There is an important distinction between what you know of as health, and what I’m describing in this post. Even though I still refer to it as health, it is a completely different animal from the health that most of us refer to in normal conversation. So different that it deserves another name. But since there is not currently one, we’ll just go with the only word we have for now to describe a state of physical well-being.
What you know of as health is likely a goal that must be struggled for, fought for, a departure from your comfortable routine, a thing you must learn, experts you must consult, etc. In short, a chore, sometimes an expensive one. And, even then, only temporary… leaving you immediately at the slightest distraction or injury. Does that about describe it? In addition to being the least appealing thing that both you and I can think of, it is also just a mere shadow of what is possible.
The health I’m talking about — and believe me when I say that finding a new word for it can’t come soon enough — is none of those things, because it isn’t something you do, or even something you pay for…. it is something you are.
First, let’s be clear about the actual goals of health. There are the cosmetic benefits, to be sure: we’d like others to notice that we’re taking care of our physical state. Then, there is what health allows you to do with your body. The ability to dominate in athletic competition is high on many peoples’ lists. There is also the matter of longevity: how long will your body continue to support life. And finally, there is the experience of it all: how does health enhance your ability to be happy and creative.
It is very telling to check in with yourself and ask how you would prioritize these benefits, with number one being the one you would settle on if you could only have one. As the former owner of a health club, I heard my clients speak of their priorities daily, and I arrived at the order of the previous list based on those comments. I would suggest that we have those priorities exactly backward.
Here’s what that looks like when athletic performance is a greater priority than the experience of life:
Have you ever followed a prominent professional athlete near the end of their career and beyond? What you probably noticed is, in a very short time following their last competitive season, things begin to change physically for that athlete. I’m talking about the observable cues of health, also known ‘as the way they look’. If you’ve never witnessed this, let me describe it to you. Weight gain is nearly universal. Their movements slow down, speech contains less bravado, the eyes look a little glassy, etc.
This is the health of prioritizing athletic competition over quality of life. That health is the result of body manipulation by way of laborious workouts and deprivation diets and training disciplines; it is temporary and incomplete. It is motivated by something fleeting, rather than something permanent. This is not the health of which I speak. I’m here to talk about the health that is who you are. The fact that this is something very real, but that there is no word for it, is a clue to our confusion.
Rather than the health manufactured with gym time and food regimens or even athletic disciplines, this health is the creation of the other 23 hours of the day, a.k.a., your lifestyle. When health is who you are, you come by it far more naturally, and it is a permanent part of your life. It is never a job that will eventually come to an end. You’ll find it when you finally get over looking for the quick fix or the least amount of inconvenience. That’s when it becomes who you are.
A vibrant and fully alive person is your natural state. That is the description of a state of being, not appearances or even performance. If you’re not experiencing that state now, it is only because something unnatural is going on in and around you.
If this is a new concept for you, you might feel like it’s a long way from who you are at the moment. Don’t give up; it’s closer than you think. The first and best thing you can do toward that goal is to go outdoors. Instead of gym time, spend one hour outdoors every single day. Find things to do there; the more useful the better. Build something, climb something, move something… you get the idea. You will be profoundly amazed at the difference this will make in your life. Even the life in your head.
This barely scratches the surface of this new way to perceive health. What other strategies and attitudes are involved in the “health of being?” The whole story can be found in my newly released book “A Mild Case of Dead”. You can find it in all the usual places. If you’re tired of treating your body like an obstacle to your life — something to be manipulated and managed — the natural way to be satisfied with your body is to be satisfied with your life first. Any other process is only a theory about life, not the real thing.