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Talking with a friend over dinner a few months ago, I wound up sketching it out on a cocktail napkin.

“See,” I said, drawing the first dot with my fine-tip Sharpie, “we start out over here wanting to get healthier physically — to lose weight, or get in shape or whatever. Maybe we start working out and eating more veggies, and that helps. But then we run into some roadblocks, and we figure out that we can’t really make this new approach work long term without examining certain aspects of our lives: Where are we going to find the time to exercise more and eat better? How are we going to change our habits and automatic reactions and make this new stuff a priority? How are we going to identify and overcome our obstacles, and so on.”

My companion nodded energetically. “Right,” he said. “Been there. Done that.”

“Okay, so that takes us to this other little dot of personal development,” I say, drawing a curved line and punctuating it with another dot. “This is where we start doing some exploration into what makes us tick. This is the place where a lot of people figure out the whole body-mind-spirit connection and start seeing how their belief systems and unconscious assumptions can either support or undermine their conscious goals. This is where we start sorting out that unless we’re living our priorities and values, we probably aren’t going to get too far with our goals, and even if we do, they’re not going to bring us a lot of pleasure.”

I look up to see if my pal is tracking. “Totally,” he says, “like when you decide you are going to start working out three times a week but then your job goes nuts or you just don’t feel like going to the gym, so you end up blowing it off and then you feel really crappy about yourself. Or you manage to lose 10 pounds but it doesn’t seem to make much difference in how you feel.”

“Bingo,” I say. “That’s your wake-up call that different parts of you are operating according to different priorities and at different levels of awareness. So you start looking at what really matters to you, and you start asking how you can live in closer accord with your highest choices and convictions — your whole sense of purpose and integrity.”

My friend is still nodding. “Gotcha,” he says. “So now I’m looking beyond my body and into how I want to live and be.”

“Yup,” I say, drawing another curving line and another dot, “and also at how your life choices fit into a bigger picture. This takes you to Dot 3, which I call ‘sustainability.’ This is a whole web of internal and external concerns that either support or undermine the choices we made at Dot 1 and Dot 2. Basically, the question of sustainability puts our personal choices in a broader, longer-view context. It asks: Energetically, economically and ecologically, do the choices I’ve made work for the long haul? Can I afford to keep on living this way; can my community and planet continue to support this way of living? This is where you might get interested in concepts like simplicity, environmental impact and social justice.

“Of course,” I note, ”you have to be in a solid, healthy enough place before you can even begin thinking all this stuff, which is why Dot 1 and Dot 2 are so important. But once you see that connection, it’s also evident that Dot 3 feeds right back into Dot 1: A sustainable lifestyle — priorities that are consistent with your values, that help you live within your means, that work to sustain the health of your community and your planet — all these things make it easier to get and stay healthy, right?”

“I never thought of it that way before,” my friend says. “But yes, that makes perfect sense. Neat! Can I keep this napkin?”

“Sure,” I say. “But since you get the magazine, you’ll be getting most of this info in January anyway. In fact, those three dots and that circle pretty much describe the territory Experience Life is going to be covering this year.”

So that’s the sneak preview for 2005! Watch for our “Healthy Work” issue in March and our “Green” issue in April. We’ll be covering “Focus/Clarity” in May, “Good Stress/Bad Stress” in June. Stay tuned to find out about the rest of 2005! In the meantime…

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