By Jeff Klein
Boy, this is a big issue. I’ve always known it to be so, but since I started writing this piece a couple weeks ago it’s significance has become even more apparent.
People frequently ask me how I do all that I do and how I look and act so young. I suppose I have a pretty full life – working essentially all the time, while (solo) parenting, working out regularly, and always finding time to play. And, I acknowledge, I carry my nearly 52 years well. I actually think I am in the best physical condition of my life, with strength and endurance comparable to, if not better than, that of my teens. And I seem to be healthy in other domains – including emotional, mental, spiritual, and social – too. (Have to be careful not to presume too much!)
I think the answer to the question (how I do what I do and look and act so young) is simply “I take care of myself.” While that may be a simple answer, I realize that, for many people, doing so is not so simple. While laziness or busyness may explain it, as I think about this more and more and observe others, I think the root of the difficulty for many people is that they were never really encouraged to take care of themselves or taught how to do so. Many of the explicit and implicit messages in our culture say “Follow the rules.” “You don’t really have any power or authority.” “Someone else will take care of making important decisions.” “Something wrong, the professional will take care of it for you (you pay, of course).” “To get the golden ring you have to sacrifice almost everything except the pursuit of the golden ring” (and the golden ring is a single, specific goal, usually material or status related).
I vividly remember my visit to Bainbridge Graduate Institute last April and how exhausted and stressed so many of the students were and, with my invitation, they acknowledged this to be true. And this is at a wonderful program designed to cultivate conscious, sustainability-minded MBA students.
So, what does it mean to take care of yourself, of ourselves? First, is to recognize that we are multi-dimensional beings with an array of needs, including physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, relational, etc. Second, is to truly understand the nature of interdependence and to recognize that healthy systems, sustainability, peace, and other virtues we aspire to manifest in the world begin with healthy individuals, embodying the attributes we envision defining the system. “Put your own Oxygen mask on first before you assist other passengers.” And third, we need to understand that, as with all things, we reap what we sow – it takes focused, persistent attention and effort to cultivate health in every domain, but this effort ultimately creates a positive inertia – movement in the direction of health. And the process of focusing of self care generates a sense of confidence, capacity, and sensitivity that carries over into other realms, including caring for others, and creating or building whatever it may be – a company, project, product, work of art….
Over the years I have found countless ways with countless teachers or guides to care for different aspects of my being, which I actively apply to myself and my relationships, and which I enthusiastically share with others. I think we need to create a culture in which open exploration and collaboration in caring for ourselves, each other, and our groups is a primary focus. This is one of the core commitments of the Working for Good team and we embody it in practice every day. The result is deepening understanding of and love for each other, and a safe and supportive container that allows us to more fully show up, express our unique gifts, and co-create together. While our team is relatively new, the depth and openness of our relationships is stunning, and the results are magnificent.
I find the same to be true in relationships in general – with my daughter Meryl Fé, with friends old and new, and in intimate relationships. If we can truly hold ourselves, then we can hold each other without grasping. We can celebrate each other and enthusiastically embrace the success and full expression of our beloved, without feeling diminished or out of balance.
While it may seem counterintuitive, I think a key to liberation is to love yourself and to truly take care of yourself. From there, you can care for all people and things, and transcend your self. The object is not to become self absorbed or narcissistic, but to become healthy and secure, so you can fly beyond yourself.
I encourage you to give yourself full permission to take care of yourself, and to find ways to do so that really serve. Asking others for support and attention may be one of those ways.
About Jeff Klein: As CEO + Chief Activation Officer of Working for Good® Jeff Klein produces collaborative, multi-sector, Cause Alliance Marketing® programs that drive social and environmental change while addressing the business objectives of alliance partners. He is a founding director of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and is producing a campaign for O.N.E. Drinks to educate health care practitioners, mothers, and others about the health benefits of coconut water.