Where is your current trajectory leading you? Draw that line out into the future.
Is it where you want to go?
Your current direction is guided by how you see yourself, and how much you believe your choices can guide your destiny. There’s some degree of wiggle room, due to unforeseen circumstances, but by and large you “think” things are going to unfold in your life a certain way, given who you are, where you’ve been, the resources at your disposal, and the connections you have.
You are conscious of these variables and can probably cite them.
Is the sum total of all these variables and influences taking you where you want to go?
If that’s too big a simulation to run, just think about your personal health. If you have a family history of dementia, are you confident that your health choices will protect you from losing your memory? If you’ve had a cancer near miss — say, a precancerous colon polyp or a slightly abnormal breast biopsy — are your choices sharply curbing your risk of runaway cell division?
Draw the curve out, based on what you know, the health variables you are conscious of, and where does it intersect the red Uh-oh line?
If the answer is “Honestly, I’d really rather not look,” it’s time to ask another question.
When are you going to grow up?
Grow up = Shut Up and Dance
That sounds a little harsh. We’re all grown-ups, men and women of the world, we’ve been through a few dozen cycles of Earth ‘round the Sun, been there, done that, moved on, eh?
But what else would you call it when you clearly need to do something, it goes undone, and you refuse to even look at the issue because You don’t wanna?
Matters of health and wellness are fundamental and quite serious; “Serious as a heart attack” is a phrase for a reason. If you die prematurely, all your plans, hopes, and aspirations tank — irreversibly and with extreme prejudice. This is nearly as bad for those depending on you, be they your children, your spouse, other family, or people you work with whose livelihood comes from you. And if you don’t die and others must care for you, their burden explodes.
So yes, getting your health shit together is about the highest responsibility and duty you have. (Paradoxically, it should be something you can dial in without giving up your day job so you can concentrate on supporting other people and causes in life, but that’s another topic for another day.)
If the trajectory of your health choices consists of you looking the other way, putting things off, making excuses, and choosing the easy way out because you “don’t wanna,” you are arguably weaseling out of the gravest responsibility and duty there is.
“I don’t wanna” is not OK when you’re 5, and it’s not OK when you’re 50 plus.
The single most important exercise you will ever do
There’s a mental muscle that’s important to develop and strengthen. It’s the toothache muscle, the tax preparation muscle, the have that hard talk with a family member muscle. You want to run away from doing XYZ all the way down to your bones, but it’s danged important, and the heaviest lifting you may ever do is lifting your dislike out of the way and pushing it behind you so you can do the critical stuff.
A trivial example is working out. I have a workout for the day that I can perform in about 8-10 minutes; it’s intense, but needs little to no equipment, and can be performed anywhere there’s a floor and something to lean on. I can resist doing it using all kinds of excuses: I’m so tired, I’m so mentally tired, I just ate and feel blotto, it’s already past bedtime and exercising intensely will activate my brain till 2 AM, I’m on a roll and don’t wanna (there’s that phrase, again) break my streak. And in the time I’ve spent wrestling with myself, amplifying the shame of making excuses and making it even more likely I’ll avoid even thinking about this in the future, I could have done the workout twice.
Most of us have had the experience of dreading a workout for all the reasons above, going through with it anyway, and feeling so glad afterwards that we pushed through. Ditto with the dentist, putting tax prep behind you, and finally having that hard talk.
One of the biggest obstacles to health and fitness progress is the inertia, the Resistance, to healthier choices. Compared to staying in comfy land, nearly every healthy choice is a buzzkill. (Spoiler: it doesn’t stay this way, but it’s like this for a long time outside the city limits of Comfy Land.)
Translation: Make “pushing through” a habit, rather than a one-off. If it helps, visualize taking off a mask that represents all those resistant rationalizations and setting it aside, so that what’s left is chill and clear-eyed, you see XYZ laid out in front of you, and Go. Get good at taking off confining masks, because there are a lot of them, and the results are worth it.
Mark Twain said “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” If the biggest drag on your physiology is all the back and forth your Resistant brain puts you through, not the actual doing of the important stuff, it’s time to add Kicking don’t wanna to the curb to your toolkit.