CHANGE YOUR LIFE – PART ONE
Those of you with a keener eye would have noticed that the navigation around this blog is based on what the late, great Stephen Covey described as the “4 Dimensions of Renewal” (Physical, Mental, Spiritual and Social Emotional) as featured in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Sharpen the Saw. It’s about regularly investing in ourselves so that we can reap dividends on a continual basis.
Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you.
Stephen R Covey
I am an avid reader (now an Audible listener) of self-help books, I must have at least a hundred in my library. Not that I completely (or even partially) become that person the books invariably advise you to become. I, like most people, incorporate snippets of ideas, habits, recommendations and techniques into my day-to-day living either at work or home as appropriate. By taking the time to sharpen my metaphorical saw, I am able to get more done during the rest of the day and avoid wasting time with unproductive contemplation, stress, mental/physical fatigue and eventually depression.
I was given Stephen Covey’s seminal book by a former manager at work who was a Quaker and with whom I had a good relationship with. I had never seen an individual’s life broken up into these dimensions and it came as a bit of revelation when I viewed my own life grouped in this way.
Covey said when it comes to managing our personal lives, we should focus on the four domains: Of course, all these domains are interwoven and inter-connected – a negative impact on one will invariably lead to an impact on the others. How often are we told a healthy body leads to a healthy mind or the mind-body paradigm of chakras, meridians and acupuncture points? If our social life is good, we invariably have more motivation and energy to take care of ourselves physically. Certainly, I can attest to the fact that a good exercise session leaves me mentally, emotionally and even spiritually invigorated and super-charged.
Regular exercise ensures your body has the strength and vigour it needs to take on life’s demands. Neglecting this aspect of your dimension will invariably lead sickness, in the short-term becoming susceptible to minor seasonal ailments such as a cold or flu. In the long-term, Joint and Mobility issues as well as serious illnesses such as Heart Disease, Strokes and Diabetes.
Simply focussing on regular exercise, diet and a good, solid night’s sleep can go a long way to sharpening our physical blade. A healthy interest and participation in a given sport – it doesn’t really matter which one interests you – Body-Building, Lacrosse, Football, Skiing, MMA, Ballet, Volleyball – whatever, it is a stepping stone to what I call a “higher spiritual plane”.
Bear with me on this, as I know it sounds like some guru speak that most people would think is just plain bulls**t but I did earlier say a healthy body leads to a healthy mind (and vice-versa)? Imagine a sportsman at the pinnacle of his/her sport – Muhammad Ali is a good example, look at what Boxing did for his 4 dimensions. Nobody would argue he wasn’t on a higher spiritual plane would they? How about Federer? Grace and beauty are what comes to mind when watching this man play, who would argue that his greatest matches are not a spiritual experience?
I know what you’re thinking, these are examples of elite sportsmen, how does this apply to me? Well, I will be writing future articles on this subject, so keep an eye out but I will say this in short: it’s the dedication, application and process that puts them in the higher spiritual plane not the success in of itself. Who says you cannot apply the same to your given sport?
The following is a list of suggestions to just make the start:
- Grab the leash and walk your dog
- Take your kid (or your spouse) for a walk
- Go Swimming, cycling or jogging
- Join a Gym
- Ditch the car
- Take the stairs
This dimension is about who you are as a person, your core. In the modern world, especially the West, it is difficult to explain what Spirituality actually is because it has been inter-locked with Christianity and since it has seen a gradual decline over the years people have lost touch with their own spiritual selves.
In a broad sense it is about your inner beliefs, values and principles that govern you and how you conduct yourself. It also connects you to ethereal path of searching for something bigger than yourself – something that transcends life and indeed seeks to find the meaning of life.
“Spirituality is the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.”
Christina Puchalski, MD, Director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health
Research shows there exists a connection between your beliefs and your sense of well-being. Positive beliefs, comfort, and strength gained from religion, meditation, and prayer can contribute to an overall sense of health and contentment. Improving your spiritual health may not cure an illness, but it could promote bodily healing and deal with the stresses which come with an illness.
I believe spirituality to be an essential part of a person’s overall welfare. One important point here for those of you who do not follow an organised religion – you do not have to have a religious belief to be spiritual – look at the following list of practices of improving your spirituality and I am sure you will agree anyone and everyone can benefit from them:
- Study of religious scripture or philosophy
- Practice self-reflection and examination
- Attend religious services
- Spend time in silence and solitude
- Cultivate gratitude
- Fast from food
- Spend time in nature
- Journaling and self-reflection
Look at the following article here on the benefits of spirituality.
It is obvious why this particular dimension is important, and I needn’t remind you of the umpteen studies which have shown people who take time to exercise their mental faculties improve their long-term chances of ever succumbing to diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Many people find themselves in jobs they don’t really have an interest in, so doing more research or developing a further academic interest in a particular field within which you spend the best part of 40hrs weekly is not really plausible – it is, quite frankly, very difficult to get motivated for. The good news is, most, if not all people, do have things outside of work they are really interested in, from Angling to Astronomy, Zoology to Zombies and everything in-between. Researching deeper into an interest outside of work is improving your mental capacity, even studying more into your chosen sport is an excellent way to stimulate the old grey matter. Those of you, like myself, who are lucky enough to be in a job that you do love then that too can be something that you can expand your knowledge in as a way to sharpen the mental saw.
I can’t think of anything worse than a dulled down brain which takes its keeper through life without really engaging into second gear. Fresh mental stimuli is exactly what the doctor ordered to fire neurons in unused parts of the brain. It will also give you the mental tools to solve modern life’s problems and ultimately enhance your future professional success.
Look at the list of suggestion below and pick one to Sharpen your Mental Dimension:
- Read Books regularly and have at least one non-fiction book on the go
- Listen to a podcast/YouTube Channel on a matter or person who interests you
- Enrol and complete an online or in-class course – Udemy, Pluralsight, local College, etc.
- Join a discussion group
- Visit a museum or take a short break which is about advancing your academic knowledge (historical sites)
- Watch a documentary
- Do puzzles or partake in hobbies which challenge the mind (Sudoku??)
Get that brain working and make an effort to challenge it to keep it functioning at a high level.
Ok, so Covey lumped these together but I can’t help treating them as two sides of the same coin with each having its own “picture”.
The social dimension is your interaction with the world (of people) around you – you can’t deny that a good social life and positive relationships with people (whether at work or friends and family) only makes you stronger as a person and helps you enjoy life.
I used to know a married couple many years ago, one a math teacher and the other a teacher to visually impaired kids, who organised their spare time so meticulously and to such a degree they nights out with close friends, went on regular weekend breaks to interesting places, had dinner with their three (adult) children regularly, had wonderful holidays, participated in their sports and hobbies separately and had a fantastic all-round social life. I envied them and I am sure most people who knew them did too. They never went more than a few weeks without seeing a particular friend from their close circle, their week was busy socialising or partaking in some interest or other. I am not saying you can do this, heaven knows each of us have our own personal baggage to deal with, but it is a great example to aspire to if at all possible. Making the time and planning activities to improve your social life can only benefit you as an individual.
Happy, sad, angry, jealous, scared, frustrated, surprised, awed, disappointed and loving are just a few emotions that we experience and express on a daily basis. Emotions tell us and those around us how we feel at that given moment – they are a psychological response to the environment.
Whilst some emotions are good, functioning as a way to communicate what’s important to us, such as values and ethics, others, such as anxiety and stress, can be bad and lead to mental health problems. We should all strive to improve our emotional intelligence by seeking to recognise our emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide our thinking and behaviour, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to the life and world around us.
Individuals who are conscious of their emotions and those of others have been shown to have enhanced relationships with their family, friends and work colleagues. They also see the multiple perspectives of a given situation and acknowledge others’ feelings about an event. It is a great skill to possess and can single-handedly be used to interact with life successfully.
Look at the following list and see if you can take steps to improve your emotional intelligence by actively brushing up on the following skills:
- Be more assertive (without being aggressive) when dealing with people
- Be proactive rather than reactive
- Improve your listening skills – be an active listener
- Maintain a positive (mental) attitude
- Practice self-awareness using meditation and mindfulness
- Learn to handle criticism
So, there you have it, your 4 dimensions of renewal. If you have always wanted to get a grip on your life and find a way to look at it as a third person looking from outside in, then the above will get you off the ground. Part II will show you practical ways to get started on your journey to improving your “dimensions“.
Hope this is helpful – I would love to hear from you about the 4 Dimensions of Renewal