Speaking of which: smoking. If you’re still doing it, now’s the time to think (again) about whether the enjoyment really is worth the health downsides – not to mention the costs – which may be keeping you from your success goals... This may be a significant test of your positivity, responsibility, proactivity and discipline – but there’s plenty of help available.
Part of the concept of ‘detachment’ and entering into ‘flow’, is the deliberate releasing of our addictions. They’re just safety blankets: ways in which (ironically) we can tell ourselves we are in control of our lives and our health – when, in fact, we’re allowing them to control us. We need to let go of the things that make us dependent, if for no other reason than as a powerful symbol of our commitment to freedom, choice and following our success path. Better health is just a bonus…
Same story. You know when you’re eating a bit more junk food than is good for your fitness (not to mention your waistline); when you’re not drinking enough water, or getting the fresh foods, vitamins and minerals you need. There’s plenty of dietary advice out there. If you tend to feel lethargic or low in energy, consider talking to your doctor, a nutritionist or a naturopath: relatively minor dietary changes (extra fruit, veg and water, say) or vitamin supplements can give you a real boost!
Nourishing yourself isn’t just about food and drink. Our spirits need it, too. One of the homework tasks I like to set my mentorees (when I see them getting very ‘serious’ about their success pursuits) is to put into their schedule or To Do List one special moment per day. The special moment can be as short or as long as the schedule permits, but it has to be special. It’s time out to do their own thing. Time to have a treat or an adventure. Time to look after themselves and recharge their batteries. Time to create a special memory for later. Time to play. Whatever it is. (Vegging out and doing nothing doesn’t count. It may be unusual – and superficially ‘restful’ – but it’s not special, creative, or particularly restorative...)
The special moment is a priority as much as anything else in their schedule: a matter of discipline. They don’t get to skip it, whatever else is happening. They are accountable to me (and themselves) for having fun – or getting rest – or both! Time to make some health resolutions – just for one month. I challenge you to give it a go.
For many years, I have ensured that I have at least eight hours’ sleep every night. I do at least 30 minutes’ exercise per day (including some sports I really enjoy: discipline isn’t the same as masochism!). I don’t drink coffee anymore, and I drink alcohol maybe two to three nights a week (and then, moderately). I work at limiting the junk food – and because I have a busy life, I also take vitamins. I visited my naturopath feeling low on energy, had some blood tests, and found that I needed extra Vitamin B: simple.
Each year, I go on a retreat, sometimes for 2-4 weeks. I live on a very basic rice and vegetarian diet; no alcohol or caffeine; lots of meditation and reflection (including complete silence for one or two days). It’s an opportunity to ‘detox’ in all sorts of ways, physical, mental and spiritual: to break out of addictions and habits. Even little things, like detaching from caffeine, can make a big difference to my quality of life. I come back with a huge boost to my energy and well-being. You might not be able to do 2-4 weeks annually – but what about 24 hours, every now and then?
None of this is exactly what you’d call a rigorous regime: it’s not self-denial, just self-discipline. Frankly, I can’t afford to be less than my best, health wise. Can you?
OK, so while you’re in the process of taking charge of your health and fitness – why not take a similarly disciplined approach to your mental attitude? The affirmations and visualisations won’t be sustainable or effective unless you start to get the habit of more positive, responsible, proactive thinking. If there’s one thing that will make a difference here, it’s the people with whom you spend time. You know who they are – the individuals or groups who leave you feeling good about yourself and your plans, energised, supported, challenged, resourceful and positive: the ones who say ‘Go for it! You can do this!’
And you know who the others are: the individuals and groups who leave you feeling a bit doubtful, helpless, tired, inadequate, regretful, resigned – in a word, negative. While you’re making resolutions to cut down on the poisonous substances in your body – alcohol, caffeine, junk food, nicotine or whatever – go the step further. Cut down on the toxic people – because they drain your positive energy every bit as much...
And while you’re making resolutions to get more healthful stuff into your life – more sleep, exercise, vitamins or whatever – go the step further. Get more healthful people into your week – because they add to your positive energy every bit as much...
Make a conscious decision to spend more time this week with positive people.
• Monitor your mood and energy levels during the week. How does the experience of less negativity and more positivity in your environment affect you?
Getting in balance
In the past, I’ve let my life get out of balance. My personal addiction was to work – but we can over-invest in any area of life to the exclusion of others. If one area of life takes over, we become less developed in the others: they become stunted, or impoverished. And we end up as less rounded, less human people.