Self-employed people often have a favorite book or books they keep on their nightstand. Usually, it seems like it’s a business book, something teaching core wisdom. Or it’s an inspirational tome by Michael Gerber, Tim Ferriss, or Seth Godin, or a dog-eared copy of Think and Grow Rich or The War of Art.
Anyone sneaking a look at my book stack these days would be disappointed to see that, of all the books that have come and gone, the only one that stays next to my bed constantly these days is How to Be Well by the functional medicine doctor Frank Lipman. Yep. A book not about keeping my business healthy, but keeping my whole life healthy.
I had been running my business in spite of how my body was doing, thinking it was just my age that was slowing me down. After all, I ate well, exercised, all that magazine-cover stuff. Must be something out of my control, right?
As I crept into my fifth and sixth decades on the planet, I started to see the small physical breakdowns common for people in my age bracket. Knees and shoulders started to hurt. I caught viruses more easily. I didn’t sleep as well, and little ailments and glitches would interfere with my ability to think well, work hard, and operate creatively on certain days. The machine of my body—which drives how well and easily I can do my work—was slipping into disrepair, and I was letting it, by pleading powerlessness.
Sometimes it takes a special resource to get through my preconceived notions, and this one did. It’s as though I’ve gotten a fresh, clean slate to work with. I’ve sunk deeper into my own core, past the layer of “how to run a business” and on to an even deeper spot, “how to run myself, so I have the power to do anything I’m called to do.”
What I love about How to Be Well is the way it’s organized. He outlines six pillars of keeping our bodies and minds well and capable, roughly divided into Eat, Sleep, Move, Protect, Unwind, and Connect. Each section has several 1-2 page subsections of easy-reading, actionable suggestions without any of the dense science found in similar books. It’s playful rather than dogmatic, with the topics in each area accompanied by fun, colorful artwork.
These are just a few of the habits (or habit-enforcers) I’ve already extracted from the book that have become priceless in supporting my life as a self-employed person:
Mastering the Nourishing Smoothie: I can whirl up a meal-in-a-blender packed to the seams with vital nutrients and never depend on manufactured snacks or plastic-wrapped foods (with all of their debilitating sodium, sweetener, and chemicals)
Eat Dinner Earlier and Breakfast Later: Giving my body a longer window to rest between “eating events” has easily doubled my energy, effortlessly dropped excess weight, and eliminated a lot of the mind fog of the typical American eating pattern of constant meals and snacks (and the insulin spikes that come with them).
Restore Your Ancestral Connection to Dark: I find myself out in the darkness more now, and it helps me to get more and better sleep. I hadn’t realized how things like LED bulbs were completely messing with my sleep patterns. (Great for saving money, lousy for reading before bed.)
Just Move (As Much as You Can): Grabbing any opportunity to keep your body in motion, even if it’s just getting up and walking around between tasks for a minute.
Play Like a Child: I hadn’t realized how I had so thoroughly brainwashed myself into thinking that movement/exercise had to be going to the gym, running on a treadmill, or powerwalking in order for it to “count.” My eyes now look for opportunities to be a kid again, climbing on rocks, walking the balance-beam of a landscape timber, or just digging in the dirt.
The Burden of Toxins: A Doctor’s Manifesto: Becoming cognizant of all the chemicals (many not adequately tested) I ingest and inhale and smear on my skin was massively eye-opening.
Give Your Mitochondria What They Need: Wildly helpful, and singularly responsible for the fact that I can work the hours I do in a way that’s healthy and joyful, not a Bataan death march of endless work. I heart my mitochondria now.
Smile. Laugh. Repeat. I hadn’t been doing ANYWHERE near enough of this (which triggered a cascade of funny reading, watching, and play).
Give Yourself a Massage: Who knew you could do this? I do now.
Gather. Eat. Commune. I’ve rediscovered the joys of gathering together with other people—enjoying good food, different energy, creativity-stimulating conversations. It’s not hard (even for this introvert) and it’s shifted everything.
Pursue Purpose, But Don’t Chase Bliss: I’ve discovered that the pursuit of “bliss” is not rewarding for me, but staying tightly connected to my various purposes in life—through a variety of activities and reminders and tactics—has elevated me in a way that five decades of previous life didn’t. Wildly wonderful.
I initially took the book out of the library, but now I own my own hardback copy, and it’s never going into the thrift store pile. Check it out at https://howtobewell.com/.
Do you have an unorthodox book that’s been an unexpected spark for your work? Something off the beaten track that’s really lifted you up?
I’d love to hear about it.