1. NOURISHING: Are your basic needs getting met? Do you do a good job of advocating for and pursuing (for yourself and others) a healthy diet, adequate sleep, relaxation, and recreation, healthy diet and exercise, medical care, inspiration, motivation, new information, supportive relationships, sufficient income to meet basic needs of transportation, lodging, clothing, etc.? Do you have negative things in your life (bad relationships, addictions, etc.) which cause more harm than good?
2. GROWING: As our basic needs get met (if we don’t get stuck in the nourishing phase—waiting for someone else to meet our needs), we can focus on growing in a variety of areas: physically (including self-care skills), mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually, financially, morally and ethically, and in skills for independence and interdependence. Are you growing? What have you learned in the past year? What steps have you taken to keep growing this year? How are you being intentional about helping others to grow?
3. CONNECTING: We all need opportunities and abilities that enable us to connect in meaningful ways with other people, at home, at school, in the workplace, in a place of worship, and other community venues. Are you connecting with others? Are you encouraging and assisting those in your care (your children, students, colleagues, employees, etc.) to connect successfully with others? Usually, success does not come in isolation.
4. CONTRIBUTING: We all have gifts to share with others (time, talents, material goods, financial support, and practical assistance). And as we give back, we typically find that our needs (many of the items in number 1, above) are getting met, providing the nourishment we need to keep growing, connecting, and contributing! Are you and your family members contributing, at home and in your community?
These are the ingredients for healthy living—a sustainable model of growing personally and interpersonally that will help us experience success throughout our lives. We begin to learn these lessons already in infancy, and have countless opportunities to keep growing throughout our lives. The challenge is to personally assess where we’re doing well, and where our growth is stunted, or “dead wood” is appearing.
If you are living or working with individuals with autism, you will likely find that you need to be particularly intentional about growing, both in your personal life, and in helping individuals with ASD to grow. Both stress, and the inherent difficulties associated with autism, can stunt growth and get people “stuck.” Yet I’ve seen countless examples of deliberate steps people take in these areas, which lead to very positive outcomes for themselves and others.
Best wishes as you work to grow personally and interpersonally in the year ahead!
Laurel Falvo, CFLE
Certified Family Life Educator
Executive Director, The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding