A few years ago, I began striving to reach my potential. I read leadership books, met with mentors and coaches, worked toward stretch goals, and focused on becoming the kind of person that I had always admired. My goals centered on becoming a better family member, employee, and member of the community. One truth emerged. You have to be authentic with yourself and the journey you have chosen before you can move forward with reaching your potential. By moving through the four pillars to reaching your potential, you can begin to uncover your authentic self.
To reach toward your potential:
- · Take care of your body, mind, and spirit
- · Make learning an integral part of your day
- · Connect with people
- · Seek out wisdom from the wisest people you know
This is the first of a four-part series and each article will focus on the overarching tenets of each pillar.
The foundation for reaching your potential begins by taking care of your body, mind, and spirit. It is difficult to excel at anything if you are dehydrated, under nourished, tired, and mentally overwhelmed. However, changing habits are hard to do so approach each step methodically and finds ways to incorporate them into your activities of daily living.
Hydration is key to reaching your potential. Dehydration is shown to lower cognitive function including the ability to hold information in short-term memory. Mental reaction time and spatial reasoning are also affected by hydration levels. Take in approximately .5 -1.0 ounces of fluids per pound of body weight on a daily basis to reach an adequate level of hydration. A person weighing 150 pounds will consume approximately 75-150 ounces of fluid each day.
Just as your body needs food to fuel activities, your brain needs the right nutrition to do its job. Healthful eating should not be translated into dieting, low-fat, low-carb, etc. Healthful eating is looking at your diet from a holistic perspective to ensure you are consuming various types of nutrient-dense foods which complement your activity level. Proper nutrition also helps modules mood and self-efficacy.
Research supports the idea that exercise positively affects executive functions. Verbal reasoning, attention, working memory, and problem solving can be enhanced with a single bout of exercise but flourishes with increased fitness levels. Construct a fitness program that is sustainable to see true benefits. Choose a time that is convenient and a program that fits your goals. Don’t forget to build a support network to keep you motivated during your slumps.
Sleeping less than 6 hours per night is strongly associated with difficulties in attention, learning, and memory formation. Total learning is hampered if you string together days, weeks, or months of sleep deprivation. New moms and dads should not worry too much, though. Cognitive function rebounds when you start getting adequate, quality sleep on a regular basis. The next time you cannot find your keys or even your car, ask yourself if you have had quality sleep lately.
Most of us have heard that meditation is a great stress-reduction technique. But what makes it so great? Various research studies suggest regular meditation increases prefrontal cortical thickness as well as activation in multiple regions of the brain. As we age, our cortices tend to thin which makes it challenging to tap into our executive functions (e.g., memory, planning). Meditation may be the “aerobics” for the brain. Start small with your meditation program and try to build up to 20 minutes 3-4 times a week.
Overwhelmed? Just pick one item on the list and integrate it into your life today. Moving one step closer to a healthier lifestyle is better than not trying at all.