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Nourish Your Needs

This article is about figuring out what you need to thrive in your environment. 

What do I need right now? For a long time, my mind tended to go directly to…food! I need food! I love breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Snacktime, too! So, imagine my surprise when I learned that the feeling of hunger, for some of us, is not always about food. We may need to teach ourselves to discern what type of “food” we need.

When I think of giving my body what it needs, I think of the word nourishment. Nourishment is a concept we associate with food, but years ago, while studying integrative nutrition, I was introduced to a broader way to view nourishment: nourishment as what we spend our time on that is life giving. How do we nourish ourselves through sleeping, drinking and eating, social interactions, reading, writing, thinking, reflecting, feeling, and relaxing?

And that more expansive set of activities can help provide answers to this question: What types of nourishment do you need from the world around you to thrive (a) as a person (b) in your situation (c) in your environment, (d) at this time? 

Our needs change by season and environment and, therefore, so does the nourishment we need in order to thrive. 

Knowing what you need requires putting effort into knowing where you are in time (season) and space (situation / environment / relationships). 

Putting effort into learning what you need WILL BE uncomfortable. You will be interrupting your pattern of familiar behaviors. You’ll FEEL uncomfortable and so will others with whom you spend time. The effort you put into knowing yourself and your needs may not be immediately rewarded. Sometimes the effort can be put in on your own time with little effect on your social life. Other times, especially for busier people who spend time with others, you may have to stop yourself mid-action and figure out what’s what. 

Is it worth disrupting your life and potentially others’ lives to figure out your needs? Yes! I believe it is. I have experienced it myself and seen its value for my students and clients when they put the effort in to thrive as a person across seasons and situations. 

Figuring out what you need and how much you need can feel like taking the long way instead of the shortcut. Why would you do such a thing?! For starters, some shortcuts don’t get you the nourishment you really need. 

Shortcuts were central to the ethos of the efficiency- and productivity-minded work culture I grew up in as a budding, ambitious professional in my 20s. As any sensitive person would do, I responded to my environment! I sought and obtained efficiency and productivity skills in the hopes of quickly rising to lead an organization (nonprofit ED, Secretary of State, Olympic gold medal, here I come!). 

Did I thrive? No, I did not.

My inner 6 year old (an aspiring Olympian) had a dominant and motivating voice that kept me focused on how others would view me, instead of how I was feeling: “You should see how fast I am! Look at what a great job I can do in so little time!” 

The more seasoned me now can’t quite believe how much I have changed. Now I often think (not joking, though I get that these thoughts might seem over the top): “How fulfilled I am! How many more birds I see and hear, flavors I taste, textures I feel! Who needs tools when I can use my hands! ALL my senses are alive when I cook and eat a good meal, and I can do this as many nights a week as I want! How wonderful to take the time I need to just finish the thing! And how hasn’t this ‘taking extra time’ led to total destruction, like I once feared?”

The environment, tasks, activities, and relationships in your life are potential sources of nourishment for you to thrive. When you can see how these all play together, you can make smaller, easier, less effortful adjustments to come into balance and thrive as a person. When you practice nourishing yourself, perhaps there will be some shortcuts you’ll pass up in the spirit of putting in effort where effort is worthwhile.

In January, I ran a meal prep bootcamp for a small group. In addition to being a delightful experience, I also learned a valuable lesson. For years and years, I had searched for the “best” approach to meal planning. I LOVE to cook and wanted to do more of it. I wanted a meal planning hack to motivate me to plan interesting meals that would appeal to my whole family. I wanted meal planning to be fun. I wanted meal planning to not feel like work. 

I also wanted to teach the bootcamp participants meal planning hacks. I had tried EVERY trick, so I had a fair amount to offer. The only problem was, I hadn’t found one that worked. After one of the sessions, I was cleaning up in my kitchen. I found myself lost in thought, enjoying hand-washing some dishes. Then I thought “I’m enjoying hand-washing dishes!” Something crystallized for me that I really needed to understand: meal prep requires effort. Cooking requires effort. Cleaning up after a meal requires effort. 

Right now, I believe there is no shortcut if you want to eat a good meal with loved ones and also be able to walk into a clean kitchen in the morning. And even if there is the perfect solution out there, for now, I am VERY HAPPY to stop wasting my time on that hamster wheel. 

Cleaning up after a meal continues to feel worthwhile because I am nourishing my need to start my days in a clean, peaceful kitchen. And it gives me relaxed time at the end of the day to reflect on my favorite activity: eating a good meal with people I love.

It can be helpful to read and think about fulfilling your needs, but the real magic, I believe, is in conversation with someone with expertise in personal development. So if you see some ideas here that could help you or someone you know, consider an coaching kick-starter session. You can schedule an initial free conversation below.

That’s all for now!