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.
Dr. AdamPerlman So many of my patients and friends and family have struggled with being overweight and have tried various fad diets and approaches to losing weight. I get asked about different diets and whether they work or not. I know you shared with me that when you were younger you were overweight and how you were able to lose that weight and keep it off. What was the secret? What was the journey like for you?
Brian Durbin MEd, CSCS of Synchronicity I was young, I was 19 and I’ll never forget getting on the scale and I got on there and it’s 276 pounds. So I was 6 foot 3 inches and I had been playing football and I remember thinking “Whoa, this has gone too far. . .” I wasn’t playing sports any more and I thought, I have to reel this in. So I started reading data about what happens if you don’t lose the weight and it scared me. So, it was that point that I started putting in small, little changes that involved exercise and nutrition, trying different things, learning new information, all along the way, it was just experimentation and learning. What works, what doesn’t work.
Adam So many people have this scenario where, you used the words “it scared me!” I often wonder how we create that sort of epiphany for ourselves, that inflection point in our lives, where we decide to do something different.
Brian I get bored incredibly easily. I am not going to be the guy who has the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s not going to be my thing, but if I find some article about some crazy fruit that comes from Africa that has this health benefit, I will definitely add that into my diet for a few weeks. So I try to keep things fresh and that has been a really big help to me.
Adam It reminds me of the Duke Wheel of Health. What I like about the Wheel of Health is that it looks at all these different areas of health and well-being, not just nutrition or exercise, but the concept of rest, professional development, spirituality, which could be interpreted as purpose and meaning in your life, along with connection and relationships. Often we can be a little too tunnel vision with our view of what a healthy lifestyle is or what well-being truly feels like and the Wheel helps me think more broadly about various aspects in my life, some of which maybe healthier than others. The Wheel helps me focus on different areas.
Brian As an example, how are exercise and relationships related? On the surface it might not seem like they are, but when you go “wow, aerobic exercise actually helps with my anxiety levels, lessening my chances of depression, my self-esteem and then you go, how does that actually play out with the way I communicate with people? Or how I make time for things and how I prioritize my life. Everything is interrelated.
Adam I’ve heard you talk to about just being grateful for things like my heart that continues to beat and grateful for the breath that I can take. This has helped me, as someone who has struggled with trying to be perfect vs excellent which has led to unneeded suffering at times. I also think of someone, as we often do, scan the environment for threats, which at one point worked well for us. Now a days the threats are a text message we didn’t like or an email that had the wrong tone and letting ourselves get trigged by that. That is something personally that I have worked on, not only for myself but as an example I want to set for my kids. We have five children as you know and how do we teach gratitude to them? I think it starts by stopping and feeling gratitude ourselves, on a daily basis, right?
Brian Just feel your heart beat, right, feel your heart beat and feel the appreciation for that. None of us asked to be here. I mean, I don’t remember asking, but I’m here. Can you feel appreciation just for that? Just for the heart beat and the chance to be here. Whether it is hard times or good times, can you feel appreciation for that? Blending that with Rumi, especially his Guesthouse poem, about feeling these things, bad, good, they flow through us, can we let them flow through us without labeling them as good or bad? That is how we can experience gratitude just for the gift of life.
Adam The mind body connection is really interesting. I have seen that many times with my patience. It doesn’t mean what they are experiencing isn’t real, somehow other aspects of the way they are thinking or feeling is influencing their physiology.
Brian I studied biomechanics in school, which is really just physics of the body. It’s incredible, because you can watch somebody change their body when they start talking about something uncomfortable. You can start to see neck muscles start to contract. You can see recoil, tightness in the arms. The things we maybe are not aware of, right? Depending on what’s going on in our minds is manifesting in our bodies. It’s quite incredible.
Adam Yeah, it is a struggle. So many people get hung up on perfection. They think “I should have a purpose, I heard this on a podcast and now I’m going to buy the Dalai Lama’s book.” It really starts with small changes. I use to put three sugars in my coffee. I think the first thing I did, is cut it down to two.
So many people think “okay I want more purpose and meaning in my life”. They say, “I heard this was important and it was mentioned on this podcast. . .” So, what do they do? They go out and buy the Dalai Lama’s book or the biography of Gandhi and they make it all seem so overwhelming.
A smarter approach is to ask yourself, how can I bring more purpose and meaning to this next moment in my life. To this encounter, task or meeting. It really often starts these seemingly small moments we have in our day. The better question is, “What purpose do I serve in this moment?”
You know I have been into exercising for a long time and I practiced martial arts when I was younger but we didn’t eat well. At one point I finally decided that I wanted to begin to eat more healthfully. I started really small. I use to put three sugars in my coffee and the first thing I did was to cut it down to two. I can almost remember the day. I would go to Dunkin Donuts and almost order three sugars and stop myself and say “nope, I’ll take two sugars” in my coffee today, please. I kinda worked my way back down. I just kept going from there. It has been those seemingly small changes that brought me to building healthy habits.
It is the small changes and small habits that we evolve over time and then we begin to string together these series of behaviors that hopefully leads to this life that we want for ourselves that is consistent with our purpose or goals or whatever feels meaningful in our lives.