There are very specific techniques, numerous in nature, needed to be put into action before any paint is even applied to the bridge. The ‘underneath’ work that needs to be done is critical in the process of protecting the bridge against the constant environmental threats that it is under on an ongoing basis.
I use the Golden Gate Bridge ongoing maintenance project as a metaphor for the ongoing maintenance that is required to look after our own well-being. If we don’t do the consistent, deep (underneath) work needed to protect ourselves, the constant threats that we are under can take a huge chunk out of our own levels of well-being.
Peak performance psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais, has developed an extensive body of work related to well-being and specific strategies that people can put into action to better deal with the threats that they face.
Just as the corrosive salt air and contaminants from motor vehicles eat away at the Golden Gate Bridge every day, so too do the barrage of threats that humans face in regards to their own levels of well-being.
Anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, fear of judgement, fear of failure, masking inefficiencies that we feel we have, fear of never reaching our potential, lack of authentic connections in our lives, lack of vulnerability, suffering in silence etc. are just some of the ongoing threats that people face on a regular basis.
It takes constant awareness and maintenance to be able to look after ourselves in a way that counters the daily threats people face. No matter how physically, mentally, and emotionally strong we think we might be, it’s worth it to put specific strategies into action to help us counter the negative impact that daily stressors can have on our well-being. There is no question that these threats can potentially wreak havoc in our lives.
So, what can we actually do about these threats?
The very nature of self-compassion itself requires us to be more forgiving with ourselves. We are not perfect nor complete and as the opening quote of this blog post states, “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished”. Simply put, we're never a finished product!
As you read this part of the blog, just think about how hard you have been on yourself in the past, maybe even recently. Humans have a very common tendency to privately shame themselves for their shortcomings, failures and self-perceived inadequacies. In knowing and accepting that we are all fallible, we can learn to better deal with the self-judgement that comes from feeling as though we do not measure up. By understanding this, we can put more self-compassion into action in our lives.
Self-compassion extends ourselves the freedom to say, “I’m not perfect, I will make mistakes. I know I don’t want to repeat these mistakes but am willing to give myself a break.”
As world renowned author and speaker, Brene Brown, says, "We all need the courage to stand alone." What she means by this is that we need to understand that we cannot let others define who we are or what we are about. The courageous act of standing alone requires that we are willing to do the hard work necessary to better understand ourselves, our triggers, and our habitual ways of thinking and feeling. Having the courage to stand alone means that we can sit alone and find the quiet space needed to be honest with ourselves and to identify what might be holding us back from living a more fulfilled life.
Although this might seem like an insurmountable task, when we cut to the core of what matters most, it is about being reflective in order to better understand ourselves and our ways of being. Defining ourselves under our own terms and conditions and not by what others think about us is an important step in the right direction. However, if we are not willing to sit alone to do this very hard work, we can find ourselves drifting aimlessly away from where we ultimately want to be.
Meditation and mindfulness are tools that we can apply that assist us in our ability to courageously stand alone and do the hard work described above.
The most current research clearly shows the impact that physical activity can have in our life. There is irrefutable evidence that staying physically active has a profound impact on our brain’s neurochemistry thus having a direct impact on our well-being. Any form of daily movement matters, whether it be walking, running, cycling, gardening or exercising at the gym, etc..
By staying active, we arm ourselves with one of the most important tools there is to combat the daily stressors that can take their toll on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Whatever you do, plan for daily physical activity. The impact of physical activity can be felt almost immediately. Show more love for yourself by moving your body!
Just as the team of 35 painters is devoted to protecting the Golden Gate bridge, each one of us has the ability and tools available to us to better protect ourselves. The act of protecting ourselves is not a one off thing, but requires an endless cycle of maintenance that does not have a start or finish. The most important thing is to assess your own levels of well-being and to make the commitment needed to improve it. You are well worth the effort that you will put into this.
Are you presently where you want to be right now?
If not, the above three strategies are a good place to begin the exploration of improving on your own levels of well-being in order to create a better version of yourself. In doing this, you are better for others too. Thanks for reading.
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily