I do a lot of professional and personal development things and I get a lot of questions about why? Why do I fit them into my life? How do they help my business? My relationships? Does any of that really matter when, really, you just have to pay the bills.
It’s a good questions, really, because taking time out for your own self care and growth sounds a little self indulgent. I get it. You have kids, a partner, a dog, a job or small business, a home, extended family, volunteer obligations – you barely can get dinner on the table much less spend time doing yoga. I’ve been there. I ran and ran until I was completely depleted when our daughter was young. I worked 60+ hours, tried to be a good mom, went to church, volunteered, hosted sleep overs (which are special kind of hell), made dinner every night… all the things. BUT – I did very little for myself. Almost nothing and that made me a bit of a dry husk of a person. I was going through the motions and getting stuff done, but I wasn’t living fully.
I took advantage of the corporate training we were given (product of the corporate scene in the 90’s that included Stephen Covey, diversity training, design classes, and something about moving your cheese – which I never really got.) If work was going to send me I would go because that directly effected my job and built, hopefully, some skills I could carry throughout my career. I got the connection between training for work will equal a better way of working, but I didn’t get that doing that in my real life would have a positive effect on living.
Plus? Who has the time for navel gazing.
Turns out that I do. I didn’t know that doing things for me would have made such a massive improvement on all areas of my life and when I started I was amazed at the difference in my life, relationships and work.
What Personal Development Looks Like in My Life
I get up early and I meditate for 20 minutes using the Insight Timer app. I’m particularly interested in Zen, but you don’t have to be to do meditation. Totally check out the book 10% Happier if you are skeptical about sitting down and learning to be still. It’s a game changer. (10 minutes, 7 minutes and even 5 minutes a day will make a huge difference over time.)
I write at least three pages every morning in an old school comp book long hand. Even when I am CRAZY busy I know that if I can get one page down my day will go smoother. Just getting whatever is rattling about in my brain on paper and out of the grey folds makes for a happier day. When I forget and think I’m too busy my day just starts in a panic instead of a settled place and that’s not good for anyone.
I eat the same breakfast everyday (I know, boring), which allows me not to have to think about what I’m going to have (egg scrambled in unsalted butter, bell pepper or apple, some almonds, water and coffee with half and half). I also make time for lunch – which right now is my biggest meal – and dinner. Food is fuel and without it I run on empty and I can’t be my best self to anyone.
I make time for exercise every single day. This could be a run/walk, walking my dog, hopping on the elliptical or a 15 minute session of yoga before I go to bed. This is a NEW habit (3 months) that has been a REAL game changer for my mood, sleep and how I feel about my body.
I do a digital sabbatical Saturday sunset to Sunday sunset – which means no internet, no phone, no apps (except Insight Timer) and no texting unless it’s to respond to something urgent. I recently added this and it feels amazing. Just because we have these digital tools doesn’t mean we need to be connected 24/7 – that is like a chain around your leg – we can be responsive to our own lives instead of satisfying every need to search, get validated, or just mindlessly scrolling.
I read over 50 books a year. I am a big reader of both fiction and nonfiction and believe it is the number one tool that I use to gain better understanding of the world, my industry, relationships, and myself. I usually have a nonfiction book going while I have a fiction one going and I switch between them. I hop in bed around 9PM to read for an hour, I read while I eat lunch and whenever I’m waiting somewhere (dog park, appointments, etc.) I just make time for it. When I had a commute on MUNI in San Francisco I used that time to read and it helped make the 45 minutes go by in a blur.
I take classes and workshops that will build my skills in the work I do and in my own life. I’m lucky that the Main Street program offers state, regional and national training opportunities that I get to take as part of my work. They have been invaluable to my understanding of the work that I do. I then do my own personal classes that interest me on a semi regular basis. This year I have taken a class with the San Francisco Zen Center to help me grow my meditation practice, I took a one morning painting class, I took Kelly Rae Robert’s painting class online, and I’m looking at a photography class. Investing in my work/life means I matter to me. Which seems like a silly thing, but learning and growing personally and professionally helps refine who I am. I’m thrilled at deepening skills and learning new things that I can bring into my life and work. NOTE: Ask for scholarships! I did for the Zen Center and I got one that was really substantial. The price was out of my budget, but I just applied for the scholarship and I was thrilled to receive one. You won’t know if you don’t ask.
Your Development Isn’t My Development
Your life development might look VERY different. That is ok. You might be into vegan cooking, learning tai chi, going to a spa, getting involved with Toastmasters – it doesn’t matter what the things are. What matters is that you are investing in your life to make it better. Every moment I spend on self care has helped me develop better skills and refine who I am in the world. That is worth doing. We don’t come into this world fully formed and we need to continue our education on who we are, how we relate to others, and deepening our investment in our lives.
I Challenge You
Add one thing. Just one. If you are tapped out and are doing everything for everyone else I challenge you to add one more thing, but just for you. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be shutting the door when you go pee (mom’s you know what I’m talking about). One thing.
SPECIAL NOTE TO BOSSES OF YOUR OWN LIVES: If you are running your own business, work in a small organization, or work from home planning your OWN personal/professional development is a game changer. If you worked for a corporation you would be getting it (granted it might involve weird things like cheese moving). You can scope out your own things when you are on your own – making it WAY more relevant. You aren’t going to get LESS stressed by doing nothing in the way of finding better ways of living and working – take the time!
Do that thing consistently and check in on if it seems to be making a difference with your life. Are you happier? Are you less cranky? Did you learn something new that you can share or talk about? Is your life more full instead of feeling empty? Are you nicer to your co-workers and family? Those are the benefits… no go pick your thing.
Still Don’t Believe Me?
BossBabe says this so well: “The lack of self-mastery with aspiring and full-time entrepreneurs is the number one reason why they fail. Self mastery means learning how to control your fear, emotions, doubts, body, mind and soul.”
Learning these skills is LIFE CHANGING. You get one chance here people. Let’s learn to do it better by adding some things into our lives/work that will make a real difference. Sure, painting class seems weird to a busy professional, but if you are trying to spark your creativity it might be just the thing. Go find your thing.