Sustainable You

Sustainable You

Learn to do a personal inventory to achieve a lifetime of equanimity


This 'From the Archives' article first appeared in our September/October 2008 issue. Join S&H's Subscription Program and access 20 years of archives instantly!

Starting the Aveda corporation in 1978 was my creative solution to a personal crisis. The chemicals in the products I was using in my hair salons had literally made me sick. I also realized that if these chemicals were making me sick, they couldn’t be good for my customers. So I set out to create a line of natural, sustainable, organic products that would nurture body and spirit. In creating the Aveda line of products, I preserved my own health and well-being and the health of my clients, and I turned my health crisis into a business opportunity. By eliminating from my products toxins and chemicals harmful to the human body and the environment, I also helped shift the market and cleaned up a little piece of the planet. The outcome was a success beyond any I had imagined.

This crisis/opportunity model is fundamental to an eco-preneur-based business. An eco-preneur provides creative solutions and services that meet human or planetary needs in an ethical, non exploitive, nontoxic manner, and in doing so, creates a sustainable, or enduring and profitable, business. Any business based on these principles is in harmony with natural law and has a practical, ethical, and spiritual foundation upon which to succeed. I believe that these principles for running a sustainable business are the same as for running a sustainable personal life.


Each of us at birth is given a little patch of earth to inhabit and tend; that patch of earth is our body. By our teenage years, we alone are responsible for maintaining and managing this environment. Each of us at birth also possesses a patch of the cosmos, the quantum field — what author Deepak Chopra calls the “field of pure potentiality.” That patch is our consciousness, our mind and spirit, the inner environment. As with our body, we alone are responsible for maintaining and managing this inner environment, which connects us to the ultimate environment of the cosmos in mysterious ways. Our conscious mind is the CEO of I, Inc. — this company of patches, that is our life — and our job is to be an effective, wise, and responsible manager. We need to set goals and to know when and how to adjust or reset them. It can seem quite abstract and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply imagine your life is a shop.

At the end of the day, being a smart shopkeeper, you conduct an inventory. You discover how sales have gone. You notice products that need to be reordered or replenished, or defective merchandise that needs to be returned. You assess and refine your business strategies and plans, and you change those that aren’t working. The knowledge of the actual conditions in your shop, revealed through this daily inventory, allows you to run a successful business.

An inner inventory allows us to monitor what we take in and what affects our body/mind — the foods; the information and imagery; the words, actions, and behaviors of others; the environments in which we find ourselves. It allows us to notice the effect all these things have on us. We become sensitive to what is and isn’t good for us; what works and doesn’t work for us; how external things affect our energy, our emotions, our consciousness, and our health and well-being. We need to take an inner inventory to know what is going on. Here are some preparatory questions to assess your inventory skills right now:

THOUGHTS / Do you go within each day to observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, assessing their usefulness, their value, and noticing the direction they are leading you? Or do you tend to believe everything you think and feel? Are you over-invested in thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that were conditioned in you in childhood? Do your usual thoughts and feelings serve and support who you are trying to become and what you are trying to accomplish? Do they make you feel agitated and uneasy, or grateful and serene?

PRACTICE / Do you have a daily practice that refreshes your spirit and clarifies your consciousness, that gives you insight and self-knowledge, and that allows you to make the countless inner and outer course corrections needed to reach your goals? Do you have a practice that allows you to release fears and resentments, so that you can address outer situations in a healthy, productive, even inspired way?

PATH / Are you on a clear path in life that’s taking you toward the goals you’ve set for yourself? Are you aware of your goals — for the day, for the week, for the year, for this lifetime? Are you aware of how each thought or action in any moment can move you toward or away from others or from yourself and all you hope to achieve? Are you aware of how your actions and achievements affect the world around you?

My personal inventory practice started in 1968 and included meditating; observing my thoughts, emotions, and actions; recording my observations; and reading my notes from the day before. My practice and my awareness deepened through my life experiences and my exposure to various masters and new information. I began to see a cause-and-effect relationship within my thoughts, emotions, and actions. Inspired, I started to analyze the cause-and-effect relationships in all the areas of my life in the way an entrepreneur analyzes all the facets of a business — by conducting an inventory, a contemplation of my inner and outer life.

In my inventory practice, I recall my day from the time I woke up in the morning until the present moment. If the practice is done in the morning, I recall the actions of the previous day. Whenever an incident arises in which I had a personal or business transaction with someone, I try to observe it objectively, as if I were watching it in my own private screening room. I don’t watch it as a critic who evaluates and judges things in terms of good or bad, right or wrong. I observe it as a spiritual aspirant striving for self-knowledge and compassion for self and others. I look to see if pain or bliss was created, to see the cause-and-effect links between my thoughts, my actions, and their impact on me, on others, on situations, and on my life. I find this perspective a profound stimulus for healing and growth. I don’t believe that God judges, so why should I?

The best time for me to plan action steps is right after the inventory process, when my mind is still fresh and calm. In that space, I re-examine and re-create my life’s purpose, getting necessary clarity and insight, making new choices and decisions, planning action steps and setting goals.

I have learned that sustainable living is a lifelong project that requires ongoing inner and outer work. I have learned that a daily practice that supports my continued growth and awakening is the surest guarantee of my inner and outer success. And I believe that by doing some version of the practices described here, anyone can create a sustainable life that leads to sustainable success, inside and out. And the world will also benefit.


Wake up! Embrace your interdependence with all living things.

2. Visualize and pursue goals with positive discipline.

3. Recognize the opportunity in every crisis, and turn every crisis into an opportunity.

4. Tune mind and senses through meditation. Connect with the intelligence of nature, the spirit of cosmos.

5. Manage the laws of cause and effect by conducting a daily inventory and adapting behavior and actions.

6. Ask: How can I serve, nurture, and sustain the planet and people in my business and life choices?

7. Study and directly experience the realities of our planetary crisis.

8. Purchase wisely, knowing that every dollar you spend is a vote for or against a sustainable future.

9. Learn to work and communicate as part of a dynamic team system.

10. Let your gifts and knowledge outlive you by teaching and mentoring others.

11. Express gratitude in your prayers for your successes in every area of life — past, present, and future.

12. Rejuvenate and reinvent yourself daily through spiritual practice and creative evolution.

13. Appreciate and learn the lessons of past and present painful experiences, and unconditionally forgive those who may have caused them. Gracefully accept challenges and lessons — they are gifts of God.

Horst M. Rechelbacher is the founder of Intelligent Nutrients. This article is adapted from his book, Minding Your Business: Profits that Restore the Planet (Earth Aware Editions, an imprint of Palace Publishing Group, May 2008,

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