Feeling Good is more Nurture than Nature
Reflecting on a lengthy career as a healthcare professional, most recently as an Osteopath in Doha, I have witnessed many inspiring health transformations, both physically and mentally. Everyday people, that have found strong enough reasons to embark on a lifelong journey of greater health and happiness. Those who choose to prioritize and invest in their health on a daily basis don’t possess some kind of special gene, they simply choose to adopt a mindset that places a high value on feeling healthy.
During my experience as a Personal Trainer, Health Coach and Osteopath, in places such as London, Sydney and Doha, I have encountered the unhealthy and unmotivated, as well as the extremely healthy and motivated. This experience has exposed me to the fundamental characteristics of healthier people. People that are successful in achieving and sustaining the vitality, looks and performance that they may have once only dreamt about.
These characteristics are underpinned by a common mindset; a way of viewing habits such as exercise, healthy eating and other self-care activities, that make them effortless and unquestionable. I have encountered this mindset in people that have achieved the highest accolades in their sport and also in people that have almost lost their lives due to an unhealthy lifestyle. The point is that we all have this mindset within us, we just need to find our ‘WHY’.
The Cardiac Rehab patient
My work as a Phase 3 Cardiac Rehabilitation Instructor ,at the beginning of my health and fitness career, introduced me to a group of people who, as a result of life-threatening poor health, had quickly become highly motivated to adopt healthy behaviours. As a result of coming very close to losing their lives, these survivors of mainly heart attacks and strokes had been forced to re-evaluate their lives, along with their day to day choices and habits. Now I am not saying that all those who suffer from strokes and myocardial infarctions are unhealthy, but the majority of people that I encountered had significant lifestyle-related risk factors such as smoking, poor diet and obesity.
Only weeks before their unfortunate life-changing experience the majority of these people had been living, what they regarded as, a normal life. Smoking, drinking, eating a poor diet, highly sedentary and no regular exercise. When asked about what they thought of their state of health before their unfortunate event, most were aware that they needed to improve their health but always had an excuse such as lack of time or other priorities. Some had all but given up on their health and adopted the motto of ‘We’ve all got to go sometime!’
However, after their brush with death, these people quickly experienced a deeper appreciation of life and health, as well as a complete shift in priorities. Health was no longer something that they took for granted or abused for the sake of short term pleasure. It quite suddenly became a precious commodity that was to be nurtured and prioritized above most things. These people discovered their ‘WHY’ through unfortunate circumstances, but this ‘WHY’ was strong enough to change their lives because it resonates with everything they are and hope for.
As an aside, cardiac rehab patients were fantastic to work with because they were willing and prepared to prioritize their health and take the necessary action to preserve and transform their lives.
In contrast to those who have found their ‘WHY’ through unfortunate circumstances, I have also had the privilege of working with a group of people at the other end of the health spectrum, who base their whole sense of purpose and identity around healthy habits in order to explore the limits of their physical and mental capabilities.
The Professional Athlete
Athletes are generally a highly motivated bunch, who rely upon superior levels of health and performance to achieve success in their chosen sport. They face many adversities including defeat and injury, yet the strength of their ‘WHY’ provides them with the drive and resilience to overcome setbacks and continually invest in their physical and mental performance.
Whether physically gifted or not, professional athletes condition and develop their mindset to, not only prioritize their health and wellbeing, but also hone it in order to physically excel beyond most people. Each has a unique life story with all of the challenges, temptations, distractions and adversities that we all face in our day to day lives, but most have cultivated a deep or intrinsic motivation to constantly challenge and better themselves both physically and mentally. They are just like me and you, however they have made a decision to be better, perform better and live better through both physical and mental application, choice by choice, day by day.
The saying- ‘We are all athletes, but not all of us are in training’, really sums up the difference between people who take deliberate daily action to enhance their health, and the majority of us that know we should but haven’t found a strong enough ‘WHY’ yet.
Be Proactive not Reactive
My experience working with both cardiac rehab patients and professional athletes has demonstrated to me how seemingly opposite extremes of health can share a similar health driven mindset. For both groups of people, the daily participation in behaviours such as exercise and healthy eating are easy and unquestionable, however, the ‘WHY’ that shaped their mindset couldn’t be more different.
On one end of the spectrum we have a group of people who have been jolted into action by life threatening experiences, and at the other end there are those that have autonomously committed themselves to becoming the very best they can be. Either way, the habits that underpin a happy, healthy and robust life, are ingrained and unquestionable.
Unfortunately, the majority of us tend to only adopt self-care such as exercise and healthy eating as a reaction to pain, disease or discontentment, as opposed to a proactive and autonomous choice. When it comes to our most precious commodity (health) we generally tend to be more reactive than proactive. For many of us, it’s only when our comfort zone becomes a discomfort zone, do we move from ambivalence into action. For some, it takes a significant health scare to jolt them into change, and even then, many still choose to continue with their self-destructive habits.
Start with your Values
Whether it’s dietary changes, a fitness regime, competition, recovery from illness or surgery, our personal healthcare starts with a mindset that really values good health. A mindset that values health enough to motivate us into the small daily actions that create it. A mindset that can balance enjoyment of life with enrichment of health, and appreciates the symbiosis of both, and most importantly a mindset that is built on our personal values.
Values provide us with the platform upon which to build our ‘WHY’ for investing in our health on a daily basis, and the framework within which to live a more purposeful and fulfilling life. A health mindset should be built on the solid foundations of the very person that we are, what we want our life to be about, and what we stand for; our values.
By identifying our values, we can clearly see any mismatch or discord between the behaviours and habits we are exhibiting in our day to day lives and the values that we stand for. Feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression, and helplessness are often, at their root, due to a lack of harmony between our daily lives and the values we hold dear to ourselves. Unfortunately, we spend very little time, if any at all, identifying and reinforcing our personal values.
Many people invest a lot of their time trying to ‘fit in’, be accepted, worrying about others opinions and fulfilling others but not themselves. Our altruism shouldn’t be an excuse for not caring for ourselves. I often tell people who seek my professional help that they cannot serve from an empty vessel, so regardless of what others think, want or expect from us, we have to water our own garden before looking after somebody else’s.
If you intend to do something about your health but just can’t seem to tip from ambivalence into action, start by identifying your values. The list provided at the bottom of this page should help you identify your personal values. These will give you an anchor on which to build a strong and motivational set of reasons for investing in your most precious commodity.
‘When the WHY is strong enough, the HOW is easy!’
When you’ve identified your personal values, write a few lines about why they are important to you, and how practicing healthy habits help you live in accordance with these values. We cannot serve from an empty vessel and good health is not owed to us. We need to invest to see our assets grow!
If you’re struggling to find the motivation and inspiration to maintain habits that build greater health and happiness, the 31 Day Health Transformation starts by exploring your reasons for change, and helping you create a compelling enough ‘why’ that will help you form lifelong habits.
So, don’t let your excuses and ambivalence keep you from experiencing greater vitality, health, confidence and happiness. Get in touch and let’s light the fire within!
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
List of Values
Being the best
Making a difference