A key lesson I’ve learned over the years is the crucial importance of self-care.
Even the phrase “self-care” sounds a bit touchy-feely and weak to me, but I’ve come to see the power in it.
Particularly when you are chasing massive goals, there is nothing more powerful than taking care of yourself along the way.
Just like cramming for exams, we often think, When I get to that next phase, then I’ll take a breather.
But twenty years later we’re still “cranking it out,” still that one step away from taking our foot off the gas.
Until The First Heart Attack, Divorce, Death…
Us humans are incredibly resilient hard charging animals, and often it takes a brick wall to slow us down.
The first friend who dies “young.” The first major health scare. Cheating spouse. Divorce. Massive disappointment.
These things tend to get us to step back and think differently about ourselves and our lives, but it’s often too late by then.
Even Atlas shrugged, and if we want to keep crushing hard goals, we must be taking care of ourselves.
Self-Care Ain’t “Balance”
I detest the pithy notion of “work / life balance.”
Not only does it imply a silly distinction (i.e. that those hours you’re working aren’t hours of your life), but no seriously ambitious person has or even wants “balance.”
As one of my investment banking buddies puts it, “I have tons of balance. I’ll work my ass off for the first half of my life, and chill out for the second.”
For whatever reason, many of us weren’t built to work our 9-5 and then pack it up for the day, so we must find “balance” in other ways.
A tight rope walker might pause for a moment to find their balance, but their clear purpose is to keep moving to the other side.
Trying to force balance is dangerous (instead, reset your priorities), but self-care is crucial.
People in business often analogize themselves to athletes but forget that athletes spend nearly all of their time conditioning their bodies and minds.
Athletes are constantly seeking ways to get more skilled and effective at how they win, when most “business athletes” are just throwing themselves like spaghetti at a wall.
You never hear a top athlete talk about work / life balance because it’s obvious that their life is oriented around their “work.”
Ambition demands that their life flexes around their goal, but they’re also extremely wary of pushing it too far in a business where an injury can end your career.
Even while pushing beyond their limit, they’re focused on protecting themselves. They have systematic approaches to their sleep, nutrition, hydration, etc. Constantly, they’re monitoring the feelings in their bodies and thoughts in their minds.
An athlete competes rarely but every day they are taking care of themselves.
On the flipside, a business athlete is constantly competing, near 24/7, yet we barely take a moment to breath, let alone stretch.
One of my friends tells a story of how as a hard-charging executive she tried to “run off” her stomach cramps and ended up in the hospital with a burst appendix.
She was sleeping little. Had built a close relationship with the nearby vending machine. And at some point, her body said enough.
Plenty of heart attacks, breakdowns, deaths, and divorces happen for the same reason.
Unless we’re taking care of ourselves and our lives, success will still be there, but we will fail to arrive.
3 Systems for Self-Care
What is easier than knowing what is caring for yourself and what is not?
It’s pretty obvious, right?
Are you sleeping poorly? Waking up tired? Eating badly? Gurgling down junk soda? Not exercising? Overweight? Incessantly worrying? Constantly stressed?
If you know you’re not taking care of yourself, the only question that matters is—Do you want to keep pushing your luck or change it?
When we focus on it, it’s easy to take better care of ourselves, but if you really want to nail self-care, I suggest building these three systems:
1. System For Your Day
I wrote this ridiculously long article on daily routines because I was extremely focused on this topic for myself and a number of clients.
Me and many of my clients are always on, working 7 days a week, which you simply cannot sustain unless you’re taking care of yourself.
As you guys know I hate surface-level hacks, and if you really want to optimize your results and yourself, you want to design an optimal approach to your day.
Getting more systematic with your day gets you clear on those priorities you want to “balance,” and how you do it.
You could have a few drinks at night, wake up hitting snooze, drag yourself out of bed ruing the many things you “have to do today,” or you can be methodical about getting your day started and ended right.
While of course this approach is extreme in our exam-cramming world, it only takes a couple of hours to lay this out, and its ONLY EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS EVERY DAY of your life…
2. System For Your Mind
Most the day, most of us are feeding ourselves with terrible thoughts.
Putting aside the many people who spend their lives in depressed, anxious, and fearful states pretending to be happy, many of us are constantly berating ourselves in our minds.
Beating ourselves up for mistakes. Questioning our competence and confidence. Few of us would talk to other people the way we routinely talk to ourselves.
The very essence of self-care begins with being our own best care-giver, and at the least we want to stop self-defeating thoughts and hone self-caring ones.
In my free Limitless Mind e-book I lay out an entire system for training your mind, yet you can easily begin by simply monitoring your thoughts, and choosing to make small changes.
3. System For Winning
The absolute best way to take care of yourself while charging after success is to develop the absolute best way to win. (This is the entire point of my Do What You Want books).
By far, the number one reason why many people quit or breakdown on the road to success is because they can’t sustain their backbreaking approach.
Starting with our 3 hours a night of homework in school, we learn that success comes through brute force and “hard work,” when no top athlete wins that way.
The secret to becoming the fastest man on the planet isn’t to “train harder.”
The secret to crushing your goals is to break down every aspect of top performance, and focus on those things that make the most difference to getting what you want.
Get so damn good at what you do, and you can much more healthfully “succeed.”
Or You Could Just Chill More…
Of course this is a “hard” approach to taking better care of yourself, and you can achieve a lot of benefit by doing a lot less.
Look at your day and literally cut out the junk that detracts from what truly matters to you and your life. (e.g. most news, food, people…)
Try it this holiday weekend.
Kick back and relax more.
Look for simple and easy ways to self-care.
Then, over time, keep cutting out more self-defeating thoughts and behaviors, and replacing them with new and better ways to take care of yourself.