During a recent morning walk, a friend and I got into a great discussion about ritual and routine. He told me about the Native American ceremonies he had started attended (and I look forward to joining him) and I told him about the basic fundamentals that I needed to create a foundation for A Day Well Lived. I call these actions my ABCs. They had evolved over time, but simply put, if I do these basic things, I know that I am better positioned to consciously move through the day. I call it SWAMI: Sweat, Write, Accountability, Meditate & Intention.
Sweat: The science behind the importance of exercise not simply for health reasons, but as a tool to fight depression and anxiety is clear. From the endorphin release to the feeling of accomplishment, daily exercise keeps me focused and in the light.
Write: It doesn’t matter if I work on the rewrite of my book, write a LinkedIn post, or a letter to a friend, I need to write. I find writing to be healing, cathartic and rewarding. Like a workout, I appreciate the feelings of accomplishment (even when I write stuff that may not be fabulous).
Accountability: It’s taken me a long time to realize that I can’t go it alone. I need help. I check in regularly (if not daily) with friends who keep me on track with my health (Did I workout today? How did I eat? Etc.), writing (Did I finish my 500 words?) and work (How am I tracking on the new ADWL podcast and newsletter prep?).
Meditate: Quieting my mind is not easy. If I meditate for 15 minutes every morning, I’m lucky to “do it right” for five (okay three). My mind is all over the map during those 15 minutes. But the practice isn’t so much about those 15 minutes as it is about the rest of the day. With meditation, I respond much more than I react. I’m far more aware.
Intention: A daily simple reminder to make today A Day Well Lived. With that intention set, I can move through the day with a goal.
But what about Love, Gratitude, Fatherhood, etc? All important. All parts of my day. I’ve learned that I’m able to love more, feel more gratitude, be a better dad and have more faith in myself if SWAMI comes first. They are all built on my SWAMI foundation.
When I speak on college campuses, I always lead with a warning that goes something like this: What you’re about to hear is a talk that is based on my life experiences. As a result, all, some or none of it may resonate. Why? Because you’ve had different experiences. I tell the students to interrupt me. I tell them to ask questions or even call bullshit if necessary. I’m good with that. Same goes for knowing your ABCs. We all have different experiences and different needs. We all have a different core and answer to our own unique realities. I know that Faith, for example, is a huge component to the ABCs of many friends and colleagues.
But what I know to be true for me is simple: If I go more than a couple of days without consciously performing my SWAMI ritual, without my ABCs, chances are I’m a pretty difficult person to be around. SWAMI is the foundation on which my everything gets built. I’m a better person. I’m a better friend. I get more done. I’m better equipped to respond to challenges and less likely to react. And when I put my head on the pillow at the end of the day, I’m far more likely to feel as though the day was A Day Well Lived.
I’m curious: What’s your SWAMI? What are your ABCs?