I heard it said the other day that discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. It’s very true. Struggle is a part of life and things that are truly worthwhile to us involve struggle. Whether it is our own family, our own health or it is our work and our career. But how do we address that struggle? How do we lean into it? In a way that we create the life that we want for ourselves? We tend to think in a much too myopic way. We tend to think about our need to get in better shape or I need to eat better or I need to manage stress better but we don’t take a comprehensive enough approach. At the end of the day, we often rely too much on others. We think others are going to give us what we need. We are going to go to that gym or if we just take that class or if we meet with that nutritionist, etc.
The reality is at the end of the day, you need to take control and you need to become the expert on you. Yes, it is great to seek guidance through podcasts and the books that you read, but that needs to be filtered through the one expert who knows you better than anyone else. You.
So how do we do that? How do we take a more systematic approach? One way to do that is to use some of the tools out there that have been developed to help us think more comprehensively about our lives. The tool that I like to use is the Wheel of Health. I am most familiar with the Duke Wheel of Health for obvious reasons, but there are others out there.
It is a way of looking at the different components of our life so that we can make different choices. Healthier choices for better outcomes and a more enhanced way of living.
If certain parts of the wheel are ignored, for example if you are not eating well, then the wheel won’t roll properly.
You know there is a saying now that 100 is the new 80, that people are expecting to live to 100 years of age. Of course, we want to live a long life, but we want to live a life of health. We want to be healthy physically, mentally and emotionally. We also want to be healthy spiritually and have a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life. We want to wake up each morning and know why the day matters.
Believing You Can Change
A couple of things are important to remember. One is, to have that life, the first step is to believe that your life can be that way. You need to believe. If you can believe that, then you can begin to plan for that healthy life, one day at a time. There are no guarantees for how long we are going to live. For some people they have already developed certain conditions, others are concerned about preventing the development of conditions in the future. Whether you have diabetes or heart disease or you are overweight or you are concerned about developing those conditions it’s never too late to begin to try to reverse the conditions that you may be suffering from and its certainly never too late to begin to put into place the habits, the lifestyle needed to both prevent or treat the chronic diseases that have become epidemics in our society and that sometimes keep people from living longer. On the flip side, living longer with these chronic diseases will zap our quality of life, including our energy, ability to connect with people and have the meaning and fulfillment in our lives that we want.
It starts with making choices, small choices, one day at a time.
This includes choices around the foods you may eat. Choices around how or when you might exercise or be physically active. Choices around how you might choose to connect with others in your life. When you look at some of the research on longevity, like the research around the Blue Zones, these areas in the world where people tend to live longest, there are some commonalities there. They don’t necessarily go to gyms or take a lot of medications or supplements, but what they do – is eat a healthy diet (sometimes there is a little more meat than others) but their diet typically consists of fresh vegetables and fruit, they remain physically active throughout their entire lives, they connect with their community and loved ones on a regular basis and finally, they have a sense of purpose in their lives. Purpose around their work and family.
Finding the Time
Social connections and relationships are so critical to having a life that we want but it need not feel overwhelming. Sometimes the things that hold us back from the life that we want are subtle things that we over miss.
For example, I was talking to someone the other day and overall they were feeling pretty good. They were exercising, eating well and they felt well mentally. The one issue he was having was a lot of stomach upset. He just couldn’t figure out where it was coming from and had spoken to his physician and after talking it through it turns out that one of the habits he had was chewing a lot of gum. Well, guess what? Gum can have Sorbitol in it and that Sorbitol can affect the stomach. Just look at the label. That Sorbitol can cause stomach upset. So this seemingly innocent habit that he had was the issue. He since switched to a gum that has Xylitol in it which is just a different type of additive. If you weren’t aware, Xylitol and sorbitol are sugar substitutes commonly found in foods labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added. Once he started chewing this sugar-free gum with Xylitol his GI issues got better. It was such a “small” thing with such a profound impact on him.
We don’t need to think in terms of what overwhelming life shift that we have to take, but what are some small, new or revolved habits you can make to make sure the trajectory of your life is headed in the direction you want along with the quality of your life. Ask yourself, Is the quality of your life where you want it to be today?Are you doing what you need to in order to assure that the quality of your life will be what you want it to be tomorrow?