Simone Biles Reminds Us About the Importance of Finding Our True Selves
The Olympic gymnast is, like the rest of us, only human. Her decision to temporarily withdraw from competition should have prompted all leaders to consider how to rebalance, destress and make better decisions.
Wendy Keller is a literary agent for nonfiction writers with numerous best sellers to her credit. To query her literary agency, go to www.KellerMedia.com/query. To learn how to write a great book proposal, go to www.BookProposalWorkshop.com
The craziest thing about Simone Biles withdrawing from several U.S. Gymnastics competitions during this summer's Olympics — it has been confirmed that she will return tomorrow for the balance beam final — is not that she took a step back to reassess her priorities. It's that more people don't do the same. Or at least slow down and reassess, reconsider, rebalance and refocus. Especially those of us who are entrepreneurial control freaks running our own companies.
Ms. Biles’ public statements that her “mind and body aren’t in sync” and that most of us “don’t know how dangerous that is” should be a lesson to all of us, regardless of whether you have ever swung around the uneven bars or vaulted over a pommel horse.
Our bodies are deeply interconnected with our minds and spirits. When discord arises, you run the risk of damaging yourself or perhaps even permanently putting yourself out of the game.
Your state of mind encompasses your mood, motivation and beliefs, including those about what you can and cannot do. As entrepreneurs, this balance is critical, yet we all find ourselves struggling to maintain it now and then. We’ve run our bodies right into the ground and rolled our minds around in the muck of overwhelm or bypassed nurturing our spirits with the false tradeoff of “a few more minutes” to designate toward something “more important.”
To bandage up these gaping holes in our well-being, we cover up the wounds with distractions of every sort: unhealthy actions, addictions, time-wasting and entitled thinking. Those bandages hide the real wounds: pain, emptiness, a feeling of always needing more or never being enough, doing enough, achieving enough.
One clue that we're indulging in pointless distractions is if they leave us feeling empty, apathetic, exhausted or overall worse than when we started. How do we get past this, so we can fully function as human beings in all our roles, including being true to ourselves?
Step 1: Awareness
The first step is awareness, i.e. noticing when we feel that pull to engage in mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually unhealthy behaviors. Simply noticing is the best way to begin. It will show you which parts of yourself and your life need to be enlivened, soothed, strengthened, fixed or cleaned up.
Step 2: Choice
The second step toward wholeness is allowing a moment of choice to slip in. While we are in the grip of emotion, it’s hard to choose healthy options. The classic advice about not going grocery shopping when you’re hungry applies to all parts of our lives. The solution is to plan in advance. Once you start to notice where you're triggered, choose a quiet moment to figure out a Plan B. Pre-planning is good for your business, and it’s good for your soul.
Step 3: Gentleness
The third step is to be gentle with yourself. As you move toward rebalancing your body, mind and spirit, there will be times when you fall off your own wagon. Climb back on and keep going. A level of personal harshness is typical of entrepreneurial types. Let it go. Forgive yourself and begin anew, with love and mercy.
Biles set an example for the world by noticing she was not in sync and taking immediate action. You have every right — and much less public scrutiny — to be honest with yourself and your loved ones. Now is the day to stand up for yourself and take the actions that will allow you to recharge, restore and heal yourself so you can come back better and stronger. Here are some practical suggestions.
Test your body’s real needs
Select your ideal seven-to-eight hour window for sleep. Set an alarm(s) for one hour before your bedtime. At that moment, turn off all media (including your phone) and begin preparing for bed. Turn off all the lights at the same time each night and go to sleep. It may take a few days before your body realizes the level of care you are now providing, but stick with it. Wake up at the same time each morning, put your feet on the floor and smile to yourself as you take your first steps. This one technique will allow you to restore your body, mind and spirit in ways that are incomprehensible. Test how you feel after one month of healthy sleep behavior.
Ignore the headlines
The world has probably not ended while you were asleep. Your customers are going to survive for another 30 minutes without your attention, as will your employees. Don’t start your day with the insta-stress of immediately looking at the news or your cell phone. Billions of people manage to begin their day without those inputs. Instead, spend the first 30 minutes — if humanly possible — journaling, reading an inspiring book, meditating or, at the very least, jotting down the top five things you are grateful for today...besides the fact you woke up alive and thus have another chance to integrate yourself and move closer to your goals.
Find 15 uninterrupted minutes
When a huge, hairy problem is scaring you, find 15 uninterrupted minutes in your day somewhere. Schedule that time to go to a quiet place with old-fashioned pen and paper. Write the problem at the top of the page in block letters. Take three deep breaths and focus. Then, without stopping the writing process, write down every single solution you can possibly conceive of, however crazy it might be. Let your wildest creativity flow. Take another deep breath and review your idea list. Chances are, one or more of them might lead to the perfect solution.
Listen to mellow music, even briefly. It’s natural to choose a soundtrack that matches your mood or heartbeat, but you can also use music as a tool to calm yourself. Consider something instrumental or classical, if only for 15 minutes while you’re transitioning between work and home, or commuting to that important meeting. It will help you reset your internal organs and produce a calmer you.
Not all of us know what it's like to feel the eyes of the world on our actions as Biles does. But we all know what it can be like to feel the weight of it. Shed that weight, and you'll better for it in all areas of your life.
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