Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many cancers, Syndrome X, and depression and other mood disorders are, for the most part, lifestyle diseases. These are metabolic problems that arise out of choices we make regarding the foods we eat, the activities we do or do not engage in, and the psychological state that we live in.
If we accept the above statement there is only one conclusion; if we wish to lead a healthier life we must change. The media is full of fad diets, of feel good fads, and of limited-time exercise gadget offers. All of these prey upon peoples desire for an easy change. In truth, change takes work. Remember Newton’s first law:
“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”
We all develop “uniform motion” in our habits of living, eating, and thinking. Change requires pause in our lives, forethought, and finally, energy.
Below is an exercise with the goal of aiding you in mustering purpose in your pursuit of change. Take the time to sit down and fill out this worksheet. Keep it somewhere private, and when you are feeling less than enthusiastic about the changes you are creating in your life pull it out.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to build an inventory of reasons to continue lifestyle change:
1) What do I enjoy most about life right now?
2) What am I most grateful about in my life right now?
3) What am I most committed to in my life right now?
4) What feeds me? In other words, what activities or experiences am I passionate about?
5) Who are the most important people to me? Why?
6) What is the most rewarding service that I provide to others?
Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? Consider the following:
Pessimists view negative circumstances with a sense of permanence.
Example: Diets never work for me.
Optimists view negative circumstances as temporary or specific.
Example: That diet did not work for me.
Pessimists view positive circumstances as temporary or specific.
Example: I was lucky to get that promotion.
Optimists view positive circumstances as permanent.
Example: I’m a good worker and good things keep happening to me.
Optimists see hope and opportunity in negative circumstances, pessimists see negative circumstances as confirming their negative outlook.
The famous author, Gustav Flaubert, said that the greatest novel ever written would be the total story of anyone’s life. In other words, everyone’s life is full of extraordinary experiences, unexpected twists of fate, and amazing obstacles and opportunities--everyone’s life. It is we, ultimately, who chose what the sum of these experiences will mean to us. Mother Theresa led a life that was surrounded by more suffering than most people could ever dream of, yet she led an inspired life of joy.
In order to create change it is important to look at our habits, and the fruits that they bring. As we do this it becomes apparent that many choices that bring us instant gratification bring us misery in the future. Alternatively, changes that we make consciously with the purpose of improving our lives are often difficult at the outset. The chart below provides some examples.
Poor Health, Low Energy
Vitality and Health
Focus on Nutrition
Consumerism, Unrested Distraction
Addiction, Increased Tiredness
The single greatest factor in creating change in your life is realizing your worth. For each of us our perspective on this sense of worth will be different. For some it is a sense of personal evolution, for others, it is seen in the context of a faith, for others in a context of our relation to others. You must look inside yourself to find this worth—no one can identify it for you.
Look over your answers to the questions at the beginning of this worksheet. Use your answers to develop a “mission statement” for your life. This exercise has proved extremely valuable in the business world, and I believe this same value translates to personal development. The same reasons given for developing a mission statement in the business world translate directly into your “life mission statement”. They are as follows:
1) Missions define worth and purpose: the understanding of your own worth is the cornerstone of understanding purpose. Purpose is the fuel and direction for change.
2) Missions promote unity: If your personal energies are conflicting it is difficult to move in any direction. If you have a clear idea of a mission statement you can consolidate your energy and move forward.
3) Missions help move from ideas to action: Once you are clear as to a cause or purpose, you can develop a plan and act.
4) Missions establish culture: The culture in which you live will be a reflection of your mission statement. If you make a clear decision to live with vitality and compassion these qualities will begin to pervade all of your activities. Washing the dishes can be as much an act of compassion as serving the poor—the key is to allow the qualities that you wish to develop to saturate all of your actions.
To conclude this exercise, write down a mission statement. This is a highly individualized exercise, and you will benefit from it in direct proportion to the thought that you put into it. For some, mission statements are very short—an affirmation that can be memorized and repeated. For others they are longer and more detailed—it is good to re-read this type often.
Write the statement in positive terms. An example of positive terms would be “I practice calmness and compassion towards others” instead of “I will not be impatient with others”, or “I treat my body with respect through proper nutrition, exercise, and rejuvenating time for myself” instead of “I’ll avoid junk food and not be lazy”. By using positive terms you affirm the truth within you and practice optimism.
If you are having trouble beginning this exercise consider the following questions:
What is my purpose?
Why is health important to me?
Why are relationships important to me?
What changes would I like to see within myself (not outside myself) in 6 months? In a year? In 10 years?
Lastly, your mission statement will evolve and change as you evolve and change. As you master certain qualities your need to affirm them will drop away, and new directions will become apparent. Always be ready to throw away the old and embrace the new!