The First Big Picture
During the Apollo 8 mission, astronaut William Anders took the first color picture of planet Earth entitled Earthrise. This was the first time we got to see our planet in its full glory. After Earthrise we captured more of these moments like The Blue Marble, the Pale Blue Dot and all the material generated by the International Space Station.
But Earthrise is special because it started a movement. By seeing Earth has a whole, people started to appreciate the beauty of our planet and started trying to preserve it. Following this picture, it’s easy to see the ripples it caused, organizations like Greenpeace or the US Environment Protection Agency and even Earth day all started soon after Earthrise was shared to the world in 1968. Suddenly the environment preservation and pollution were a factor. Lead-based fuels and DDT were banned, governments create laws to limit pollution and factories were under constant criticism.
It’s interesting how a general view of a system can have so much impact.
Holistic in Engineering
I was first introduced to this way of thinking in my studies in engineering. We learn to have a holistic approach to a given situation. If we are designing a product, to have in mind all the stages of that product’s life. If we are managing a factory and want to improve quality or safety, to have that attribute applied to all aspects of the business. Increase the quality and safety of the product you are selling it’s just a part of the job. Spreading those attributes to everyone who makes the product and eventually to the whole company is the end goal.
As you can imagine, this concept is also valid for our personal life.
Having a holistic approach to life means an understanding that many factors influence how we perceive and life ours day to day life. Holistic is the word I associate to this concept so in my research in this topic I was surprised by the different connotation the word Holistic has.
Words like mystic, super naturalist, occult and crystal healing (the biggest scam ever) start pop up. The concept is orbited by ideologies based on pseudoscience that take advantage of the vagueness associated with this concept. That’s not my cup of tea, having a scientific background, I want to clean this concept from the mysticism attached to it so that we can use it in our life.
The Eastern Way
Coming back to engineering, this holistic approach was made popular in the manufacturing world by Toyota. The car company could produce high volumes of reliable cars and spread a culture of safety and quality. Continuous improvement and respect for people were concepts engrained in Toyota’s philosophy that reflects the eastern mentality. Often in the east there is a sense of collectivism, where the whole is more important than a single individual. This interconnectivity is extended to eastern physical activities.
Yoga and even martial arts are grounded in a belief that body and mind make part of the same coin. A belief that yields more balanced people, in control of their body, emotions and thoughts. This holistic idea is slowly making its way to the west where is typical to see a lack of this way of thinking.
A Balanced Mentality
A smart rich man who despite having financial safety look extremely unhealthy and depressed or the bodybuilder who takes horse size dosages of steroids to look like Hulk are common images. Both knowledge and body can be integrated… and in fact it was in the past.
In ancient Greece, gymnasiums weren’t just a place to exercise and develop the physique, but also a place to learn how to live. Young men would receive training in physical exercises, discussions on philosophy, literature, music and the arts. Physical education, teachings in morals and ethics all in one place.
The gymnasiums from Ancient Greece, the yoga or martial arts from the East and the corporate decisions of Toyota, all share this mindset proven to yield positive results. It can be practiced without any attachments to religion or pseudoscience, one just needs to be skeptical and understand the benefits and goals of each practice.
A Holistic Exercise
I propose a little thought exercise:
What are the areas in your life you would like to see improved? I divide mine in five areas: Health, Social/Family, Financial/Career, Community and Personal Development. Now how are you doing in each area?
- How is your physical and mental health?
- How is your relation with your parents?
- How do you intend to pay the bills?
- How are you contributing for a better planet?
- How are you improving yourself every day?
Try to come up with a feasible goal of each area. To keep things contained, things of goals within a time frame of 6 months. Take some time every day to think about this 5 areas and how you can impact them now.
We were fortunate to see our planet from a bird’s eye view and started to change the way we treat our only home, so why not do the same for us? Unlike Earthrise, we are the ones who need to snap that picture…. and start another movement.
This time within us.