Putting The “Whole” Back In Holistic

I’ve seen first hand the limitations of (an overly-simplified) approach, despite the obvious convenience.

I constantly seek out information and discussions where the subject is having a more successful life. Setting aside the definition of “successful” for a moment, most of those discussions actually focus on either the perceived experience of life (a.k.a., mental, emotional, spiritual health), or the practical experience (physical health), but in both cases the unexpressed presumption is that if you fix one, you’ll fix the other. After all, can it be successful without both?

Among the “experts” on the matter, however, it would appear that the mental/spiritual gurus would rather you didn’t think too much about your physical health—and indeed they don’t speak of it much—because, frankly, they don’t know much about that. Likewise, the health/nutrition/fitness gurus would prefer that you not think about your mental state too much for the same reason. The implication is that whatever you’re lacking will be a natural byproduct of whatever they’re teaching and that there is the potential for a completely “successful” life.

I’ve documented pretty thoroughly my background as a provider of services in the health and fitness field, and how both teachers and clients in that field are generally myopic about the role of those disciplines in solving all of life’s problems. I’ve seen first hand the limitations of that approach, despite the obvious convenience. As a result of that experience, I chose to branch off into a more integrated (often referred to as “holistic”) approach to a successful life for the sake of helping people achieve something greater than merely purely physical goals.

You, as a consumer, will also want to believe in a one-stop-shop for success with supplements, yoga, diets, spirituality, endurance running, and many others…

I’m not being critical of these specialists because they do have something to contribute to a successful life, but I will point out the common tendency among them to think of—and, in fact, promote—themselves to be a provider of “everything you need” to be successful and fulfilled as a person. The notion of a “one-stop-shop” is a common and compelling result of knowledge. Which is why it’s also true that you—the consumer of those teachings in your search for that “successful” experience—want to believe the same thing. You, as a consumer, will also want to believe in a one-stop-shop for success with supplements, yoga, diets, spirituality, endurance running, and many others… and all will gladly allow you to believe that what they’re selling, or are an expert in, holds the key to your future success.

In addition to my experience in health, fitness, and nutrition, I’ve had the pleasure of studying with some of the world’s most prominent thought leaders in the field of self-improvement—which is a predominantly psychological and spiritual space—over the last several years. Once again, I discovered that the participants on both sides of the equation—teacher and student—want very much to believe that this realm—and even more specialized versions of it—is the holy grail of human evolution and experience. How I wish also that were true. But I know better, and now so do you. Many of those self-help leaders were not so good at “self-helping” themselves with their own health; which kinda destroys the notion that the mind can do it all. It is true that those with mental clarity tend to take a little better care of themselves than the average individual, but you still have to have a foundation of action for the physical realm to be maximally effective. The same is true for fitness and nutrition gurus, and their promises for addressing mental health.

In our more honest moments, we all know somewhere deep inside that what we’d really like to achieve is not found exclusively in any single “success” domain.

So the focus becomes clouded on both ends of the conversation—provider and consumer—by this tendency to believe what we “want to be true” rather than what actually is. The providers want to believe, and want you to believe, that what they’re offering will in fact solve all human problems, and the receivers are also anxious to believe the same for the sake of simplicity, convenience, and cost. Sadly, neither party is being realistic. In our more honest moments, we all know somewhere deep inside that what we’d really like to achieve is not found exclusively in any single “success” domain. I personally know people who are teaching that physical health can be successfully addressed in the mind. That is not untrue, except for the implication that it is successfully addressed ONLY in the mind.

I realize it’s probably futile to promote a different mindset or different strategies to anyone who is currently making money from what they do—in some cases, a lot of money. I also know that whatever the providers believe, promote, and practice will ultimately be determined by the demand for it from consumers. Because of that, my message is to you, the seekers of a holistically successful life. Collectively, you will, and always have, had the power to determine what ultimately deserves to be taken seriously as a contributor to your quality of life, but it is up to each of us individually to insure that we’re not allowing the proponents of any one or two of those contributors to convince you to that it will provide a greater range contributions than it actually will, or that you don’t need anything it can’t provide.

…the first approach to a successful life should be the integration of the widest possible range of contributors well in advance of ever becoming really practiced at any one of them.

This is clearly what’s behind the exercise habits of endurance runners and yoga practitioners, just to name a couple of obvious examples. In spite of what I believe to be a very sincere desire for physical health, I know of very few practitioners of either of those disciplines that engage in any other form of challenging activity. They’ve somehow been convinced that these singular activities will either provide what they need, or that they don’t need what’s not being provided. Yet, any serious scrutiny of what is actually happening there would pretty quickly reveal some obvious physical deficiencies that are the result of the avoidance of other important activities.

This isn’t a character flaw on the part of the people I just mentioned, it is merely a symptom of a very real and common desire for simplicity which, if not checked by the concept of integration or holistic practices, will result in deficiencies in our strategies and even a bit of denial regarding what’s necessary to be at our best. It is overcome by some simple wisdom; that is, the first approach to a successful life should be the integration of the widest possible range of contributors well in advance of ever becoming really practiced at any one of them. This works in your daily choices (diet, exercise, relaxation, fun, etc.) as well as your overall lifelong strategies (health, beliefs, relationships, money, environment, etc.) for moving your life forward.

We can’t specialize our way to a successful life, much as we might want to believe we can.

Much of what led me to focus on people over 50 as a target for this new integrated approach is that the tendency to limit your effort and attention to a single issue is far more prevalent in younger people than it is older ones. That’s what I like so much about being older, and what I like so much about interacting with older people: we tend to be more aware of what’s really important, as opposed to pursuing what’s expedient and/or superficially appealing. Or, put another way, we see things a bit more clearly than do younger people because we’re not all caught up in the imaginary importance of popular goals like money, career, status, etc.

There was a time in our history were we lived a holistic existence without even being aware of the concept; and we called it “life”. Survival in the natural world simply required that of us in the course of overcoming its many wide range of challenges. So the price of modern life and all of its specialization and convenience is the requirement for a bit of wisdom. We can’t specialize our way to a successful life, much as we might want to believe we can. The good news is that living holistically, in spite of its broader spectrum of disciplines, is not as complex as science would have you believe. My primary mission is to show you how accessible this life really is. But it is not and will never be “one-stop-shopping”, rather a holistic approach involving a broad awareness that is the only source of holistic results.

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