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How Taking Sleep Seriously Saved My Life

Made a deal with my free spirit to be more disciplined ~ and the difference it made

No, the little girl with the balloons isn’t me, but that’s exactly how I feel these days.

I’m getting enough sleep, and I feel better than ever ~ ready for the day, productive, happy in my heart, and on top of what matters.  

The problem

Until a year ago I avoided discipline, guided by the invisible hand of thoughts like these:  

  • I’m a free spirit ~ not meant to be tied down.
  • I prefer to keep my options open.
  • If I have to get it done, then I’ll stay up and do it ~ I have no choice.
  • Bedtime is my time to relax and read  ~ it’s OK to stay up late ~ I deserve it!
  • Burning the candle at both ends is what successful people have to do.

These attitudes led to sleep deprivation, which led to exhaustion, foggy brain, sluggish creativity, and a sense of being down rather than up.  In other words, my life was imprisoned by poor habits, which robbed me of my natural motivation and wisdom.  I had hundreds of ideas for helping others through writing, speaking, and coaching, but too few of them saw the light of day.

Cost of pushing myself too hard

It’s easy to see other folks who are running on empty, looking wasted, and not as lucid as usual.  Many years ago that was me ~ but worse.  I was leading a growing global company, and I loved it.  Then problems started keeping me awake at night, and some nights I slept not a wink.  If this keeps up, what happens then?  You lose yourself! 

I did irrational things, had conversations that left people confused, and embarrassed myself by having to pull out at the last minute from speaking at a global conference.  Fortunately I found a therapist, who helped me understand what was happening ~ and with his help and the support of my family and colleagues, I found myself.

At the end of that year I told a group of friends that it had been my Worst Year Yet!

I’m not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.  ~ Wayne Dyer

What changed my mind about getting enough sleep

First was reading Arianna Huffington’s story about how “Collapse from Exhaustion was a ‘Wake-Up Call‘.   It was like looking in the mirror.  Her honest sharing of her mistakes touched my heart and made an impact on my ‘keep pushing’ habits.

Secondly according to recent studies reported in TIME seven hours sleep is the minimum we need to improve health and increase longevity ~ and the longer I live, the more information on longevity catches my eye. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, states,

I used to suggest that sleep is the third pillar of good health, along with diet and exercise, but I don’t agree with that anymore. Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body for health.

Rules I follow to save my life

These are the steps I’ve taken, and they have made my life happier, healthier, and more meaningful.  I don’t expect you to follow my plan, but I hope this list inspires you to make changes that would make a difference to you.  

  1.  Start ‘slow down’ at least 60 minutes before bed time, including a hot shower.
  2.  Lights out at 10:00 pm and get up at 6:00 am (with a few exceptions).
  3.  Bought a watch that tracks everything about my sleep ~ I love keeping score!
  4.  Do an hour of meditation practice at 7:00 am.
  5.  Do 25 minutes of stretching and strengthening exercises after meditation.
  6.  Make a Weekly Plan to progress my Best Year Yet plan ~ my top priorities for the year.
  7.  Schedule two hours for writing every weekday.

I feel more alive, productive, happy, and useful than I have in a long time.  Benjamin Franklin did a good of crystalizing these lessons.

Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.

__________________

To find out more about executive coaching and integrating Best Year Yet into your business, contact L[email protected]. Or click here to make your own Best Year Yet plan ~ or click here to read Your Best Year Yet!, which includes a 10-question workbook.

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