Do You Have the Basics in Place?

Sometimes I like to talk about topics that may not seem related to your career and job transitions and all those things. That’s because I think holistically.

Renaissance personalities especially deal with so many different things that putting these in a larger perspective comes naturally to us, don’t you agree?

I want to talk about health again and the priorities we make.

As I mentioned last week; the way we show up in one part of our life is often the way we show up in other parts of our lives as well. This is why it’s so useful to take a close look at what we’re doing that’s not working. When you change a bad habit in one area of your life, you have a good chance you just eradicated it from other parts as well! More bang for your buck…I love it!

My getting sick was a turning point for me. Not because I was gravely ill – I wasn’t – but because somehow it finally dawned on me that my health should be non-negotiable, so I started a good diet and a strong exercise regimen, using stenabolic supplements to help me with this, since they help people get results faster.

I always ate well and got a decent amount of exercise. My problem was getting enough sleep and relaxation. Make that “any” relaxation and more than a few hours’ sleep.

I looked at my patterns and realized it’s not just about pushing beyond my physical limits; it’s about (not) taking myself seriously.

Let me ask you; does this sound familiar to you? For months, no, years… I’ve been saying “Tonight, I’m going to go to bed early.” “Early” meaning before midnight. Anyone who knows me well has heard me say this at some point and knew it wasn’t happening. I can count the times on two hands – yes, truly! –  that I actually went to bed before midnight during the past few years. Most of those times have been during the past week.

I just didn’t care enough to make it a priority.

As a business owner, the work is never done. When do you call it a day? If you’re motivated and excited and impatient like I am, chances are you’re working until you hear the birds wake up the next morning. Pre-mom phase…no problem. I could sleep in and regulate myself that way. But now…my son is relentless! 7am is nice…6am is more typical.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I know many of you are living crazy lives as well. If you’re employed right now AND working on a career transition…well, that’s two full-time jobs. Maybe you’re also a mom…leave alone a single mom… or dad. Maybe you’re also in school. I know.

On top of this, we have a tough mentality in the U.S. A few weeks’ vacation, tops. And if you’re one of those hard core ones who didn’t take any sick days or vacation days in five years (or longer!) you’re the unsung hero of the office. Right?

Of course this is not healthy and definitely not something we should encourage. Not as a society, not in the work force, not for our family members, and not for ourselves.

Obviously, there are situations in which you just need to “suck it up” and do what you have to do for a while.
I totally get that.

It’s when this way of living becomes your normal MO even after the dust has settled that this becomes a problem.

You feel as if doing anything less is a luxury you can’t afford.

Let me tell you…as a single mom with a limited support system due to the fact that I’m an only child, my dad is deceased, and my mom has health issues that prevent her from being as involved as she’d love to be with my son, and with my son’s father living overseas, I hear you.

Just a few weeks ago, I’d get pissed when someone would tell me to “slow down” and “take it easy.” What would they know? As I’m currently living in the Netherlands, I’m living amidst people with long-term employment contracts (meaning it’s near impossible to fire them), who, at a minimum, get four or five weeks’ vacation, not including all kinds of extra days and hours that add up, and with a nice system to fall back on if you get sick or hurt. No sick days…you get to stay home for a long, long time while still getting paid.

(Full disclosure: taxes are sky high here, so don’t rush over just yet.)

So…coming from people who are used to this system, and from people who have a partner (so no single parents), I always felt a big disconnect. I felt that they didn’t know what it’s like to be in my shoes. And they didn’t. They still don’t. But that doesn’t matter. They’re right. And they were saying it because they care about me. (Or maybe they just wanted my company going to Ikea and things like that but I like to give them the benefit of the doubt.  :  )

The reason I’m saying this to you right now is because I care too. (I’d love for you to join me on my next furniture shopping spree as well but that might have to wait.)

So if you are one of those people working yourself to the bone, and, worse; doing so proudly, then ask yourself what would be a better scenario: working a little less so you at least take care of some essentials, or going on this way and collapsing or burning out at some point and being incapable of doing anything at that point? Or getting seriously ill?

If you have kids yourself I don’t need to bring them up, right? They need you.

And when you’re old and looking back on your life…do you think you’ll remember all those deadlines you made? That one extra project you fit in? One more client? Or will the special moments with your family and friends stand out?

Yeah, yeah…I know…the way to have these special times in the first place requires you work this hard to make the money you need.

For the sake of this conversation, let’s get out of “yeah but” mode for just a few minutes, ok?

If you’re operating like a maniac – let’s call a spade a spade – for a very short period (maybe a few weeks) and you know it’s over after that….that’s different.

But if this has become a lifestyle, I have a challenge for you.

It’s the same challenge I’ve given myself since last week and I’m working on this every day now.

It’s very simple and very challenging at the same time.

Make your health non-negotiable by tending to its basic needs.

What do I mean?

Make sure you:

– Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

– Eat a healthy diet (I don’t need to tell you what’s healthy and unhealthy…you know)

– Get some exercise.

And exercise, my friends, could be as simple as taking walks. Low impact, easy to do, free, and one of the best ways to start if you’ve been leading a sedentary life or don’t feel like joining the gym. I hate gyms. I’m either dancing or roller blading or biking somewhere (killing two birds with one stone). But maybe you love the gym. The point is; do what works for you!

Sleep has always been a tough one for me. I always felt I was missing out and wanted to stay up late. As an adult, that’s what I started doing.

Of course I’m not telling you anything new, but maybe this time something resonates for you.

For me, it was reading Dr. Susan Biali’s book that reinforced what I knew I should be doing in this regard. It was like a “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” type of thing.

Her book is called “Live a Life You Love – 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You.” The picture at the top is of her book cove.

So it just so happens that I love learning from her. You know how some people just rub you the wrong way so you’re tuned out even before they open their mouth, let alone you’d read their books or web sites?

Susan is one of those people that is not like that. I respect her and relate to her. She shares her own struggles and things that make her just as human as the next person.

I mentioned Susan a few weeks ago. I call her a “renaissance personality extraordinaire” as she went from being a doctor to a writer to a wellness expert to a photographer to a dancer to an international speaker (yes, she got paid to do all those things). Oh, and she’s not even 40.

Basically, it’s her story and the seven major ingredients that helped her along her journey and brought her where she is now. She is a renaissance woman without realizing that’s what she was. (She does now…we emailed back and forth.)

So, about making these changes.

I don’t want to say it’s about life/work balance – I have some thoughts on that as well by the way. What I’m talking about is much more basic. It’s just about your health and the underlying reasons we may sabotage it.

I believe that ultimately, it’s about deciding that this is important to you. It’s just like it is with smoking and other addictions. The only people I’ve seen quit smoking successfully are the ones who decided, in their heart of hearts, that they had enough. They quit cold turkey and stayed off it. Those who use patches and try to “smoke less” never kick the habit. At least from what I’ve witnessed.

For me, changing my sleeping habits is like this. There’s no negotiating with myself anymore. “Just five more minutes behind my laptop” turns into hours without me even noticing it. So, today, I turn my laptop off around 10pm at the latest. Yes, “around” as I find that some wiggle room works best for me. But…I MUST be in bed before midnight. That’s the next step in the plan. And that I make sure of. So far, I’ve only stayed on my laptop until 10:20pm at the latest.

Susan says something that I thought was insightful. She said that whenever you make life style choices such as what to eat and whether to exercise and how much to sleep; keep your overall goal for yourself in mind. What do you want for yourself? How does this fit into the life you want to create? The activities you want to do? Where are your current habits leading you? Are they supporting your goals or sabotaging them?

Again, I absolutely love her book. Great stuff for anyone but particularly if you’re a renaissance personality. I have her book right next to my bed. If I’m in bed well before midnight I get to read it in bed  ;   )

You can buy it on Amazon and in the bookstore. And no – I have no financial interest in mentioning her book. I simply love to pass the word on people and things I love. In fact, expect more subject matter experts and resources here. I will also do a give-away of Susan’s book in the near future, so keep an eye out for that!

So tell me; what are your struggles in this area? Did you find a way to integrate basic self care into your crazy life? Tell us – leave a comment, ok?


  1. Hi Illona,

    What you talked about in this article resonates with how I’ve been living my life as well. A few months ago I started taking yoga classes as a way of reducing stress in my life and for just over all well-being. I loved it but I still struggle with going to bed before 11:30 every night. And lately it’s gotten even worse — I think I slept close to 1 a.m. or around 1 a.m. last night. I, too keep telling myself I’ll sleep an hour or 30 minutes earlier. I think the most difficult part for me is feeling like I miss out on something if I sleep earlier or I didn’t accomplish enough for the day. Your article is a good reminder of how we sometimes just need to go back to basics.

    Comment by Ronnie — April 21, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

  2. No. Not in my life.
    Periodically I manage to regain some balance with work and health. Unfortunately, life takes a turn and I find myself just working. With my work habits, I have always been the one that assumes the additional work that the majority of my coworkers refuse to take. My excuse is someone has to do it!
    Although this may be considered, by some, as a commendable trait it has never been rewarded when companies have lay offs. I have worked for too many companies in the 29 years I’ve been working.
    By the way, is a renaissance personality a person who has been a Designer, Inside Sales, Technical Customer Service, an Engineer, etc. My resume probably scares the heck out of some people. I would like to find a job that I can keep for the next 20 years. Something tells me my next job will be yet another chapter in my life. Wish me luck or point me in the right direction. I certainly haven’t been able to, as much as I try!

    Comment by Joe Langdon — April 21, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

  3. Hello Ilona!
    Thank you so much for this – not just because you mentioned my book (I’m so happy that you’re enjoying it so much) but because what you’re talking about is just so incredibly relevant to so many of us.

    Even though I’ve written a book which discusses this way-too-busy-and-not-listening-to-your-body issue, it’s something that I still have to be vigilant about on a daily basis or I start to slip back into old habits.

    I wonder it’s a “renaissance” characteristic to not want to go to bed? To hate wasting precious life hours, because we just have so many different things we’d like to do with those hours? Of course, it’s an illusion/compulsion that betrays us, because when we start cutting corners with sleep, exercise, food, etc., we eventually end up sick or exhausted and incapable of doing much at all.

    Your post helps me because even though I’ve improved dramatically with respect to this issue, I still have nights where I’m tempted to stay on the computer for “just 5 more minutes” (= at least an hour). Thanks for the reminder! It will help me resist when I’m tempted : )

    Being disciplined about sleep, exercise (even just walks, as you mention) and eating healthy food throughout the day is the fuel that will ultimately power the execution of our goals and talents and take us to where we dream of going in our renaissance lives. Ignoring our bodies and health will have exactly the opposite effect.

    Thank you, Ilona! Love your work.

    Comment by Dr. Susan Biali — April 22, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

  4. Hi Ronnie!

    Funny how this theme of feeling like you’re missing out on something or haven’t quite finished all you planned for the day keeps reappearing. I hear that from a lot of people and totally relate to it myself too.

    What really puzzles me is why we’re all having such a hard time going to bed a little earlier. You’d almost think we’re talking about a coke addiction or something!

    Thanks for commenting!

    Comment by Ilona — April 24, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

  5. Hey Joe!

    That’s so go above and beyond, but in the end, you’re out on the street when there are layoffs just as fast as the rest. A good work ethic is great, but we all could use a reality check about what’s normal and healthy for an employer to expect from us.

    A renaissance personality is someone with tons of highly diverse interests and talents. Kind of the opposite of a specialist. I wrote a few blog posts about this, or you could check (it’s a 1-page interim site) for a basic explanation.

    Let me know if you think you fit the description!

    : )

    Comment by Ilona — April 24, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

  6. Hey Susan!

    Great having you stop by for a “guest appearance.” : )

    I’m starting to think it really is a renaissance thing to not want to “waste” time sleeping. I’ll sleep when I’m dead could truly be my life motto. Haha!

    Btw – since reading your book, I brought muesli back into my breakfast routine, with frozen organic berries. Although I always eat well, there’s always room for improvement – and variation! – and I love my new combo!

    Oh, and about the exercising…

    Folks…walking can be done in a number of ways. Yesterday, I walked for 2 hours…in Ikea. It counts! (Right, Susan? I hope it does!) If so, the options are endless: high-speed shopping sprees at the mall… ; )

    I guess that’s my other motto: kill 2 birds with 1 stone whenever you can. : D

    Susan: good luck with all your traveling – another challenge for getting enough sleep!

    And thanks for commenting and your nice words!

    Comment by Ilona — April 24, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

  7. I definately FIT the description on your
    site. What amazes me is that I see job postings that have very little to do with my background and I’m interested!
    Will I ever get off my personal merry-go-round, or will I be stuck on this till the end?

    Comment by Joe Langdon — April 25, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

  8. Joe,

    It doesn’t have to be a bad thing…at all!

    But I totally get that it can be when you haven’t been aware of this trait.

    I highly recommend these 2 books on the topic: “The Renaissance Soul” by Margaret Lobenstine and “Refuse to Choose” by Barbara Sher.

    Also, this Wednesday I’m presenting a free webinar on the topic. You’re more than welcome to join! (

    Comment by Ilona — April 26, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

  9. This book sounds excellent. I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and do pretty good with that; eating healthy is another battle. I am doing better but it’s tough to keep it up. I am excited to read this book for more ideas to help me live the life I want :)

    Comment by kristin harrington — May 13, 2010 @ 11:12 am

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