In my recent studies at ThePowerMBA, one of my favorite modules has been the one about Self Management, which focuses on the management of our limited personal resources.
In general, when people discuss this subject, they focus on Time Management, including topics like how to define our priorities, how to delegate tasks and how to have more effective meetings. Time Management has been studied for several decades now, with the goal of making workers more effective, efficient and productive, but it is clear that most people still have the feeling that they are not realizing their full potential at their jobs.
Thus it was a pleasant surprise to me when I discovered that ThePowerMBA module focused on Personal Energy Management, including topics such as Mindfulness, meditation and the importance of finding your purpose (Ikigai). In particular, I really enjoyed how they presented the importance of the balance between Body, Mind and Soul.
It should be obvious that we must take care of our bodies, but very frequently people neglect their bodies, either because they fail to understand their basic needs or because they intentionally make sacrifices in order to reach their goals.
There are some clear warning signs that our body is being abused: some people start getting frequently sick, others feel worned out or chronically tired, and others suffer from insomnia or lack of quality sleep. These signs may indicate that our body is not getting the proper level of exercise, neither the right nutrition and the required amount of rest.
Regarding exercise, we should ask ourselves how frequently we do physical activity. Our ancestors were farmers or had to do other kinds of hard work, but today we spend most of our time in air-conditioned offices, sitting on a comfortable chair and making some very small movements with our hands when typing on the keyboard or moving the mouse.
Our nutrition also is very different from the one of our ancestors.Today we eat more food with more calories, including all kinds of processed food with artificial ingredients that did not exist in the past. We should ask ourselves if we are eating to satisfy our physical needs or if we are just consuming food with the goal to have a pleasant experience, as sweet as possible.
Another great difference is the amount of rest we get. Very frequently people today work so much that the only way for them to have some leisure time is by sleeping less. But the problem is not only the amount of hours we sleep: the intensity of the activities we do at night are increasingly causing us to have a bad quality of sleep.
With the kind of intellectual work that most people do today, our mind is our most valuable asset. However, some people treat their minds as if it was an infinite repository of resources to be exploited, and do not understand the cause-consequence relationship between the materials we insert in our mind and the ideas that get out of it.
Our mind also produces warning signs that there is something wrong: when we can’t focus on the task to be done, when we have emotional outbursts (that cause conflicts with our family and coworkers), when we feel high levels of stress, when we have trouble managing our relationships or when we are simply burnt out.
There are several things we can do to improve our state of mind. One topic that became very popular recently is the one of Mindfulness, which emphasizes the importance of living the present moment instead of spending our energy with regrets about the past or worries about the future. Among other things, Mindfulness includes different meditation techniques.
It is also very important to develop our Emotional Flexibility, which means our ability to be aware of our own emotions. For example, if we want to control our anger, we first need to understand what is causing us to be angry. In general, we would like to know what is triggering our feelings, in order to eliminate any undesirable reaction (such as yelling at people when we are frustrated or blaming other people for our problems when something bad happens).
Finally, we must understand that our mind will only perform well if we have enough space for renewal. We must learn how to disconnect from work, from the disturbing news on TV and from the many types of digital distractions we have today. In the previous section we mentioned that we consume much more food than our ancestors, but we are also consuming much more information, and this certainly is not healthy.
Sometimes I have the impression that, in the modern world, people have become less aware that their souls also have needs. I think that a common phenomenon we observe today is that people try to satisfy the needs of their souls through the acquisition of material artifacts.
There are several warning signs that our souls are not getting what they need: we may feel empty, we may get the impression that something is missing in our lives, sometimes we don’t feel connected to the world around us, we may feel apathetic or depressed.
Then some people will try to fill their emptiness with food, others will decide that they should spend as much time as possible having fun and others will waste the money they don’t have buying expensive cars, clothes or jewelry. But in order to satisfy the needs of our souls, we Humans need Meaning and Belonging.
Finding Meaning means defining what is the purpose in our lives. In the now famous Japanese Ikigai concept (depicted in the image below), our individual purpose is the unique combination of our personal interests, our greatest talents, the things we can be paid for and the things that the world needs.
But it is not enough to understand what our purpose is. We must regularly engage in meaningful activities, according to our very personal interests and talents, providing the needed satisfaction to our souls. We must realize our potential by performing activities that contribute to the world.
Besides Meaning, we also need a feeling of Belonging. We must fill our unique roles in our families, we must invest in having good relationships with our friends and coworkers, and we must also be part of a bigger community. We cannot satisfy our feeling of Belonging if we do not have healthy interactions with other Humans, and this became very clear during the recent Covid Pandemic in which people were forced to stay at home and keep social distance.
This month I had the privilege to put several of these ideas in practice. I participated in a full-day seminar at the Galilee, in the North of Israel, under the guidance of my friend Ran Weber. In the past Ran was, like me, an entrepreneur who dedicated all of his time to the startup he founded. But today he is a best-selling book author, sharing with his many readers the beautiful insights he had in his journey for spirituality.
During the seminar we talked about “Hitbodedut”, a Jewish form of meditation. The Hebrew word “hitbodedut” could be translated as “being alone”, but the main goal in this meditation is to have your own private and secluded time and space to get closer to God through an intimate and informal conversation.
Then we went to a forest and each one of the seminar participants found a spot under the trees to perform his own “Hitbodedut”. We kept enough distance from each other so that we could not hear other people talking, and each person had the feeling that they were really alone in the forest. This enabled us to express our most profound feelings without any fear.
As someone who has spent the last 1.5 years working from home, including being under several lockdowns, this was a really transformative experience. I must thank Ran for being such a good mentor, sharing with us his experience, and I recommend the Hebrew speakers of my blog to read his many life-changing books.
I’m also very happy that ThePowerMBA included this module that made me much more aware about my Body, Mind and Soul needs. When I registered to follow this business course, I did not expect to learn so much about Mindfulness, Meaning and Belonging.