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Articles - The Entrepreneurial Personality

Resolutions for a New Century: The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

Thursday, February 11, 1999




By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.


As thrilling as it is for the members of entrepreneurial couples to have a partner as dedicated to career and business as they are, this style also produces more stress than other marital styles. Not only do entrepreneurial couples have the normal stressors that plague all career-minded Americans, such as the competing demands of love and work, but they have the added stress of having these domains of life overlap considerably. Working long hours, working out of your homes, or working and living with your spouse/business partner twenty-four hours a day leaves little time to recuperate inner strength. As the stress increases and the opportunity for recuperation diminishes, many entrepreneurial couples fall victim to stress related illnesses, mental or emotional problems, chemical dependency, and spiritual despair.
The process of losing your health (physical, psychological, interpersonal or otherwise) begins long before symptoms develop. The stress process begins the moment you allow any part of your life to be out of alignment. If one system (such as your body, your marriage, your work, etc.) is unattended or allowed to stay out of healthy alignment for too long, it affects the other systems which in turn produce stress and deterioration. In order to keep your dynamic systems in healthy productive alignment, entrepreneurial couples need to attend to and take care of the whole person, in relationship to other whole people, in relationship to the whole business entity. In other words, you cannot really separate the mind, body and spirit. These are not separate distinct parts of yourself, but interacting developing progressions, just as the other systems (i.e., family, friends, coworkers, employees, customers) of which you are a part.
The basic components that makes us human are the mind, the body and the life force or essence that some call spirit. Unresolved stress in any one of these areas will affect the other areas, leading to a breakdown in your functioning as an entrepreneur, a spouse, a parent, a colleague and so on. If you are going to manage the excessive stresses of entrepreneurial life you actually need more stamina than the average person. To combat the pressures caused by the competing demands of love and work and to build the necessary stamina for this complex lifestyle, you must build a power plan to maintain and enhance your health not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. In this short article, I will focus on the development of your spiritual power plan, taking for granted for the moment that your mind and body are well cared for. Even if this last assumption is not true, too little attention is paid to the spiritual component of entrepreneurial life and I want to correct that error.
Spirit or spirituality are not synonymous with religion or religious. Church has nothing to do with spirituality directly. Rather the spirit is that part of each human that makes us a distinctive personality. It is the part of us that defines us and yet connects us to others. It has long been known that a strong healthy spirit will guide us successfully through adversity, whereas a conquered spirit will succumb to illness and death. It was Mother Theresa's strong spirit that transcended her small stature and seemingly insignificant role as a nun to profoundly affect thousands of people for the better. Conversely, It is the conquered spirit that explains the powerful effects of subtle forms of brain washing in prisoner-of-war camps. In other words, spirit is that singular life force that directs and shapes our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, keeping spirit or life force healthy is essential to the process of achieving healthy balance in any life. For entrepreneurial couples especially, the key to effective stress management is the proper alignment and interaction of a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a healthy spirit.

Remember that spirit is not bound by religion. Many successful entrepreneurial couples do not belong to a church nor any religion, but they do have a strong sense of spirit and they do believe in God. According to Gallup Polls as recent as 1997, 90% of Americans believe in God. The spirit connection is not just a belief in God but the ability to relate to God, often through communities such as churches provide. The healthiest Americans are among those religious groups who have a strong identity with their church. For example Matthews and Koenig reported in 1997 that even if you control for dietary practices, Mormons, Jews and Seventh Day Adventists are healthier than other Americans. These three religious groups are known for their strong sense of religious community. Therefore, it is not the religion, per se, that contributes to overall health, but the intensity of the commitment to spirit whether by being a member of a religious community or by maintaining a spiritual connection in some other way.

Although most Americans believe in God, many of us are prone to have fragmented and impersonal lives, which leads to hedonism, increasing drug addiction and other health problems. Spirituality in the sense of the expression of our spirit, is not a regular part of our lives because so many of us have abandoned religion. According to Kabbani, a physician and author on Islamic spiritual healing practices, religion gives us something to believe in, an identity, a way to know ourselves in relation to others. Churches, therefore, provide a community within which to know ourselves, to belong, to repair our fragmented lives.
Many entrepreneurial couples list church attendance as the last thing on their list of things to do. After all, you are busy, busy people, working 49-60 hours a week. When would you find the time? You barely have a few moments to eat a quick meal and watch television before falling into bed at the end of your day. However, if you really want to create a balance among intimacy, family life and meaningful work, you need to repair the third leg of the mind - body - spirit connection. (Furthermore if you want to live long enough to experience the fruits of your labors you might want to reconsider the use of television as an expedient stress reliever. According to Matthews and Koenig, there is a positive correlation between television watching and mortality. In other words, the more you watch TV, the shorter your life.)

Einstein once said, "Religion without science is blind. Science without religion is lame." As we move into this last year of the twenty century we are realizing the truth of this statement more and more. Entrepreneurial couples are not different from other people on the planet. We are part of something much more than the sum of the parts. Those who embrace their spirit connection are finding greater health and prosperity and science is starting to prove it. For example, in a Duke University study by Herb Koenig, elderly patients who are regular church attenders stayed in the hospital a shorter length of time (ten days on average) than those patients who did not attend church (twenty-five days.) In another study (Graham, Kaplan, Coroni-Huntley, James, Becker, Hames, and Heyden, 1978) researchers compared smokers' blood pressure among participants who were two-pack-a-day smokers. Those who attended church had lower blood pressure than those who did not; indeed the church attenders had blood pressure that was no different than those who did not smoke. In a third study (Desmond and Maddox, 1981), this on of heroin addicts, researchers reported that 45 percent of participants in a religiously oriented treatment program were still abstinent at the time of a one year follow-up, compared to only 5 percent who participated in a non-religious program.

It is true that you cannot always prevent pain. Although change is constant, you cannot always predict accurately what those changes will be and pain may be a natural by product of the interaction of your dynamically interacting systems. Yet if you have a healthy spiritual connection your suffering may be minimized, as the previous few studies indicate. For Viktor Frankl, a Jew confined in a Nazi concentration camp: "Man is not diminished by suffering, but by suffering without meaning."

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, was another healer who found the balance between mind, body and spirit to be essential to health.

According to Nightingale pain relief comes from attending to the body through medicine such as analgesics and surgery, attending to the mind through stress management methods, and attending to the spirit through prayer or inner contemplation. Nightingale suggested that prayer was more than mind calming. Because the universe is orderly, inner contemplation invokes order or balance within, creating healing.

Many methods of relaxation have been studied, including prayer. While prayer does not achieve any greater relaxation than for example, transcendental meditation (TM), other research has indeed shown the healing (not just relaxing) power of prayer. In fact, those who are prayed for, even though they do not pray for themselves, heal faster. Byrd reported in 1988 that hospitalized cardiac patients who were prayed for had, as a group, less congestive heart failure, used less diuretics, had fewer cardiopulmonary arrests, had less pneumonia, used fewer antibiotics and were less frequently intubated, than a similarly matched group of hospitalized cardiac patients who were not prayed for. Furthermore, the patients did not know they were being prayed for and the religions of the patient or the person praying were not relevant. In other words it is not religion that heals, nor is religion the direct connection to spirit, but there is a spirit-to-spirit connection between people.

As you approach this year 1999, the ending of the twentieth century, the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is time to make not just new years resolutions but resolutions for a lifetime. If working hard to make an entrepreneurial business successful and profitable results in workaholism, drug addiction, financial problems, domestic violence, extra-marital affairs and divorce, what's the point? Even if your life has lead you in one of these stressful directions, don't despair. Make meaning of the experience and put the disaster into the context of your life. Then reorient that life to meet your values. If one of those values is a belief in God (as is true for 90% of Americans), yet you are not attending to that spiritual relationship, the balance in your life is compromised and will inevitably lead you to some form of personal or interpersonal dysfunction. On the other hand, if you develop a stronger sense of self, a sense of self as belonging to something larger than just this earthly existence, and you make a commitment to that higher self (i.e. through prayer or inner contemplation), even when you have suffering, you will have a meaningful and prosperous life to share with the ones you love and work with.