We all want the lives we want, right? The lives we deserve. So how exactly—and why—does the regular practice of self-care really fit in a culture filled with ambitious individualists? Get ready for this news flash, friends: because the nose-to-the-grindstone success model you may be sweating is actually… well, history.
To get in on what’s possible in 21st century life, it’s truly time for a new kind of superpower: extraordinary self-care. Really. So stay with me while I break down my take on what that means, toward everything you want and deserve.
But first, to back up a bit, the truth is that even the basics of self-care can be challenging in the trenches these days. Let’s face it, modern life can be an ongoing blur of non-stop action!
So extraordinary self-care is truly rigorous stuff, requiring constant self-examination, and resulting clarity, about how we use our valuable time. About how—and in what—we invest our precious life force. So let’s go there.
Also, know that any gains you make in practicing consistent self-care will directly imprint on the precious young ones you’re ushering into 21st century life. So slow your roll, settle in, and consider these few minutes an act of… yes, extraordinary self-care.
OK. Ready for a new kind of rigor?
Because the subject goes deep fast, and gets real. In fact, it begins with reflecting on our motivations, on our beliefs about life and ourselves, motivations and beliefs that may cause us to tend to drive ourselves incessantly, pedal to the metal, like used cars we don’t value enough to maintain.
At the most “nuts and bolts” level, that means healthy foods, fresh air, and exercise. And how about regular down time, to rest and synthesize what we’ve been up to, how we’re doing, and where we’re headed next? All that.
So the perhaps inconvenient truth is this: extraordinary self-care matters, and is in fact a discipline. Now stop, read that last sentence again, and take a moment to really take it in. Extraordinary self-care is, I submit to you, a discipline. Not, not, not a sign of weakness, or selfishness, or lack of commitment. Are you with me?
Toward that end, take a memo from my now 84 year-old fitness trainer dad. He likes to cajole people into clarity with his ever-ready, “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken even better care of myself.”
“If I’d known I was gonna live this long,
I’d have taken even better
care of myself.”
So now let’s get specific. We’ll begin with a big picture priority, drill down into some nuts and bolts, and then get into big, big picture effectiveness.
Big picture, be present to the beauty of life.
So, big picture, why practice extraordinary self-care? This may sound too abstract or “crunchy granola” for you, but stay with me. This is ultimately about how you “do life.”
As one part of extraordinary self-care, work at taking things in stride on the wild, wonderful journey. Because life is quite fascinating, really. So be fascinated. Be intrigued by world around you, by the journey of being human. I call this the 10,000 foot view, way above sweating the small stuff.
Try an intention to live daily life in this kind of internal space, in awe at the simple beauty of being alive. And there’s a bonus here, since an inspired mindset is in fact purposeful.
The upshot of inspiration is energy to produce the results we intend with less effort. Definitely win-win.
Now some nuts and bolts: first, eat well. I mean really.
Fresh, local, whole foods make a difference. You know it, and you deserve it. And eat less rather than more, which helps in affording quality. After all, food is pleasure as well as fuel. Smaller portions bring discipline to our food pleasures.
Choose and consciously enjoy fine, precious bites, considering that a diet under what many of us—especially Americans—generally consume promotes longevity. And in the process of that daily deliciousness, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, including through water-dense foods.
Further, for those of you who thought I would hammer more home here, I say let’s not give power to any perfectionist tendencies that may weigh on us, pun intended. We all know that food often substitutes for other important pursuits and pleasures. So I say consider lightening up—pun intended—on calorie count and numbers on the scale, while reflecting instead on everything else here.
Fresh, local, whole foods make a
difference. You know it,
and you deserve it.
Get regular fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.
And not in a nebulous way. Schedule these healthy practices regularly, just like your other priorities. Consider them extraordinary self-care rather than “shoulds” that would perfect you in some way. How we think about exercise matters. It’s for us, toward everything we want and deserve.
And on the subject of sunshine, yes, of course, we’ve all learned that we need sunscreen. But our brains also need the important signals that sunshine gives us, especially those of us always striving for great sleep. More on that in a second.
Also, don’t over-do exercise. (What?) No, really. Again, the point is to feel amazing and productive, not to pursue some ideal in ways that hijack your time and energy. Then no wonder you resist it, thus landing right back at square one, on the gerbil wheel of constant busy-ness while doing nothing intentional for your body.
Instead, proceed in the knowledge that you’re already a beautiful being. Now get moving in ways that appeal to you and enhance the quality and durability of your life force.
Rest. Sleep. Sleep in.
Close the blinds. Get a blackout curtain if you need one. Then take some real time to renew your energy. More and more research tells us that nothing we’re doing is more important than getting the sleep we need.
And did you know that these days the most elite, highly paid athletes in the world prioritize sleep? With their physical capabilities as their bread and butter, and millions of dollars on the line, what’s on their game plan designed by premiere performance specialists? Sleep, for one thing, and lots of it. Way more than six or seven or even eight hours a night.
So, remember that image of a used car we don’t maintain? Get creative. Figure this out. Really sleep, and not just once in a while, but regularly. Get the good stuff, including in multiple phases if that helps. It’s an extraordinary self-care pursuit that will jack up both your productivity and your longevity.
Stop, drop, and meditate. Really.
Meditation is mainstream these days. And that’s mostly amazing, except that it can become another entry in the “should” category that further confounds us in terms of time and energy usage. However, that issue noted, meditation is truly big medicine for meeting your 21st century dreams and goals.
Find an approach that appeals to you, even one as simple as sitting quietly and allowing your focus to follow your mind’s natural, perhaps rambling cadences. As you observe them, you’re interrupting the human tendency to identify completely with them.
Give yourself permission to experiment with this or more structured forms of meditation regularly, and see what peace and productivity this practice brings. Personally, I’m deep into Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work right now. He’s a brain-based master teacher of the how of transformation through meditation.
In fact, because I believe his work is so important and potentially life-changing, I’ve invested my precious time and life force in writing a primer on it in two parts. Explore Part 1 and Part 2 here.
Oh, and guess what? In answering for yourself the question of why practice self-care, you can bet the world’s most elite athletes are meditating, too.
Give up what doesn’t work.
Now, are you ready for some deep truth, beyond the nuts and bolts of extraordinary self-care? Because it begins with this: Many of us are inclined to be rather masochistic, looking for love in all the wrong places.
So toward success in the New Decade, check your motivations. Why say yes? If something isn’t healthy for you, given the creature who you uniquely are, if your energy and your gut and your deepest, wisest inner voice all say no, well, that’s your cue.
And there’s no need to be mean, you can be sweet and clear, true to yourself and in fact inspiring to hear. This may take support until you get the hang of it. Learning what to set aside can be confusing. In that case, get yourself a coach. You deserve it. We all do. More on the why of that here.
Many of us are inclined to be rather
masochistic, looking for love
in all the wrong places.
Prioritize your pleasures as self-renewal.
And there’s a big bonus in giving up what doesn’t work: time for self-renewal. Time for fun. Because in answering the delicious question of why practice self-care, I say fun as self-renewal ranks way up there as a counter-intuitive success practice. Beautiful, right? Whew. Take a breath.
So what are some of your primary pleasures? Live music? Woodworking? How about basketball, or taking an amazing photo? Perhaps gardening, dancing, reading, or writing? Hiking in nature? Home decor? Travel? Kickboxing? I bet you can see how aligning exercise with fun is a self-care success practice.
Whatever your go-to’s, schedule them, and revel in them. And not someday, or once in a blue moon. I mean regularly. Remember the 10,000 foot view?
Decades from now, the stuff you love doing is what you’ll be pleased to remember. Not how you never made time for what makes you happy. Get a clue, give up any “someday” stories, and schedule regular fun time. Woohoo!
Don’t substitute stuff for what you really want.
Now are you ready for what I say is one of the ultimate extraordinary self-care strategies toward a new kind of superpower? Then prepare yourself, because this is gonna get real.
It’s time to get genuinely curious about recurring cravings, thirsts, and obsessions. What might they be trying to turn you onto that will propel you into a whole new universe of possibility?
For instance, what kind of sweetness do you truly need, that chocolate lava cake, or the passion project you tabled? And what’s that deep thirst for, really? Your favorite tequila, or the grand exploration off into the Great Unknown that’s on your vision board but never quite makes it to priority #1?
What are you actually browsing for on Instagram? A next mini-hit of dopamine? Or are you really craving an expanding sense of mission and meaning that will light up your entire body/mind/spirit as an energy system?
Nobody knows how this could go but you. So exercise new powers to reflect right here, and truly choose what makes up the stuff and habits of your life as consciously as possible. And for support? You guessed it. Get a coach.
And big, big picture, live the life that energizes you.
I’m talking life path now. It’s big, big picture time. What’s most essential to you on this journey if you’re gonna be you? How can you honor that truth in healthy ways?
Get present to that life, both inside you and out in the beautiful world that you co-create by acting on your most essential dreams and goals. And if you find yourself feeling cynical as you read this, take note. Because I say you owe it to yourself to circle back and explore that. After all, why not?
You’ve got nothing to lose except whatever fear may be getting triggered here. Nothing except any stasis you may have settled into that negates jamming full-tilt boogie on your dreams and goals. The truth is, 21st century life is long, with more possibilities in any one lifetime than ever before. What do you really, really want?
Last but not least, really love the ones you love.
Express yo’self. Let ’em know. Create that rich reality as one satisfying way of being you in the world. Then you’re also modeling this way of making the world a better place, inspiring others by being fully yourself.
In short, cherish the folks—and other creatures—in your life who truly get you, who value, nourish, and love you. (No more looking for love in all the wrong places, right?) Cherish the gift they are to you. Take in their love and care, and let it energize you while you gift it right back to them.
Cherish the folks in your life who
truly get you, who value,
nourish, and love you.
Now, after investing your valuable time and life force here, think about what extraordinary self-care means to you given the life you want and intend to live. This pregnant moment is the perfect time to commit to whatever that is.
Lastly, as you reflect on how to proceed in a new universe of effectiveness, be sure to examine what tends to get in your way. And reach out for support as you stretch toward everything you want in and beyond 2020!