Sunday, July 14, 2013

Three Building Blocks of Intent: Health, Knowledge & Skills

building blocks graphic
Figure 1

In last month’s five-part “Living With Intent” series we examined three underlying philosophies for creating an eco-intentional lifestyle: permaculture, cradle-to-cradle and feng shui. This week we’ll turn our attention to several basic building blocks you can use to expand on that foundation to begin creating your own unique approach to living with intent. Obviously, there are an infinite number of blocks from which to choose and as many ways to combine them. However, I’ve chosen six, as illustrated in Figure 1, that I believe will be particularly useful for this purpose.  Three are described below (health & fitness, knowledge and skills) and then, next week we'll look at the other three (spirituality, philanthropy and arts & culture).

1. Health & Fitness

You have only to read a newspaper or turn on the television to be inundated with the latest news of the obesity and diabetes epidemics, as well as the associated cardio-vascular conditions plaguing today’s society.  However, we can each take steps to avoid or reverse that trend for ourselves by increasing our dietary intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing processed foods and red meat, which all tend to be high in fat, sugar and salt. Does this mean we need to eliminate all traces of these items from our diet?  Of course not!
Union Square Farmers Market New York, NYHowever, a more healthy balance among them is probably needed.

Several alternatives to the supermarket, for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, include farmers’ markets, participation in a community garden or CSA membership (community supported agriculture).  As community based solutions, they're a little more environmentally friendly and have the added benefit of helping to strengthen local/regional economic systems.  Here in NYC, Just Food and GrowNYC are just two of the many organizations providing information about these and other aspects of the local food movement.

Getting more exercise is also critical to improving our health.  Did you know that gardening, besides being a valuable skill and just plain fun, can also be a great form of exercise? Yup! All that bending, digging and hauling soil around gives you a real workout! This is another great advantage to participating in a community garden, if you can.

Alternative methods of getting around town, such as cycling or walking, can spice up a drab exercise routine, while reducing your carbon footprint.  With the growing popularity of bike sharing programs across the country, cycling is becoming an increasingly viable option for many more people.

Citi Bikes - Times Square

As for walking, you can pretty much get started whenever you want.  It doesn't really require any fancy, expensive equipment, or special expertise.  All you need is comfortable clothing and a good pair of sneakers, and it can be suitable for people of all ages and various fitness levels.

So put on your walking shoes or hop on your bike and check out your local green market! Or. . .do something else.  As long as it gets you out of the house and moving!

2. Knowledge

They say knowledge is power.  Whether it’s increasing awareness of what’s going on in your community, learning who to turn to for help if you need it, or gaining a better understanding of the public policy, laws and other regulations impacting your neighborhood, having this type of information will help you connect and figure out how to get more involved.

3. Skills

Knowing how to do things goes hand-in-hand with knowing what's going on. It also supports personal and community resilience.  I'm sure you’re probably saying to yourself “I’m already on overload. My brain can’t take in one more thing!”  And, unfortunately, in today’s information intense society, there always seems to be something new to learn or figure out.  So where to begin?  The list below is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point:

Skill Lists - building blocks graphic
Figure 2
These skills would be great to have under any circumstances, but are particularly useful in the wake of a catastrophic events or situations where critical infrastructure or power/energy sources have been disrupted or have failed altogether, over extended periods, as in Hurricane Sandy.  They will allow you to begin meeting in part, some of the basic necessities of daily living a little more quickly. The good news is that you don’t have to learn all of these things yourself!  You can build a network of other people who have the skills you lack.

JarsTherein lies the strengthand beauty of community— helping and supporting one another, AND the essence of what it means to be resilientthe existence of mutually beneficial inter-dependencies among community members.

How can you go about getting the necessary training to boost your knowledge and skills?  Well, there are many options available.  For highly technical skills (e.g. medical or the trades) a rigorous, formal, degree or vocational program might be necessary.  If you are building on existing skills, a certificate program or workshop may fit the bill.  For skills like sewing, gardening, or basic composting, informal classes (or series of classes) will probably be fine.  Many local organizations and governmental entities often sponsor free or low-cost events providing such instruction.  Join their mailing lists to keep abreast of their activities.  You can also visit your local library and research topics of interest.  Finally, quiet as it’s kept, your local weekly newspaper is an invaluable, tool for getting the 411 on these and many other things going on in your community, and I’ll be discussing it in depth in a future post.

These first three building blocks have been of a practical nature.  The next three speak more to several psychological aspects of creating a life of intent.

Stay tuned and see you then!

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