Design For Life: Personal Sustainability

Taking care of oneself makes a difference in our overall lives.

| September/October 2007

Some days our passion for doing good work is so great that we think of self-care as frivolous indulgence, but forgetting our own well-being just isn’t sustainable.In the last few years, my personal energy output has definitely exceeded input, so I asked several friends and colleagues how they fill their wells while doing valuable work for the world. The responses were inspiring.

1. Make yourself a priority

I used to say, “I’ll take care of myself after I’ve caught up on everything else.” Guess what? I never caught up. But we all can learn from Trathen Heckman of Petaluma, California, who directs Green Sangha, a spiritual community dedicated to environmental action, and Daily Acts, which offers sustainability tours and publishes Ripples: A Revolutionary Journal of Seasonal Delight. “The busier I get, the more tenaciously I cultivate my peace,” he says. “Because God and Gaia are in the details, I track how many times I sauna, stretch, garden and play music each week, making sure I don’t let life’s vital bits slip away.”

2. Take time out

Marc Allen, president of New World Library, exemplifies the value of free time. “Over the years, I’ve developed a simple method of relaxation and rejuvenation: I only work when I feel like it,” he says. Allen doesn’t work mornings; Sundays are reserved for family, spirit and rest. His Mondays are dedicated to whatever he feels like doing.

While adhering to this rhythm, he’s built a successful publishing company dedicated to healing and spirituality, written several books—including The Type-Z Guide to Success (New World Library, 2006)—and recorded several music albums. He’s a self-made multimillionaire who works no more than 30 hours a week. Where to find the time to just sit? Sarah Susanka, architect and author of the bestselling Not So Big House series, has a new book called The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters (Random House, 2007) that’s bursting with wisdom on the subject. Susanka writes: “Whether you call it quiet time, meditation or contemplation, the point is to have a period each day when you are not thinking, socializing or working. What you are really doing when you make a time and place just for you is inviting your inner nature to become a player in your outer life.”

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