Saturday, July 2, 2011

Spiritual Wellbeing – Spirituality for wholeness

Spiritual WellbeingSpirituality for wholeness
Tying life together: Building on your foundational strengths
Living with integrity:  Integrating what matters in your life
Growing for life:  Practices that lead to wholeness

As I watch the sun peek through the clouds on my last morning here, I am filled with gratitude for this time of rest, re-creation, and rejuvenation!   In this spirit, I would like to complete our reflections by tying together the core elements which contribute to our wellbeing: physical, mental, emotional, career, and now spiritual. 

Spiritual Wellbeing is what ties these elements together for us.  It seeks to align our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors with our deepest beliefs, shared values, and highest aspirations.  When we live spiritually, we see the world differently.  We react to setbacks with hope, giving us more resilience.  We seek to understand another’s perspective before presenting our own.  We act with more compassion and sensitivity to those who need our help the most.  Living spiritually is about bringing to life those values that matter most to us.  In this blog entry, we will explore how we can nurture our Spiritual Wellbeing by looking at some concepts and practices that can assist us in living a more integrated life.

In their groundbreaking book entitled Wellbeing, Tom Rath and Jim Harter identify five common elements across cultures that are crucial for an individual’s sense of wellbeing.  Their findings are grounded in survey data asking people from all walks of life in over 150 countries (representing 98% of the world’s population) about their sense of wellbeing. Rath and Hartner found a variety of rich and important insights which I encourage you to peruse at your leisure.  A few insights are particularly relevant to our purposes here.

First, each aspect of wellbeing is interrelated with the others.  While we have been exploring slightly different elements of wellbeing, the same concept applies.  We cannot explore the concept of Mental Wellbeing without touching on some aspects of Emotional Wellbeing.  Another obvious example is yoga which seeks to fuse the physical and spiritual into one practice. 

Second, 66% of the population rated themselves as doing well in at least one aspect of wellbeing, while only 7% were thriving in all aspects.  This is an astounding finding, although perhaps not surprising.  As Rath and Hartner point out, we tend to focus on the one aspect of wellbeing that we are good at or are comfortable with, and tend to ignore the rest.  But if all these aspects are interrelated, how can we expect to thrive if we consistently neglect other key aspects of our lives that contribute to our overall sense of wellbeing?

This is where a Spirituality for Wholeness may be of some assistance.  Spirituality for Wholeness is about maintaining a commitment to personal growth in all aspects of our lives.  It is about both building upon our strengths and making time to develop those aspects of our lives that we tend to neglect.  For instance, it is easy to get wrapped up in our careers and forget about nurturing our relationships.  Or, we may sacrifice the time and energy that is necessary to take care of our physical health, not realizing that we have less of ourselves to give if we allow ourselves to get run down or even get sick from neglect. 

Living spiritually means aligning your actions with your professed beliefs.  Spirituality for Wholeness professes the belief that each aspect of our life is precious and worthy of care so that we can be our best selves in the world.  Practicing a Spirituality for Wholeness challenges you to let the deepest hopes for your life, what you hope to accomplish and who you wish to become, guide your choices. 

Allow me to introduce just one suggested practice to nurture a spirituality that seeks wholeness.  It is the practice of regularly reflecting upon the direction of your life: where you have been, where you are now, and where you are going.  Naturally, this is done in light of who you wish to become and what you hope to accomplish.  This reflection is not merely a review of the day to day events in your life, but it is about putting those events into the big picture of the story of your life and how it is unfolding.  This can be a very empowering practice as it offers a longer term perspective on our lives than we usually take.  The real power of this practice is in its regularity.  If it is an hour or two once a week, one day every month, a full week each year, or a combination of these, regular reflection not only nourishes the soul, it rejuvenates the mind, and refreshes the spirit. 

The practice of a purposeful reflection upon our lives is actually the inspiration behind our Costa Rica vacations.  These vacations offer time and space especially set aside for personal renewal.  For more information on how to integrate this practice and for other practices contributing to a spirituality for wholeness, contact us at

Our hope for you is that you consider the power and potential that a deepening practice of your spirituality can bring into your life.  A nice addition to your spiritual practices may be establishing a habit of regular reflection and renewal in your life.  We believe it will result in a richer, more fulfilling life for you, for your loved ones, and for the many lives that you touch along the way.  And, if joining us for some renewal time in Costa Rica next summer may assist you in your journey to wholeness, please do not hesitate to contact us for more informationJ

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Living from your soul - Careers and calls

Living from your soul - Careers and calls
1. Cultivating purpose: Discovering your unique calls in life
2. Pursuing your “calls” in life: Being your best self in the world
3. Growing in meaning, purpose, and passion: Leading from within

It is impossible to talk about what it means to be happy and fulfilled in life without addressing the part of your life that has the biggest impact on your daily sense of wellbeing (other than our relationships with family and friends).  That, of course, is your career. 

Some simple math may help to illustrate just how significant that part of your life is.  Let’s say that you are lucky enough to find full time employment for the duration of your work life.  Most jobs require around 40 hours per week (for some of us that is a light work week).  And let’s say that you are lucky enough to get a job that offers three full months of vacation, so that you only work 40 weeks out of the year.  And let’s say that you begin work in your twenties and can retire (what is now early) in your sixties, so 40 years of work give or take.  In this rosy scenario, we are still working 40 hours times 40 weeks times 40 years which equals … I don’t know, let me get my calculator … 64,000 hours!  A huge number to get your head around but I think you get the point.  That is way too much of your life to do something that is unfulfilling.

Career choice matters to your sense of wellbeing.  Some prefer the word occupation, as in, what occupies about one half of our waking life.  I prefer to use the word call because it connotes a sense of purpose and meaning in your work, one that is freely chosen and pursued with passion.  Perhaps that is why I place it under the topic of Spiritual Wellbeing, because, when rightly understood it offers the greatest potential for you to live a more authentic and fulfilling life.

So, what is a call and how can you live from a sense of call?  My favorite formulation for call is a quote from American writer and theologian, Frederick Buechner, who declared that you are called to the place “where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need”.  This statement is poignant and practical in that it recognizes that a call is both meaningful to you and purposeful in the way it serves the world.  The promise of call is that you do not have to forfeit a sense of meaning and purpose in your work life. 

Allow me to illustrate with an example, if I may.  A former student of mine was entering her “quarter life crisis” and despairing of ever finding a job that would suit her unique abilities and interests.  Not unlike most of us, she toiled in job after job without finding much to motivate her beyond the paycheck.  Nevertheless, she continued to search for something more fulfilling in her work life, and she proactively took steps to find a better fit.  We just had coffee before I left for Costa Rica and she informed me that she landed her dream job in her hometown as Director of Development for her former school.  Needless to say, she was thrilled, maybe most of all because her efforts are what made it happen.  She was patient with the process of seeking a connection between what she uniquely had to offer and what the world needed her to do (which often translates into “somebody is willing to pay you for it”).

At Leadership for Life, we recognize the central role that career plays in your life and we are particularly interested in helping you to explore what it would mean to consider your chosen career as a calling.  If you have an interest in exploring this further, please contact us at for more information.

During our Costa Rica vacations, you have much needed time away from the everyday concerns of the workplace.  Being physically in a different place can often help you to be in a different frame of mind, so that you can imagine creatively and courageously where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger. 

Come away with us next summer and dream of the possibilities for your work life in a beautiful and inspirational setting!  Or contact us if you want to explore this notion right now, right where you areJ

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Emotional Wellbeing - Relationships matter!

Emotional Wellbeing - Relationships matter
  1. Relational health: Who matters in your life?
  2. Community engagement: What matters in your life?
  3. Growing emotionally: Emotional and social intelligence
Who matters in your life?  What matters in your life?  These are the questions that get to the heart of our lives.  How we answer those questions is intimately connected to our Emotional Wellbeing and is the topic of this blog.

At Leadership for Life, we encourage you to look at all the significant relationships in your life by taking time to reflect on the history of those relationships and the quality of those relationships in your life now.  As we have all experienced, some relationships are strong for a particular season in our lives and then fade.  Some seem to be predicated on a mutual interest or pursuit.  And others are for a lifetime.  We believe it is important to reflect on all the significant relationships in your life, but we find that it is reflection on those life long relationships that seems to be at the heart of Emotional Wellbeing.

Likewise, we encourage you reflect on the communities and causes that you give your time and energy to.  Are they still important to you?  What is the quality of your participation in those communities?  What is the depth of your commitment to the causes you have chosen to support with time and/or financial resources?  Like relationships, our commitment to communities and causes may evolve over time and to be aware of that evolution, we have found, is a key contributor to maintaining a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life.

In Costa Rica, you are invited to take advantage of the time away from the demands of everyday life to think about the relationships in your life that matter most.  To assist you in reflecting upon those relationships, you are introduced to the dynamic concepts of growing in emotional and social intelligence.  This is a field of research that began in the 1920’s, was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s writing on the topic, and has been advanced by recent book on the neuroscience underpinning emotional and social intelligence.  It is a fascinating read! 

For those of you who are interested in learning more about how emotional intelligence can improve your Emotional Wellbeing, Leadership for Life offers emotional intelligence assessments and sessions on improving your social and emotional intelligence.  For those of you who join us in Costa Rica, an introductory session on emotional and social intelligence is offered before you go on vacation so that you can make the most of your time in paradiseJ

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mental Wellbeing - Mindful living. Happy life.

Mental  Wellbeing - Mindful living.  Happy life.
  1. Mental hygiene: Positive mental attitude / avoiding self defeating thoughts
  2. Mental focus: Meditation for Mindfulness
  3. Mental stimulation and growth: Lifelong learning
Since our physical health is intimately connected with our mental health, we explore next the concept of Mental Wellbeing.  First, let me clear on what we mean by Mental Wellbeing.  Mental Wellbeing cultivates a sense of joy and contentment in the simple pleasures of every day life.  Mindful living, which leads to a deeper sense of Mental Wellbeing, is not meant to be a replacement for quality mental healthcare.  However, practices associated with mindful living are certainly related to your mental health and they can be a powerful complement with what you may already be doing for your psychological health.

So, how does Leadership for Life help you to maintain and grow in your Mental Wellbeing?  We focus on three primary areas: mental hygiene, mental focus, and mental stimulation and growth.

First, we help you to begin (or continue with) a process of mental hygiene.  This is a kind of “audit” of your everyday thoughts.  Too many of us have patterns of thinking that are self defeating.  Awareness of these patterns is the first step to reversing them, so we can stop being our own worst enemy.  The work of Martin Seligman in Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the practices of cognitive therapy are two key resources in this area.

Second, we introduce you to various practices of meditation which increase mindfulness in daily life and tend to promote a deeper sense of gratitude and clarity of purpose.  Some of you may already have a regular and vibrant practice of meditation, so we will work with you on your own personal practices and introduce you to new ways of meditating.  For newcomers or those of you who are not as familiar with meditation practices, we offer you a variety of meditation techniques that you can try until you find one that works for you.  Essentially, our meditation practices are offered to assist you in living more fully in the present moment.

Finally, we strongly encourage you to explore making a commitment to some form of lifelong learning in whatever field you find most interesting or compelling for you at this time in your life.  As Steven Covey professes in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, spending time regularly on personal development is crucial for growth and vibrancy in our lives, particularly in the life of the mind.  We provide suggestions and resources for how you can integrate such practices into your everyday life.

In Costa Rica, there are so many breathtakingly beautiful sights, from the beaches to the rainforest, to the natural parks and preserves.  We believe that beauty inspires us to look deeper at reality and our lives, so that we may consider how we perceive the world around us and how we can best live our lives in harmony with that world.  Come join us and see for yourself!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nutrition: Eating for Life

Physical Wellbeing:  What every body needs to thrive
Nutrition: Eating for life

We saved the best for last, completing our reflections on Physical Wellbeing with nutrition.  Arguably, this is the most important, and least appreciated, aspect of maintaining Physical Wellbeing. 

Nobody likes being told what to do, or worse yet, what to eat!  So we take a different approach at Leadership for Life.  We encourage you to think of nutrition and your eating choices as a form of energy balance. 

Healthy, happy people have enough energy to do what they most want to do in life.  I don’t mean completing a “bucket list” before you die, but rather having enough energy to live fully each day and not feel like you are just making it through the day.  Naturally, we all occasionally have days where we are just getting by.  However, if days like that are the rule in your life, rather than the exception, then getting proper nutrition may be your ticket to a more energized lifeJ 

The concept of energy balance is simple: calories in = calories out + stored energy (usually in the form of unwanted fat).  We want to take in enough calories in order to enjoy what is most important to you – playing with our children, accomplishing tasks at work, spending time with friends, etc. - without overdoing our intake and/or taking in relatively useless calories.

In order to do this, Leadership for Life does NOT encourage a prescriptive diet but rather thinks about diet in a different way.  We think of diet as a lifestyle, or way of life, rather than some form of restrictive food rationing.  In fact, the origin of the word diet is from the Greek word, diaita, meaning way of life.  Instead of dieting (since most crash diets don’t work), think about crafting a healthy “eating lifestyle” that works for you. 

To use a personal example, I spent January in Florence, Italy, where the temptations to overindulge were many and deliciousJ  My colleagues and I ate hearty Italian meals with all the trimmings but none of us gained any extra weight because we adapted our lifestyle to accommodate the increased calories that we were too tasty to turn down.  We did this by simply walking around the beautiful city of Florence, both before and immediately following every big meal.  It is amazing what little adjustments can do for your health!

During our Costa Rica vacations, we encourage you to experiment with variations in your diet.  For example, one minor adjustment that you might consider is including more of their delicious fresh fish and fruits into your diet in lieu of some heavier carbohydrates.  I hope that you will consider these thoughts on healthier living a bit more, and perhaps view this website for more ideas on eating for life.  Better yet, come explore the tasty options for crafting a healthy eating lifestyle in Costa Rica this summer!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rest: Making time for physical restoration and healing

Physical Wellbeing:  What every body needs to thrive
Rest: Making time for physical restoration and healing

EQUALLY IMPORTANT as developing the habit of regular exercise is getting enough rest – this is perhaps our favorite part of any weekend or vacation and, in our busy lives, we often wait until then to “catch up on our sleep”.  Unfortunately, recent studies show that catching up on sleep does not work as well as we might hope.  

In a 2002 study conducted of contemporary sleeping habits, it estimated that nearly half of all American suffer some form of sleep deprivation.  Besides decreasing our effectiveness, it is just plain miserable to suffer throughout the day (especially a work day) being under-rested or even exhausted.  Chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to major health problems if it is not addressed. 

For a normal, healthy adult, seven to eight hours of sleep each night is suggested by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for optimal health.  Sleep restores not just our physical bodies but assists with mental and emotional health management.  The healthiest and most restorative times for sleep synchronize with our circadian rhythms, which are linked to metabolism of cells and occur most effectively with consistent 7-8 hours of nighttime sleep.

Global societies with the greatest success in promoting longevity include a “siesta” as part of their lifestyle.  Short, well timed naps, perhaps mid-afternoon for 20-30 minutes, may also assist in assuring that the body gets enough rest.  In the end, having enough energy on a daily basis to accomplish what is most important to you may be the best guide for determining healthy sleep patterns FOR YOU. 

During our Costa Rica vacations, just as we encourage you to find a way to move your body that you find enjoyable (usually known by its less popular name - exercise).  We also encourage you to take all the time that you body needs to rest and re-create itself, so that you feel rejuvenated, not drained, when you return to you everyday life.

Taking a vacation with Leadership for Life in Costa Rica, soothed by the sound of the ocean waves and the swimming pool complex waterfalls, is an excellent place to recommit to healthy sleep patterns and to test what will work for you back home.
Come join us!

In our next blog, we will explore the role of nutrition in Physical Wellbeing and discuss the concept of “Eating for Life”J

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Physical Wellbeing: What every body needs to thrive!

Physical Wellbeing:  What every body needs to thrive
Exercise: Re-creation for the body

In an earlier blog, we identified the three things that every body needs to thrive: balanced nutrition, moderate exercise, and adequate rest.  Besides being the key to feeling healthy and more energetic in your daily life, attending to these three aspects of your Physical Wellbeing can help to stave off major illnesses like cancer and heart disease.   It is believed that about 1/3 of our health is genetically predetermined, which means the rest (of our Physical Wellbeing) is up to us!

In the next three blog entries, I would like to offer some insights from the Physical Wellbeing portion of our Costa Rica vacations.  Please allow me to offer a few simple suggestions and some practical applications from our experiences here in Costa Rica.  My hope is that some of these suggestions will help you to improve your physical health and sense of well being, in small but potentially powerful ways.  I will begin first with exercise since it is so often avoided simply because we fail to find a way to make it fun! 

Leadership for Life wants to help you find a way to make exercise a fun activity rather than a tedious chore, or something you avoid.  The key is identifying your favorite way to move your body!  If you love to dance, dance may serve as your primary form of exercise.  If you enjoy the outdoors, hiking, biking, or taking a walk around town may be good choices for you.  And, for those of you who are more socially oriented in your exercise habits, joining a team sport is a fun and social way to get some exercise.  The key is to identify what type of exercise is BEST FOR YOU!

Leadership for Life’s Costa Rica vacations offer a wide variety of forms of exercise that you can experiment with.  Our location on the coast is home to some of the world’s best surfing, and the 80 degree ocean temperature makes it a great spot to swim, snorkel, or try your hand at something new, like paddle boarding.  Activities including hiking through the rainforest, repelling down waterfalls, and “zip-lining” above the tree tops are all available in Costa Rica and illustrate how thrilling exercise can be!  For those who enjoy more group led activities, we offer yoga, spinning classes, core workouts, and even mixed martial arts training at our local gym.  Essentially, our Costa Rica vacations offer many opportunities to experiment with new forms of exercise and/or to reengage in old favorites, planting the seeds for healthier living when you return home. 

If you want to see one our affiliated surf schools, take a look at Witches Rock Surf Camp across the street from our vacation homes.  For those of you who like to snorkel, sail, or fish, nearby Blue Dolphin Sailing offers tours daily.  And for just about any other adventure you are looking for, Costa Rica most likely offers it!  For a full listing, click here.

In our next blog, we will explore the crucial complement to exercise, and a favorite Costa Rica pastime, rest and relaxationJ