A model to cover life’s basics

May 25, 2013 by Joshua
in Awareness, Exercises, Fitness, Models, Nature, Tips

[This post is part of a series on “Mental models and beliefs: an exercise to identify yours.” If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with obligations? So much that you find yourself losing sense of your priorities?

Today’s simple model reminds me of my basics. If you’re reading this at some regular, calm time, it may seem too basic to think about. Its value comes when you’re stressed or overwhelmed. Then it can shift your perspective and simplify things.

A model to cover the basics: You can’t improve anything until you’ve covered sleep, food, and exercise.

However you want to improve your life, if you don’t ensure you’ve covered the basics, the rest won’t matter. Today’s model is what I consider the basics

  • The right amount of sleep (varies per person; was about eight hours when I was younger, under seven for me now)
  • Healthy food
  • Exercise

It’s easy when stressed to put off any of these. After all, you can get by without enough of any for a little while. But today’s model says once you let them go, the rest of life will deteriorate.

By contrast, these basics aren’t hard to remember, nor hard to implement. If you think you have to skip one, a simple strategy emerges:

If you feel you have to abandon sleep, food, or exercise, even temporarily, imagine how you’d have to change your life to restore it and ask yourself if that change improves your life and brings it closer to your values.

If you are skipping any of them already and are trying to figure out ways to improve your life start with them.

Only a few critical necessities for life itself are more important, like access to air, water, protection from the elements, and the like. Readers of this blog probably don’t have to worry about those things, though you might consider them.

When I use this belief

I use this belief when life feels overwhelming or I’m too stressed by some deadline that I find myself skipping these basics. The belief helps remind me I work on projects to improve my life so if I’m worsening it, I realize I should probably do what it takes to restore the right amount of sleep for me, healthy eating, and exercise.

What this belief replaces

This belief replaces thinking you can skip some important things in life to handle stress with realizing skipping those things usually contributes to stress.

Where this belief leads

This belief leads to making sure you cover the basics of life — sleep, food, and exercise. If you don’t have them, it directs you to the areas you can most effectively improve your life.

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