The Great Promise Of Simone Biles
Before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo last month, one of the most anticipated events in America was the Women’s Gymnastics. The US Women’s Gymnastics Olympic team won the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. There were expectations they would do the same this year, again led by Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic gold medalist who is by many considered the greatest female gymnast of all time. The gymnastic world expected Simone to break many medal records in Tokyo. The Women’s Gymnastics was the event that I was most excited to watch.
But early on in the games, Simone Biles dropped a bombshell and did the unthinkable when she announced that she would be withdrawing from the final individual all-around competition and the women’s gymnastics team event.
She chose to prioritize her mental health and well-being over performing.
Creating Awareness Of The Importance Of Mental Health
What bravery this young woman showed, to go against what Americans and the world expected of her and choose to put her own health and well-being and that of her team ahead of personal ambitions or expectations.
Simone is one of the leaders of her generation in sports, together with the Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, and the American swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, in taking mental-health concerns seriously. Naomi withdrew from the French Open in June of 2021, citing mental health issues. These wise young athletes are acting as role models for other young people around the globe.
To become world masters of any sport, people have to study the sport in depth and train relentlessly. That’s their work, and their sacrifice is tremendous.
But anything in the extreme can become too much and will crash the system. Simone Biles didn’t suffer a physical injury, but her state of mind was in question. It later became clear that she was suffering from twisties, a mental block that occurs when an athlete loses spatial awareness during an intense routine.
The Four Pillars Of Vitality
Simone’s story reminds me of the importance of honouring all aspects of our health and well-being. And it reminded me of the Four Pillars Of Vitality, a well-being framework introduced to me years ago, aimed at creating optimal health of body, mind, and spirit. At the time, I had awakened to the fact that I was a workaholic and needed to take a good look at myself and the choices I was making. I seemed to have only one gear — forward drive — that I used incessantly, maybe like what’s expected of these athletes to perform at their best.
So, what are these Four Pillars of Vitality?
Have you ever thought of your life as needing pillars or legs to ground and support you like a four-legged stool? If one or more legs are weak, bent, or broken, the chair will be wobbly and unstable, just as Simone Biles experienced with the twisties.
The Four Pillars Of Vitality are True Study, True Work, True Rest, and True Play.
1. True Study
You will recognize your True Study by the way you feel about it. True Study is anything that gets your attention and absorbs your focus, so you forget the time. The key is that it fascinates you and pulls you in for further discovery. It’s usually related to and preparation for your True Work.
2. True Work
True Work may or may not be related to your daily work or what makes you money. It’s the activities that make you happy and satisfied while doing them. It doesn’t feel like work, but rather something you enjoy doing and have a talent for, and that others appreciate because you do it with such ease and pleasure. True Work brings forth your purpose and contribution and brings balanced action into your life.
3. True Play
When you are experiencing True Play, you are relaxed and having fun, feeling positive and expansive, and it puts a smile on your face. It helps you to ground, be fully present in your body, and have a childlike quality of aliveness and joy. True Play keeps you from becoming scattered, too serious, and unproductive.
4. True Rest
True Rest takes you away from what you normally do and allows you to restore and revitalize your energy and vibrancy so you can do your True Study and True Work. It needs to be a rejuvenating experience that brings inspiration back into your life. It consistently relaxes you and puts your entire system back to balance. Without adequate True Rest, you will not be able to enjoy the other “trues.”
What Happened To Simone Biles?
When you are under pressure, feel fatigued, stressed out, or overworked, you have usually been driving True Study and True Work too hard at the expense of True Play and True Rest. That seems to have happened to Simone Biles; she lost her grounding, affecting her mental health, resulting in the twisties.
How did she handle it?
Simone realized she was out of balance and wisely chose to put her health first and focus on getting back to balance. She let go of True Study and True Work and moved over to True Rest, therapy, and True Play as she cheered her teammates on from the stands. Increased attention on True Rest and True Play will usually provide relief — as they did for Simone — allowing her to not only compete but go on to win the bronze on the balance beam.
Are You Balancing The Four Pillars of Your Vitality?
How is your vitality these days? Are you interested in experiencing more vibrancy and getting into better balance and optimal health? Try this! Make a list of activities in your life that belong to each pillar. Are there one or two pillars that get less of your time and attention than the others?
If you see that your pillars are lopsided, develop a plan to correct the situation, as Simone did. You may need to take some activities out of some pillars and add others to support the weak ones.
Through the years, True Rest and True Play have always been my weak links. These days I’m very intentional about what I chose to do to incorporate enough of both into my life. Learning about the importance of having all the pillars balanced and rooted, and solid has been an essential part of helping me cultivate my TRUE Power. May it do the same for you.
Resources for you
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Sadly, too many people find themselves later in life living as the hollow remains of their unfilled dreams because they bought into the cultural norm of playing it safe at the expense of their passions, creative expressions, and higher purpose.
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Rúna Bouius is a former CEO and entrepreneur from Iceland and the founder of the True Power Institute. As a keynote speaker, bestselling author, mentor, and advisor to visionary leaders and progressive entrepreneurs, she is on the vanguard of the new-business-paradigm thinking, creating better workplaces, and developing the emerging leaders. Rúna is a co-author of the bestselling book, “The Successful Mind,” a contributing author to several other books and publishing platforms, and sits on advisory boards. She is a co-founder of several social-impact platforms, including the Conscious Capitalism LA Chapter and Coventina Foundation. She specializes in helping CEOs, and C-Suite leaders accelerate their journey towards greater consciousness and TRUE Power.