So, in a typical circuitous loop for me, I found this article on Medium (via Shane Parrish's Farnam Street newsletter) entitled: Pinterest Founder Ben Silbermann’s Lessons on Decision Making, Values, and Taking Time for Yourself.
These sorts of articles abound on Medium, so I wasn't expecting a whole lot, even if I think highly of Parrish's newsletter. I read bits and pieces, as I flipped between tabs (I know, very naughty), which is about Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann's lessons learned and subsequent beliefs having built Pinterest into a household name and social media giant.
There wasn't a ton of 'new' stuff here, but it was interesting, and I skimmed along. Then, Silbermann made a point I could really relate to and a cautionary tale I've seen happen time and again:
Working all the time at the expense of your health and then cutting off all of your friends and family is probably not a good strategy because if you’re actually going to go after something for a long time as an entrepreneur, having your health and your relationships in tact turns out to be really important. And a lot of the folks who have burned out did so not because they ran out of money. They burnt out because they became socially isolated and really unhealthy.
The bold and italics are my addition. Those last two lines really stand out to me.
We track so much in life. We track our spending, our bank accounts, our grades or promotions, our retirement savings, our oil changes.....but how much time do we spend tracking and paying attention to the one thing we rely on to keep everything else humming along: our health?
Ironically, I've seen this happen a lot in the military. It's ironic because the military promotes health and wellness, at least in terms of the physical body. But....when you start to look at wellness as defined in this culture, it has a lot to do with running, push-ups and sit-ups but really drops the ball when it comes to work/life balance, sleep, mental health and relationships. I see soldiers working incredibly long hours at the expense of their physical and mental health and at the expense of their family lives and personal relationships outside of work.
I think what I see in the military reflects the general feeling of the American work culture, which is that we have to be 'on' all the time to get ahead. In the words of Ricky Bobby, "If you're not first, you're last."
Did I just quote Talladega Nights? I did.
It's not just corporate America that glosses over health and relationships, though. I see it happen all the time in a group of people I am part of: mothers.
There is an underlying message in our culture that mothers should put the needs of others first: our children, our spouses, our communities. There is literally always more to do, another place to be, another project to commit to, another yes to be said.
No seems to be the most offensive word in modern parenting - whether we're saying no to our children (there are entire parenting philosophies on never using the word 'no') or we're saying no to a PTO function, volunteer gig or playdate, no is a hard place to go in motherhood.
A few years ago, my daughter's teacher called and asked me to be room mom. I said no. I didn't even waffle. I just said, "No."
There was a substantial pause on the other line before she began trying to convince me to change my mind. I stuck to it, though, because I knew (after many years of overcommitting) that me being room mom would be a disaster for everyone involved. But that no was hard. It felt aggressive and irresponsible and as if I wasn't doing my part.
A large part of why I now say no more often, as uncomfortable as that is, is because I've made a huge effort in the past few years to take better care of myself, which takes time, energy and resources. I also track my health and wellness (as you all know) to see gaps or areas for improvement.
I've tracked my time, my water intake and my decisions. Years ago, after blogging about weight loss for a while (and never losing weight), I began tracking my sleep and was able to see how connected my sleep was to my eating habits and daily energy levels. That was a huge mental shift for me, to see that my health and wellness actually began with my sleep habits.
I think it's easy to take health and relationships (mental resiliency) for granted, as if these things will naturally fall into place if we're operating at high levels elsewhere.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Usually, when I'm going big in one area of my life, it's at the expense of another. Balance is the hardest thing to achieve in a culture that values extremes.
We also tend to put off addressing health and wellness, thinking we'll get to it when we have more time, have more money or have gotten over another proverbial hump. We'll sign up for the gym just as soon as the next project is done at work. We'll get into a regular yoga habit when the kids go to school. We'll start exercising when we've lot another 20 pounds. We'll get enough sleep once we're not PTO president anymore.
The list goes on.
And with each day, with each commitment, with each late night meal, early morning meeting and penciled-in appointment, we push our health and wellness off one more day. The days add up, and Silbermann's point becomes reality:
We burn out not because we run out of money but because we have become isolated and unhealthy.
For me, someone who loves to workout and eats fairly well and tries to get enough sleep, the aspect of my wellness that is hardest for me is social isolation. I am a pretty hardcore introvert, happy enough to sit in the house and read, write and FaceTime with my sisters.
But there is an energy and connection to being with other people, physically being in the same space with other people, that cannot be replicated with video chats or substituted with great books, even the classics.
This means paying attention to getting out of the house, building my social network in a new place and relaxing into social settings that sometimes feel awkward as the new girl in town. That's all hard for me, but I realize that without it, without these connections and social network, my life and health will suffer.
Where do you struggle to foster good heath and overall wellness? Do you make your health (physical, emotional, mental) as much of a priority as other areas of your life?
I often think of Hippocrates' famous quote:
If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.
I'm off to make the most of the day. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. I had some nice social time yesterday, so I'm full-up now. :)