There are a lot of complex self-help programs out there to help us reach our potential. These programs are designed to take us to the next level by building on what we have. And they do help. But implicitly the programs assume we’ve got a foundation in place and it’s solid enough to stand on. But I think our foundation is rickety.
To be what we must be is our responsibility, and if we’re going to get any value from our self-help programs it’s our responsibility to establish the conditions for growth.
Here are three forgotten pillars that must be in place if we’re to grow:
Good sleep habits – most of us our sleep deprived, yet the data is clear that a rested brain thinks better. If we’re to grow, we’ve got to think better, and to think better we need more rest.
Good eating habits – most of us eat poorly. We eat too much which hurts our bodies and we eat too infrequently which hurts our brains. We all know our muscles need calories or they don’t work well, but what we forget is our brain also needs calories. (It’s 2% of our weight but consumes about 20% of our total calories.) And when we eat infrequently our blood sugar drops and so does our brains’ ability to think. If we’re to grow, we need to eat better.
Good fitness habits – most of us don’t exercise daily. Our brain is connected to our body, and they interact. When the muscles are exercised they cause the brain to make chemicals that sooth and calm. When we exercise we have a better attitude, have more stamina, and think better. If we’re to grow, we need more exercise.
The big three are far more powerful than the best self-help scheme, but they’re also far scarier. They’re so scary because they’re easy to measure and completely within our control.
After a one month trial you’ll know if you’ve slept more, worked out more, and ate better. And if you haven’t, you’ll also know who is responsible.
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Mike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.