There are few things as fundamental to our ability to pursue happiness as our physical well being. Put simply, if you don’t have your health, the rest of life is not much fun. Since you only get one body to live in, your knowledge of it and determination to care for it will ultimately determine a large measure of the quality of life you will or will not enjoy.
In my line of work, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people at very different ends of the health spectrum. I’ve met and talked with sickly people (young and old), exceptionally fit people (young and “old”); I’ve seen people lost in the hopelessness of illness and obesity, some bitter about life and some in love with life – and one thing I can tell you is that good health is precious. It’s personal, and no one on the planet is uninterested in having it. No one enjoys disease and dysfunction, yet we are all vulnerable to these conditions if the situation is right. In that light, discussing the topic of health puts us all on more or less the same level… the human level. So maybe, in a quest to make the world a better place, coming to understand health is a good place to start.
So, where do we start this quest? I suppose there are lots of places we could start, but I like a quote by the World Health Organization. I think it summarizes the modern quest for vitality quite well. It says:
“There are two obstacles to vibrant health and longevity: Ignorance and Complacency.”
What may be most interesting about this quote is what they did not say. Curiously, they did not mention genetics, economic status or lack of access to medical care as obstacles to vibrant health and longevity. No, instead they mentioned the two things that we as individuals have the most control over: our knowledge and our attitude. At least on this topic, ignorance is not bliss, and apathy leads us to an early demise. To be sure, there are other factors that affect our health besides these two, but it is our decision to educate ourselves and take personal responsibility that will ultimately build our health. What wonderful news!
This month is all about the chance to start off with a clean slate. Since we are embarking on a new year, maybe now is the time to step back, exhale and decide to focus on doing something to tear down these obstacles. Maybe better than a resolution to “eat right” or “exercise more”, it would be better to decide to simply learn everything you can about healthy living. It’s much easier to make healthy choices when you’ve discovered compelling knowledge about how the choices you make affect your health. Maybe a better resolution than to “try harder” would be to savor those moments between asleep and awake when your heart dares speak up about what it is truly longing for. Perhaps in those honest moments, you can discover the motivators that stir you out of complacency. Just like it’s much easier to talk yourself into eating well if you know why, it’s also helpful to remember to listen to your heart about why it matters to you to do that in the first place. That is as good a way to fight ignorance and complacency as I can think of.
Perhaps on your clean slate for 2012, you draw a vertical line down the middle and write “Knowledge” on one side and “Motivators” on the other. These antitheses of ignorance and complacency can represent the framework for how you will improve your health in 2012.
To help you fill both sides as full as possible throughout the year, this column will provide an opportunity for you to zoom out and look at health from several different angles you may not have considered, especially including historical context. Doing so will help us find a bit of bedrock from which to make informed decisions. You will know the bits of bedrock when you read them and these are the principles worthy of a place on your slate. They are the fundamental underpinnings of great health that the exceptionally healthy already know and I can’t wait to share them with you.
Here’s to a great year.
I look forward to hearing from you and learning what information makes the biggest difference in your life.