As you get older, one of the stereotypical aspects of life that you develop more awareness over is your health. Something not even considered in the first thirty years of your life becomes very quickly the most important focus soon after that. This week I want to talk about this important shift and what it means to put it as a priority.
‘Youth is wasted on the young’ is an expression I’ve heard many times. The idea is that we really do not appreciate being young when we are young. The reality however is that the main thing that makes us appreciate it in the first place is our awareness of what it is like to be old. Even if it was possible for us to know what it was like, one of the main parts of being young is the absence of concerns such as these. In other words, part of the enjoyment of youth is the freedom of not ‘getting’ the whole age- health thing.
When you get to a certain age, you realise that the choices you have made up to that point have been more important than you ever thought. You knew consciously that sleeping enough, exercising enough, eating well enough…. was all important for you. But ‘getting it’ is a different story.
Getting fit and healthy is not rocket science. For the most part, you know what needs to be done. You understand, at least generally, what food to eat, how to exercise and how much to sleep. The problem is not the knowledge. The problem is the action.
After a few years, you notice signs of age impacting you and the importance of taking care of yourself finally dawns on you. This can be motivating. Even then, however, there are still many people in their 40’s and 50’s who still are not looking after their health. How come? Why does the realisation of something being so important fail to cause us to do what we need to do?
The truth is motivation is not enough. Motivation is the feeling that drives us to take action. The positive or negative feeling that gets us to ‘do’. The problem with it is that it does not last that long. Like the great Zig Ziglar said ‘Motivation is like a bath. You need to do it every day.’ Often, we do not motivate ourselves every day. Indeed, we do not motivate ourselves very often when it comes to taking care of ourselves.
So, what is the answer? It lies in the disciplines of health. It is not those who are most motivated who tend to be successful in life. It is those who are most disciplined. Discipline is the cultivation of a deliberate decision and a commitment to a consistent habit.
When you are inspired and motivated, you consider how critical the life changes that you need to make. You decide deliberately that you are going to make specific changes in a particular area of your life.
Second, you define clearly and specifically what changes you are going to make when and how. This is crucial. Simply saying ‘I will eat better’ is next to useless. The key is to be as clear as you can as to what you will do and how you will do it.
Next, you predict ahead of time the challenges and difficulties of such a new behaviour. What events, situations or feelings might crop up and get in your way with these new behaviours? What temptations might try and interfere? When they occur, how will you overcome them? Questions such as these get you ready once and for all to enjoy long-term change.
A commitment to a consistent habit is done once you have answered these questions and are clear on exactly what you are going to do and how exactly you will do it. You do it by scheduling these changes and making them part of how you live your life. Once you have decided and you do it for the very first time there is no going back. This becomes part of who you are. It becomes your natural way of acting. It is only then that you can truly make the appropriate changes.
You do not need to grow old to value health. Instead you need to find the moments of motivation that we all experience and make them count by turning them into a discipline, regardless of what age you are.