Sometimes, a word pops up over and over until I just can’t ignore it. This past week, that word has been “sustainability.” We most often hear about sustainability in the context of the environment, or about the operations of a corporation or organization. While I was at a coaches association meeting last week listening to Lorinda Rowledge of EKOSI speaking on “Sustainability: The Next Edge of Coaching,” the question “Am I sustainable?” popped into my head.
Think about it for yourself: Am I sustainable?
There are two definitions of “sustain” that I like from the American Heritage Dictionary:
To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for.
To support the spirits, vitality, or resolution of; encourage.
If I am sustainable, then I am taking care of myself, providing for my needs and maintaining a reasonable level of vitality and spirit. To borrow from the environmental context, it also means that I am meeting my needs without depleting future resources.
When I begin to think “I’m so tired… I’m burned out,” and at the same time feel like I am working hard and need to be working harder… that’s when I realize that I (i.e. my existence as I’ve been living it) am not sustainable.
[pullquote]I am in favor of [actions] that have authenticity, roots, originality, verve, balance, taste, communicativeness, challenge, relevance to their time–in short, things that make sense. ~Vaclav Havel[/pullquote]
Do you ever feel that way? Do you find yourself saying, “I can’t keep going like this!”? If so, you’re sharing my pain. Let’s look at a few of the choices that affect our personal sustainability:
- Time: How well are you prioritizing and managing your time? Is your calendar full of “shoulds” and obligations that lead to regular exhaustion (mentally, physically, emotionally)? Are you making adequate time for yourself, for friends, family and even pets? If you had to have the same schedule you had this week for the next year, could you do it?
- Money: Ah, everyone’s favorite topic 😀 Just like we spend and save our time, how we spend and save our money is a reflection of our priorities. Are you living within, below or beyond your means? Do you alternate between feast or famine? Are you able to cover the basics of today and tomorrow, while having the resources for basic luxuries that feed your spirit, such as music, books, art and travel?
- Health: If you’re not making choices that sustain your energy, you’ll end up “running on empty.” And just like a car that runs out of gas, you can become stalled and quit in the middle of the road if you are making short-term choices for short-term gain. Certain choices – fast food, empty calories, skimping on sleep, sporadic exercise – will sneak up on you in the form of extra weight, illness or injury. Another pitfall is taking an all-or-nothing approach: no desserts, exercise every day, no fast food. Your intention and will-power may last for a few days, weeks or even months… however, that approach is usually unsustainable. What choices will sustain your energy for the long run, while fitting into your lifestyle?
- Alone Time: This is particularly important for the introvert. Are you getting enough down time to sustain your energy for other activities? And are you able to carve out that alone time without guilt or defending the need for it? How do you acknowledge and celebrate your spirit? What nourishes you?
These are just a few of the areas to which you can apply the question of personal sustainability; others include commitments, relationships, energy and work. Take the time to reflect on each area and ask: “Am I making choices that support sustaining a life that I love? If not, what options do I have to put myself on the path to sustainability?”
Another great point mentioned by Rowledge was a reminder of the triple bottom line. In the corporate arena, the triple bottom line is made of People, Planet and Profits. The extent to which those are honored is the measure of success and effectiveness.
Which raised another question for me: what’s my triple bottom line? My immediate answer is Ease, Flow and Truth. If my choices invite more ease, flow and truth into my life, then I am both successful and sustainable.
What about you? What’s your triple bottom line? How can you be both successful and sustainable?
I’ll close with a word from Wayne Dyer, whose recent Twitter quote resonates with this topic. If I believe that I am enough, then I can make choices that serve me now and in the future, rather than being driven by fear. Join me?