Would you sit back and twiddle your thumbs while a competitor poached your customers and employees? Would you blow off network security until a vicious virus crashed your computer system?
Doubt it. When it’s business, some of us are laudably proactive. When it comes to personal issues, however, too many of us have upside-down priorities. We wait until a crisis body slams us before contemplating the possibility of making better choices.
Case in point: The triple trauma that struck me at 42 also flattened my assumptions about health and wellness. Divorce and a business cash-flow crisis crumbled my psychological and spiritual foundations. Then cancer forced me to rethink physical fitness. Those ordeals poked gaping holes in my theory that a shrewd mind was the only arrow I needed in my workplace quiver. Six painful months of self-analysis revealed the barriers I’d erected between life’s four essential elements — body, intellect, psyche and spirit.
Not only were the four players on my “inner team” incommunicado, they had never been formally introduced. My intellect was calling all the shots, my body never looked beyond its next run, and my psyche and spirit were neglected stepchildren.
For years, I had been in constant motion and felt healthy. But a lack of inner harmony had blocked my path toward true wellness and peace of mind. When that realization washed over me, I was embarrassed to realize that I’d sidelined much of my inner team. In business, I would never have wasted half my workforce.
What’s it mean to get all four players on the same page? Imagine if John, Paul, George, and Ringo had all pursued solo careers. Maybe they would’ve each scored a hit now and then. But they never would have defined pop music for generations without combining their talents and transcending the sum of their parts.
As I began developing wellness strategies for each player in my life, here’s what began to happen.
Integration produced clearer thinking, sharper instincts, and more energy. I started feeling the quantum leap in wellness that occurs when our inner elements align. Not a minute passes when every part of our being isn’t enhancing or sabotaging our decisions and actions.
For instance, I discovered that when coaching a team member on a sensitive issue, my reasoning was influenced by my state of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. That new business plan that needs analyzing tests more than our intellect — our body, psyche, and spirit are in on the action, too. They’re all affected by how we slept the night before and whether we hit the treadmill or the doughnut shop during lunch hour.
[PAGEBREAK]From exhausting to exhilarating
The more I balanced the scales of my inner life, the more my thinking shifted. Like a gosling trailing its mother, my behavior followed suit. I started to realize I deserved better for — and from — myself. That inspired me to give myself more fully to the people I worked with, lived with, and cared about.
Wellness became my holistic bank account, a metaphor established by stress-research trailblazer Hans Selye. Withdrawals are poor food choices; sleep deprivation, emotional tension and other life stressors. You make deposits with exercise, healthy meals, meditation and supportive relationships. When withdrawals exceed deposits, you’re grouchy, stressed-out, foggy, and weak-willed. When deposits exceed withdrawals, you’re blessed with supercharged energy, crystal clear thinking, and deep serenity. Not only that, you’ll have enough fuel in the tank to shift into fifth gear when crises strike.
The wellness track does require time and attention, but it doesn’t always demand huge chunks of time. You can immediately reduce stress, for instance, simply by reminding yourself to breathe deeply whenever you’re nervous or rushed.
Better choices lead to a better life. Rather than watch a sitcom tonight, read a chapter in a personal-growth book. Or, before going to bed, take a brisk 20-minute walk. Better still, next time you’re in a restaurant, choose vegetable soup, a spinach salad and bottled water over a burger, fries and beer. Rather than react defensively to a comment from an employee, open your mind, hear her out, and try to understand her feelings. It may not be easy, but neither is not getting what you want out of life.
Fortunately, the life-affirming consequences of making healthier choices are often so immediate and profound that they’re all the motivation you need to continue making them. I was thrilled to discover a newfound vibrancy. It was like I’d tapped into an extra fuel tank.
Be prepared for unsupportive responses. Over the years, most of my executive team poked fun at me for the way I ate, exercised, meditated and focused on psychological growth. Yet one by one the teasers inevitably knocked on my door. They’d blurt out a frightening diagnosis or test result and beg me to spill everything I knew about nutrition and wellness. Something inevitably throws the switch of understanding for most people.
Why wait? Find that switch now, on your own terms. The body is an amazing work of art; its hard wired intelligence is constantly striving toward optimal health. Your odds of reclaiming vibrant physical health are excellent.
If your body is already under siege, slamming on the brakes and hanging a right on Synergy Street may add more years to your life and more life to your years. ■
This article is one of a series from “The Big Book of Small Business” by Tom Gegax with Phil Bolsta. Copyright 2005, 2006 by Tom Gegax. Published by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers.
Best-selling author Tom Gegax is the co-founder and chairman emeritus of Tires Plus stores. By the time he sold the company in July 2000, it had mushroomed from a concept sketched on a restaurant napkin to a market leader with 150 upscale stores in 10 states and $200 million in revenue. He was named Modern Tire Dealer’s Tire Dealer of the Year in 1998. In 2000, Gegax founded Gegax Management Systems (www.gegax.com) to help growing companies raise profits and reduce stress through fast and affordable business management guidance.