Now that we’ve packed up the last remnants of 2018 and the new year is well underway, I want to start looking ahead again.
No, I’m not kidding.
I know, we’re supposed to be done with goal-setting and vision-casting, right? We are supposed to be in the implementation phase, where we start to make the daily lifestyle changes that will lead us to our 2019 goals.
That’s true, and we certainly will get back to that.
Driving A Classic
You might be surprised at what got me thinking about this.
It’s very common to see classic cars on the road around Southwest Florida. There are a lot of collectors around here who know how to maintain a car. I’m often impressed by the way the owners take care of those cars. It takes a lot of work and discipline to keep a car running in mint condition like that so long after all the others that came off the assembly line at the same time have gone to the rust heap. It got me thinking about how we achieve maximum longevity with our own bodies.
I want to challenge you to look beyond 2019 for a moment. I want us to think in terms of longer-range goals. If you only set goals in terms of how you want your life to look at the end of 2019, you might find yourself in 2029 not enjoying the life you wanted at that stage of your life.
Does that make sense?
It’s clear in my head, and I’m trying to find a way to make it come across clearly to you.
Here’s an illustration: if I set a goal to drive 100 miles each day, it doesn’t really matter which direction I start driving each day. But if I have a goal of driving to Vermont by Saturday, I need to be very intentional about which roads I take. I can drive 300 miles each day and fulfill the daily goal, but still not reach the ultimate goal.
With that in mind, let’s consider a longer-term goal and some simple lifestyle adjustments that will help us achieve it.
The key lifestyle adjustment we have to make if we want to achieve long-term success in any area is to make a quality decision.
Remember how I’ve said in the past (and if you’re new to Wellness Wednesday, I’ll give you a pass) that your physical wellness, mental wellness, spiritual wellness, emotional wellness, and all the other wellness areas are interrelated? Just facets of the same diamond? I believe that one of the foundational keys to achieving wellness goals in any area is to make a quality decision.
For instance, if you want to lose weight, you’re going to have to change your eating habits. That’s pretty obvious. But if you go into a new year hoping that you will find the willpower to resist each time you encounter a temptation to eat junk food, you will not achieve your goal. You are at the mercy of your emotions in the moment, and that is unlikely to turn out well.
Instead, it’s better to make a quality decision before you ever start trying to lose weight. A quality decision determines in advance what it wants and puts appropriate guidelines and protections in place. You might seek out accountability from a friend. You might set a weekly menu plan and find ways to keep yourself from adding anything the approved grocery list.
Rational v Emotional
Every human has a rational, logical part of the brain and (unless you are Dr. Spock from Star Trek) an emotional part of the brain. Chances are, the emotional side is more powerful than the logical side. The Bible also calls it “the flesh.” It includes your animal instincts to eat, sleep, reproduce, and experience pleasure. Most people are driven by their emotional/animal urge side.
“Discipline” is the process of subordinating the emotional/physical urges to the logical/rational or spiritual sense of what is appropriate. Discipline is never fun. Most of the time, it’s painful. Paul the Apostle said, “no discipline seems pleasant at the moment, but it yields good fruit over time.”
If I want to make a healthy lifestyle change, it will almost certainly cause discomfort to the emotional/physical aspects of my thinking. In that case, I better be committed to the change. My body and emotions are going to fight for dominance of my will. Whichever is more powerful – my physical urges or my logical sense of value – will take control of my will and drive my decisions.
So, what part of your life are you giving power to?
There is Native American proverb about two wolves that represent good and evil in your life. They fight every day for dominance. The one you feed is the one that wins.
If I set a short-range goal to lose a few pounds, I can keep up the lifestyle changes for a few weeks or months. Then, when I reach my goal, I’ll go back to my comfortable lifestyle and the weight will come back gradually.
But if I want to be healthy when I am 63, short-term lifestyle changes aren’t going to be adequate. I have to make up my mind now that I am willing to put down my fleshly urges five and seven years from now if I want to enjoy good health in ten years. I have to be in it for the long haul.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t get a little thirsty when I see a Coca-Cola ad. It means that I have to feed the logical/rational side of my soul more than I feed my physical urges so that I can say no and stick with it. The longer and more consistently I do it, the easier it gets. The wolf I feed is the one that wins.
Pressing Through When it Hurts
There are dark times to any goal. That’s why you have to have a clear goal with a clear benefit attached. Olympic athletes have to drag themselves out of bed every single morning and do the activity nobody else is willing to do. It’s almost never comfortable or fun. It’s usually painful. That’s why most people never make it. The ones that make it to the medal platform are the ones whose vision of wearing an Olympic gold medal is more powerful than their screaming muscles or their comfortable bed.
My friends in the military say that the key to winning the battles in your mind is to stand your ground for 15 minutes. When those 15 minutes are up, I can choose to stand for another 15 minutes or to give up. I only have to stand my ground for 15 minutes, and then I can quit. But every time I choose to stand for 15 more minutes, I get closer to a permanent victory. So, I will defer my need for pleasure for 15 minutes at a time.
Keep A Long-range Plan Before You
What is your long-range vision? Do you want to play tennis in your eighties? Play the piano in your nineties? Run marathons at 100? Teach Greek at 110? Run a multinational corporation at 120?
You think I’m being funny. I’m not.
We have been so conditioned to think that we should start slowing down at 60 and coast into our 70s and 80s. The human body was designed to live 120 years, but generations of disease, poor lifestyle and bad information have changed our ambitions. We think it’s enough to get to 80 years old.
Embrace a bigger vision.
Who said you have to die in your 80s or 90s? Why does 120 seem far-fetched? The truth is, you can make lifestyle choices now that will extend your longevity.
But here’s the downside: in a culture that craves pleasure and convenience, you have to be willing to say no to some pleasures and comforts. Junk food is pleasurable; if it weren’t, nobody would want it. Fast food is convenient. Sitting on the couch and watching TV all night is comfortable. The problem is that all of those choices lead to a shortened lifespan. Sugar, preservatives, fried foods, chemical flavor enhancers, and a sedentary lifestyle all feel good but aren’t good for your body. That means you have to make a decision between them. It really is that simple.
Not easy; simple.
It’s A Choice
Which do you want more: the pleasures of our modern lifestyle or a long life?
Which does the athlete want more: the gold medal or the comfortable bed? She can’t have both. Which one means more to her?
In Japan, it is not unusual for companies to write out 450-year business plans. They know as well as you do that the individuals writing the plan won’t live that long, but that’s not the point. They are setting a vision that is bigger than themselves, and it directs their decisions. One of the downfalls of American culture is that we tend to live for the moment. We make choices based on what feels good right now, instead of seeing our lives in the context of a bigger picture.
- Do you want to be around to personally pass your values to your great-grandchildren?
- Would you like to play golf with your spouse into your 90s?
- Can you see yourself performing your craft well after your peers have retired?
Most people never achieve these things because they don’t have a vision for their golden years that is stronger than their desire the pleasures of the moment.
Are You A Classic?
It’s like my friends who collect and fix up classic cars. With the proper maintenance, you can keep a car on the road for 50 or 60 years. I see them all the time around Naples. The difference is, most people don’t do the necessary maintenance to make their cars last that long. The same is true of their bodies.
Are you willing to make the lifestyle choices that will keep you alive longer? Do you want it bad enough to say no to the standard American lifestyle?
No shame if you say no. It’s a hard decision to make, but well worth it. Most of the people you know will never be able to make the hard choices to give up unhealthy foods and activities. Only the ones who have a crystal-clear vision for a long, vibrant life will have what it takes to live the uncommon life all the way to 120.
If you think you might be willing to make the lifestyle choices that will keep your body stronger longer, but don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place. Spend some time browsing around my blog here at fitdocs.com. I write these articles to help equip you with the knowledge to live long and strong for as long as you want. If you live in the Naples area, stop by my office behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road and let’s talk. I would be so honored if you would give me the chance to help you formulate a plan based on your current goals and your health history. And always mark the second Thursday of each month on your calendar so you remember to join us for our “Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinners.” The last one was an epic night of great food and teaching. You can see the video on our Facebook page, along with hundreds of other articles.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas