First, I want to say THANKS SO VERY, VERY, VERY MUCH for following Wellfesto. This little project began three years ago when I decided to focus a bit of time and energy every single day to write about topics that mattered to me…and I hoped mattered to the people around me (e.g., to YOU). Read more
“That sounds like a topic for the family meeting, mom. I think you should add it to the agenda for this Sunday,” said our 7-year-old son last week. While a few years ago I might have cringed at the idea of a child using the word “agenda” to describe anything happening in our household, I’ve come around to embrace the benefits a bit of structure offers. Read more
“Work/life balance” is a steady concern for many people in the Western world, as we all struggle to balance the lofty notion of doing versus being, and the practical one of building a career while building a fulfilling life. I’ve never liked the term balance. For me, balance conjures up two sides of a scale, representing a world in which choices are binary – a world far simpler than the one in which we live. Regardless of what we call it, we’re all looking for the same thing – a way to manage competing priorities and make peace with the active tradeoffs we make every day. Read more
There are lots of things from 2014 I’ll remember on a personal level — the fun our team had competing in the Great Urban Race national championships in Vancouver, an epic Levi’s Gran Fondo ride with two dear friends, foggy trail runs with my husband, and the beaming smile on my daughter’s face when she learned to ride her bike. These are the moments…the days…the make up the years that make up our lives. And the end of each year gives us a beautiful pause to remember the small moments and the big ones. Read more
Research tells us that healthy parents tend to raise healthy kids — a truth that most of us don’t need scientific proof to believe. Raising healthy kids involves two main things: 1) ROLE MODELING (showing them the joy we get from scrambling up mountains with friends and the rosy-cheeked glow we come home with after yoga class), and 2) DOING (getting out on the fields and splashing around in the pool with them). If you’re trying to figure out how to squeeze the “doing” part in, give one of these family workouts a try this weekend… Read more
Stew Friedman, a management professor at Wharton Business School, recently published a book called Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life. Forbes covered it today, as did the Harvard Business Review, and I’m guessing the media blitz will continue. The liveliness of the work/life discussion never fails to disappoint. Read more
“If you ask yourself ‘What’s the best thing that happened today?’ it actually forces a certain kind of cheerful retrospection that pulls up from the recent past things to write about that you wouldn’t otherwise think about. If you ask yourself ‘what happened today?’ it’s very likely that you’re going to remember the worst thing, because you’ve had to deal with it. But if you ask what the best thing is, it’s going to some particular slant of light, or some wonderful expression somebody had, or some particularly delicious salad.” – Nicholson Baker Read more
The New York Times ran an essay Sunday called “The Gospel According to ‘Me’” co-written by a philosophy professor and a psychoanalyst. The authors attack the “modern” focus on authenticity, inward thought, and “psychological transformation,” mocking the “new version of the American dream” as one marked by trite statements such as “Live fully! Realize yourself! Be connected! Achieve well-being!” The punchy piece asserts that “this search is an obsession that is futile at best, destructive at worst.”
I read the piece Sunday morning and needed to give it a bit of time to sink in before deciding how I felt about it. My initial gut reaction was defensive: “How can someone possibly fault inward focus? Why shouldn’t we aspire to find the same joy in the weekdays as we do in the weekends?” Once the article settled a bit more, I opened my mind to the idea that I might be blindly drinking the Kool-Aid this article talks about, and dedicating lots of working and writing time to it to boot. “Is this focus on well-being making me Pollyannaish and out of touch with reality?” I wondered. “Is it just a surfaced replacement for the real, serious spiritual and moral questions in our world?”
And after a bit more time, this is where I’ve landed. We become what we do and think about all day long. The minutes we live each day are the minutes that make up our lives, and therefore, the way we spend our time matters. It matters a lot. And I think that without giving some inward thought to that question – what is making up the minutes that make up my life – life can pass us by. We can wind up in jobs we hate and bodies we don’t recognize and mediocre marriages and days with more sadness than joy. But our challenge as we look inside is to not get stuck there, spending so much time looking inward that we forget to see and feel and understand all of the people and things around us and the universe that connects us. The tension is to embrace a life that is sometimes amazing and aligned and seemingly perfect, and sometimes painful and frustrating and ridden with sadness and guilt.
The authors of the article argue, “in the gospel of authenticity, well-being has become the primary goal of human life.” I agree with them – the notion that well-being is the sole reason we’re here on earth is bogus. The self-help industry has taken it too far. Well-being is not an end in itself, but it is a critically important means to an end, and it’s one I fear is slipping away from us as our lives become busier and our bodies become more sedentary and our minds become noisier and our relationships become more complicated.
I believe we can all give more to our families and our communities and people we don’t even know yet if we’re living lives that are true to who we are and what we care about…if our bodies are fit and strong…if our minds are clear…and if our relationships are strong. So at the end of the day, I’m more okay with “The Gospel According to ‘Me’” than I’m not…I just think we need to remember that “we” matters just as much as “me.”
What do you think? Is it possible to look inward and look outward at the same time? Does the quest for authenticity and well-being bring you joy, stress, or both?
I wrote a post last month about laughter — and specifically, how kids laugh hundreds of time every day, but somehow grow into 40-yr-olds who can count their daily giggles on one hand. My kids teach me this simple lesson — laugh more — every single day. Actually, I think that kids are full of wisdom — innate, untouched, beautifully naive, human wisdom — that can help us be better, more real, and more well grown-ups. Here are a few of my favorite bits of wisdom from the wee ones:
Believe that people are good until they do something that makes you feel otherwise. And then be open to believing they are good again.
Seek happiness for the people you love.
It’s OK to ask “why” 5+ times in a row.
Running is faster than walking.
If you’re scared, tell someone.
It feels amazing to learn new stuff.
Sleep…or you’ll be cranky.
Huge, long, wraparound hugs feel amazing.
All art is beautiful.
How about you? What life lessons have you learned from a child, and why do you think we lose sight of the basics as we get older?
One of my very favorite days of the year — the summer solstice — began at 10pm (PDT) last night, ushering in the season of sunshine, cannonballs, fireflies, swimsuits, BBQs, skinny dipping, meals outside, nostalgia, and yes, health. Solstice celebrations are underway around the world, as Scandinavians sing, dance, and fill their bellies with herring and vodka…Europeans host bonfires and sprint naked around town…and New Yorkers head to Times Square to bust out a few sun salutations.
Now widely known as a party holiday, in ancient times, the solstice was an essential part of well-being (associated with agriculture + growth). I feel a sense of renewal every time the seasons change, but for me, this feeling is the strongest during the summer solstice when the sunshine on my back gives me a sense of optimism and hope and excitement and even peace. These quarterly milestones are a natural time to make a few commitments (some of mine include: eat dinner outside every night we can, train for and complete a half-ironman, master a forearm stand, teach the kids how to swim, rise early, get enough sleep, and make an annual summer pilgrimage to the Midwest, focus on impact at work)…if you’re into that commitment thing.
If you take a few minutes to think about your commitments today, here are a few questions to consider. And beyond these, I’d love to hear what other questions come up with!
- What could spice up my workout regimen? Trying a new class? Picking up a new sport? Finding a training partner? Signing up for an organized event?
- What foods make me feel good? Not just for a second, but for the whole day. How can I get more of those into my diet?
- Are there times during the day when it’s easiest for me to focus? How can I shift my day to do the most important things then?
- Who are the most important people in my life, and am I seeing them often enough? If not, how can I see more of them?
- Am I doing something every day to help another person? If not, how can I bring more attention to this?
- How well does my work — where I work, what I do, and who I work with — align with my life purpose/mission? If it feels misaligned, what’s one think I can do to make a change?
- Do I have something to look forward to during the next few months? If not, could I get something on the calendar?
- Where am I stuck, and how might I get UNSTUCK?
What are you doing to celebrate the solstice? Are you committing to anything new during the season of the sun?