Are You Essential in These 4 Areas? Part 4: Spirit
This article is the last part of a four-part article series looking at the essentials of Body, Mind, Heart, and Spirit. The ideas are a synthesis of concepts from Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and Stephen R. Covey’s book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness.
In Part 1: Body, we looked at how Tiny Habits can help you keep your body physically fit, how intermittent fasting can help you eat essentially, and how getting the right amount of sleep is critical.
In Part 2: Mind, we learned how having a growth mindset, reading (and re-reading) good books, getting enough sleep, learning to focus, and aligning with a deep purpose helps our minds be the best.
In Part 3: Heart, we considered how to best handle our emotions within ourselves and as we interact with others.
In Part 4: Spirit, we will look at how we can live with meaning, purpose, and direction.
Assume you have a one-on-one visit with your Creator every quarter; now live accordingly
— Stephen R. Covey, The 8th Habit
The life of an Essentialist is a life lived without regret. If you have correctly identified what really matters, if you invest your time and energy in it, then it is difficult to regret the choices you make. You become proud of the life you have chosen to live.
— Greg McKeown, Essentialism
1. Live with Purpose
Why are you doing what you’re doing?
What matters most to you?
In Part 2: Mind, we considered how a purposeful why directs our minds to learn. In a more important way, why helps our spirits know how to live.
Simon Sinek’s bestselling book Start with Why (also viewable as a TED talk) implores readers to first start with a purpose; start with an undeniable reason to do what you’re doing.
Benjamin Hardy instructs readers to ask why multiple times to get to the deepest levels of purpose and meaning.
Victor Frankl talks deeply about having a why in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. While in a Nazi concentration camp, he reflects on the words of Nietzche “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”
What drives you to do what you do?
My colleagues and I recently spent a weekend working 12–14 hour days over Saturday and Sunday. This is not typical of me, nor is it typical behavior expected at my company.
Were we workaholics, driven to perform and get raises? No.
Were we forced by threat of punishment from our boss? No.
Did we have nothing better to do? No.
Our task was related to delivering potentially life-saving medicine to those in need. To a person, no one wants to repeat that type of working weekend. The work was mentally exhausting. But to a person, no one regretted working diligently to relieve suffering and preserve human life.
Most things we do will not be so dramatic in consequence. However, when we understand how our actions have impact in our life and the lives of those around us, we can find meaning and purpose in even the most mundane tasks.
Why am I pouring cereal for my 4-year-old daughter? I love her and want her to be healthy and grow.
Why am I going to bed early? I want to arise early, ponder, pray, study, and be my best self.
Why do I put up with a noisy dinner with kids talking and arguing? I want to grow my family together. I want to invest in a future with happy, productive, adult children.
Why do I give up time to serve in the community? I want to share what I have with others. I want to truly feel good about myself.
Why do I save money instead of spending it? I want to be able to do greater good at a future time.
Life is full of demands. Our why guides us to managing those demands. It is essential to have a why.
2. Values and Integrity
Once you understand your deepest whys, you are obliged to live according to your whys. Your whys become your source of values. Living with integrity requires living in a way to be whole and consistent with what you want in life.
Most of us know what we need to do to live our values.
- We know we should eat right and exercise
- We know we should be patient with our children
- We know we should be loving to our spouse
- We know we should take time to ponder, meditate, pray
- We know we should be kind and generous to others
However, most of us fall short. We don’t measure up to our own expectations. When we do this, we have two choices.
The first choice is to believe that we are helpless. You know the phrases:
It’s someone else’s fault.
It’s just the way I am.
There’s nothing to be done.
The second choice is to recognize that we can always choose to start again. This choice has a better set of phrases:
I didn’t do it right this time, but I can learn and do better next time.
I’m not good at this, yet.
Next time will be better.
Like any parent, I’ve had my good moments and my bad moments. During the bad moments, I can always justify my behavior. A child is misbehaving. A teenager has an attitude. A toddler is exhausting.
It’s easy to say: It’s not my fault — I’m just a dad trying his best. If my kids would be better, I would be better.
Recently, one of my kids rebelled at doing dishes. It was too hard. He didn’t like it. He wasn’t going to do it.
He was indignant.
I was angry.
With rebellion came punishment and discipline. The discipline was appropriate. My anger and resentment were not.
Fortunately, even when I fail to live up to my potential, I have the chance to start over. It takes some internal work. I have to ask hard questions. I have to acknowledge weaknesses or ignorance.
Ultimately, though, the internal work leads me to act in a way that is aligned with my core values. My thoughts, values, and actions become unified. I have integrity.
With my son, the discipline continued. Rather than being purely punitive, though, the consequence became a teaching moment.
I tried to look at things from my son’s perspective. Doing all the dishes was overwhelming. He needed help to break it down into smaller, manageable tasks. I started showing my son effective ways to do the dishes in small pieces. We worked together. In the end, it was a positive learning experience.
My why shaped my values. My values directed my behavior. My behavior helped my son.
What values align with your why? How do your actions align with your values? How quickly do you change when your actions don’t align with your values?
Values and integrity are essential to your spirit.
3. A Higher Source
Even after we’ve established our why and determined our values, we often end up being at odds with ourselves.
We have a sense of what is most important in life. We know how to align our lives with our values. However, we often fail to reach our highest potential on our own.
In order for each us to reach our greatest heights, we need the help of others to lift us to a higher level. We need someone who is higher than ourselves.
In Bonds That Make Us Free, author Terry Warner outlines how quickly most of us get stuck in the falsehood of self-absorption. We lie to ourselves with the lie, “I am the only one that matters.”
It is this state of self-deception that leads to self-justification, blame, self-righteousness, greed, envy, malice, and willful pride. It is this state that leads to arguments and anger, broken hearts and broken relationships.
To exit this state of existence, Warner proposes that we need “beings who enter our lives to love us.” He continues, “When we’re mired in any degree of self-deception, we cannot fathom how desperately we need the solid, immovable truth that true friends revere.”
We all rely on the loving, caring examples of friends and family to lift us up. We need people who are in a better state to show us a better way.
However, all humans beings move in and out of a state of self-deception and self-absorption. Where can we find a consistent source to guide us?
I believe that there is ultimately a higher source that leads all people to a higher way. To me that ultimate source is God.
Who is God?
Perhaps, Henry Eyring, a world-renowned chemist puts it best:
I worship the wisest being in the universe. I know there is such a being. How could there not be? People are different in understanding, and there are lots of them. There must be one who is the smartest.
How do you connect to this highest source?
How do you connect to God?
Several powerful ways I’ve found to connect are:
Meditation. Calming the mind to see past the busyness of daily life and allowing the influence of the divine to be felt.
Prayer. Communicating directly with God. Here is how I’ve learned to pray.
Reading. Finding books of what others great teachers have taught about God. This book is one of my favorite books for connecting to God.
Listening. Taking time to see what thoughts, ideas, promptings, and inspiration God can provide.
Most often, my day-to-day interactions with God involve helping other people. When I’m ready to listen to what God has to say to me, I find that I get ideas or thoughts for who to help.
Here’s why I’ve learned that listening is so important.
One April Fool’s day, my wife and I decided to play a trick on our children, as they had come to expect. We decided to play a trick that would help us see what kind of job we were doing as parents. We wanted to know how well our kids would do on their own without us.
It was a Saturday morning with no activities or responsibilities. We wrote a note saying we had to leave the house that morning and that the kids were on their own for a few hours. They had to take care of themselves and take care of each other. We did not leave any other directions or instructions.
Rather than actually leaving, though, we simply hid in our walk-in closet. We were there to help if anything went horribly wrong. And we could listen and observe what was happening in the house.
Would the kids be sad we were gone?
Would they all fight?
Would they help each other?
Would they come looking for us?
Would we have to swoop in and rescue them?
Our kids were all of the age that we knew they could take care of themselves. The older kids were capable of helping the youngest.
But would they?
For the most part, they did fine. They played and ate breakfast like they normally would on Saturday. To our chagrin, no one seemed too concerned that we were gone.
However, they eventually started sorting things out. One child realized that our cars were still in the garage and that it was April 1st. The kids started hunting for us.
They finally found us after 20–30 minutes of active searching, but there was one instructive lesson for us during that time.
At one point during the search our youngest daughter started asking for a bowl of cereal. “Can someone get me breakfast?”
The other kids were distracted by the search and weren’t paying attention to her. She repeated her question, but none of the older children stopped to help.
At that moment, I realized something powerful. Is this how God feels about me?
I’m sure our Heavenly Father is pleased when we seek to be close to him and find him. However, when any of his children are in want or need, he wants his other children to help them. This is not because he does not have the ability to swoop in and rescue them. Rather, he wants to give us a chance to help, serve, succor, and bless.
While not perfect by any means, our April Fool’s Day lesson helped me learn the importance of helping God’s children. If we want to escape the lies and self-deception of self-absorption, we need to take a God’s-eye view of those around us.
God wants us to connect with him and learn how to be divine. He wants us to make good things happen in our own lives. But for us to be the most like him, we have to learn how to love and care for our brothers and sisters on the earth.
It is essential to connect with God. It is essential to love those around us.
2 Minutes for 2 Weeks
We’ve discussed essential elements of Body, Mind, Heart, and Spirit. However, to make permanent changes in essential areas, new habits need to take root.
What if you could make major improvements with 2 minutes a day for 2 weeks? This is not a get-fixed-quick scheme. Rather, it is the law of harvest based in the power of daily habits.
See some of my other articles to get ideas on new habits to improve in all 4 areas. These are habits that will start small. But as they are nurtured, these habits can grow into big changes in your life.