I have been thinking this week about health and the amount of choice involved in creating the healthy life we each love. Society has given us a script for health. Don’t work too much, don’t eat too much, exercise regularly, and don’t use drugs. We all know the ultimate handed down to us by health experts. My clients have taught me that there are many variations within these parameters.
Some of my clients like to spend their free time socializing, hanging out with friends and family going from one social situation to another. Some of my clients like to spend their free time alone, watching movies alone, taking walks alone, and relaxing alone. Some of my clients like to have a glass of wine at the end of the night, for some clients this feels very unhealthy. The difference in preference is not judge worthy. It is, in fact, just a difference in preference. The unhealthy experience is when a person is attempting to make choices that they do not want to make because someone else tells them to do so.
I have found that the best way to establish health and preferences is to encourage my clients to imagine they have only one day, one week, one month, or one year left to live. Dark and scary, I know, but very effective. When you put a time limit on your existence, it helps to bring your preferences in perspective. We often say to ourselves subconsciously, “yeah, I will do that eventually, I will do what I really want to do with my time someday.” That is not good enough, because those thoughts don’t promote health or the life we love. Each and every moment must be spent doing what we want to do, otherwise we will eternally allow ourselves to believe that someone else is driving our destiny, that someone else is creating our journey.
An activity that I encourage my clients to determine preferences: When you get a moment to think and relax. Get a pen and paper and write at the top, “One day” and list everything you would do if it was your last day to live in rank order of importance. Take another piece of paper and title it, “One week”. Write everything you would do in your last week if that was all you had. Do the same for “One month” and “One year”. At the end of this activity, you will have right in front of you your genuine preferences and desires. You will be able to see clearly what is most important, what is least important and all the elements in between.
The next step of course is to live the way your list outlines. Incorporating A LOT of your strongest preferences and being very wary of doing the things that are least important. Each day, try to live the way your true desires outline. Be prepared, it may mean you need to say no to those who would like you to hang out routinely and in contrast, it may mean that you need to socialize more. It may mean you need to start taking more walks or hikes. It may even mean you need to quit your job or leave your relationship. You don’t need to make the big changes today, but in order to gain health; you need to start working towards your changes right now. Do whatever you need to do to get started. Find a friend you can confide in, find a support group, research new jobs or drop me a note and let me know you need support. I will be here, if you need a hand in creating an action plan. I will be here; if you just need to tell someone that you are not leading the healthy life you want. Together, we will start from there.