Health is Wealth

Posted: March 8, 2015 by Chuck Matthews in Uncategorized

Dr. Chuck MatthewsThe first wealth is health.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is estimated that sleep deprivation costs the average US worker over $2,200 in lost productivity each year or $63 billion as a nation. Moreover, a lack of sleep has been linked to a myriad of undesirable health issues such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

For busy entrepreneurs, taking care of one’s health too often takes a back seat to the pursuit of what seems in the moment to be a more pressing objective – the survivability of the new venture. It is relatively easy to succumb to the temptation of taking our health for granted, especially when we are young and relatively fit and driven to make the nascent venture a success.

The most important objective of every entrepreneur is to take care of his or her health first. I think of this every time I fly commercially. During the pre-flight safety message, you are instructed that in the event of cabin depressurization, oxygen masks are deployed from overhead; put your oxygen mask on first and then assist any children. As any parent will tell you that is not the way you think of the order of how that should happen. You are always thinking of your child first. Yet, failing to put on your oxygen mask first can actually jeopardize your ability to help your child.

So it is in the process of starting and running your own business. Failure to attend to your health can actually undermine and ultimately put your venture at risk. With so much on our minds, we run the risk of losing sight of the true value and importance of personal health.

Professor Olivier Torres is one of the few researchers to actively examine factors which determine poor and good health in entrepreneurs. He notes that there are three core concepts in achieving health and happiness: coping with stress; diet, exercise, and sleep; and as he identifies, achieving a balance in the “fundamental health entrepreneurship equation.”

Sometimes, however, it takes a critical “health event” in our lives to really wake us up to taking care of ourselves. So it was for me two years ago during a close encounter I had with the super health care professionals at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Here is what I learned and carry with me to this day from that experience: Move, eat well, relax, sleep, maintain, and discover.

Move. Thirty minutes a day and it doesn’t have to be all at once. Three 10 minute sessions, walking, dancing, yoga, you name it. When people ask me what is the best exercise, I always say the one you will do. As the Nike slogan advises, however, just do it!

Eat well. Do not starve yourself. Your body needs fuel and starvation only messes up your metabolism and generally throws things out of whack. Optimize your body’s fuel needs for your lifestyle.

Relax. Stress is inevitable. In fact, a little stress can be good for us. Too much, however, is not so good. More importantly, take time to identify and reduce tension during your day. This can be a tough one, especially with deadlines and uncertainty, but reducing stress boosts your outlook and productivity.

Sleep. Getting enough sleep is a critical challenge in our fast paced world. Sleep is essential to face each day renewed and refreshed. Also, don’t underestimate the value of a 15-30 minute “power nap.”

Maintain. This was key take away for me from the Mao Clinic – take time for prevention. It is a bit trite, but so true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When was your last eye exam? Blood pressure screening? Take time to save time.

Discover. It was right there on the wall – “Discover Meaning and Purpose in Your Life.” Find and do something because you enjoy it. It can be just you time or sharing time. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, either. As James Joyce observed, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”

While each of these steps individually are empowering, collectively they are life altering. But as I also learned: small steps, big rewards. Take that first small step – the rewards are manifold. Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!

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