How Can I Improve Myself?
There’s a whole bunch of things you can do to improve. To help you grow personally and professionally. But your foundations also have to be strengthened to make sure you keep developing, growing, and improving. This tends to get overlooked and we dash headlong into the activities which we are told will make the difference. To use my martial arts analogy, learning that fancy spinning kick isn’t going help you beat Conor McGregor in a match in 6 weeks time!
Over the years, and through coaching people, I have realised there are three foundations which need to be built and strengthened. It doesn’t mean they all have to be the same strength but they do need to be worked on. However, one of them is absolutely fundamental to the other two and everything else you do. What are they?
The three foundations
Getting to the point they are:
- How well you sleep (Sleep)
- How balanced is what you eat (Nutrition/Hydration)
- How much you move each day (Exercise/Flexibility)
There have been volumes written and millions of hours of content available on topic (I cover them in my podcasts too!).
What I have experienced, learned, and read over the years, as well as observing people who I have worked with or coached, one the three is the bedrock to how we live and whether or not we can thrive over a longer period of time. And avoid burn out!
The answer: SLEEP
You probably knew it or it was a fairly straightforward guess. Yet we think we can minimise or reduce it to make more time in the day. Sadly, this may appear to be true (and logical) in the short term, but fairly quickly the effects of poor sleep and lack of sleep start to take effect – every one is deterimental to our health and well being.
Poor sleep and most definitely lack of sleep impacts what we eat. It can start cravings for high carbohydrate and sugary foods (and drinks) as the body tries to get access to fast injection of energy. Sugars and carbohydrates do just that and any excess will go straight into storage – fat.
It also impacts your physical movement, not wanting tto go for that walk, run, the gym, or pilates class. As you can see sleep really is the foundation bedrock on how you perform, change, and grow. Poor and lack of sleep will punch hard at stopping you from making steady progress.
There is a more worrying aspect of lack of sleep which takes time to show up. When you delve into books such as “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker as well as othe neuroscientists who work in this field you learn about chemical called Amyloid-Beta and protein called Tau. Lack of sleep increases the amount of these chemicals inside our brain – they accumulate. And it has no been shown to be a link to and increase the chances of Alzheimers as well as other sleep related disorders!
It appears we have a serious of cycles which go on inside our brains when we sleep. They have they start and end times and some following others. As we sleep the brain has a cleansing process which kicks in. The brain is ‘flushed’ with cerebral fluids which wash out the chemicals such as Amyloid-Beta which are detrimental as they accumalte inside the brain. A full period of sleep – minimum appears to be 6 hours – allows for the cleansing and brain rejuvinating processes to do their job and remove these chemicals once they have done their useful work.
It’s a bit like changing the oil in a car engine to get rid of the debris and material it has collected and then putting in fresh oil to keep it working properly. In the brain it needs to be daily (or nightly!).
I have spoken mainly about sleep, and I am sure you will agree it really is the bedrock you need to strengthen. There are plenty of ways to address your nutrition and exercise, and there are plenty of resources out there on the web for you try. The key is to find the ones which work for you and are easy to start. Easy to turn into habits!
I also believe in keeping the new habits, challenges, goals etc. down to a minimum. Rather than working intensely on all three foundations, work on your sleep. You will find after a good nights sleep your nutrition and exercise approach will be much easier to manage. Once you build your foundations thern you can start with your goals, actions, affirmations, mindset and so on…and you will be fighting fit to turn every on of them in to great habits which bring you the achievements you aim for.
Sleep well and prosper!
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