In my last column “…Living Longer…” (if you missed it, please take a moment and click here to read it now. I ended by asking, with the enjoyment of our longer life span weighed against years of pain and discomfort, why more of us don’t take the necessary steps to avoid the negative consequences. Especially considering there is clear, proven evidence our choices can have a major effect.
We all procrastinate. I enjoy writing my column. I appreciate the opportunity. Yet every time it’s due, my patient editor has to encourage, push (gently) and cajole me to finish it and turn it in. On time? Right. Why don’t I?
As part of the New Year’s tradition, we’ll say we’re going to start saving more money before spending. But then we don’t. Why don’t we?
Many will say they’re going to start exercising and being more physically active. But then they don’t. Why don’t they?
We’ll say we’re going to start making much better nutritional choices. But then we give in to the same old temptations. Why do we?
Many have good intentions when they join a gym and can go whenever they choose. Gym memberships soar. There are lines for the treadmills. But by March everything is back to normal. Why?
Sidetracked by immediate gratification, we don’t resist temptation. We all show poor impulse control. We choose paths of less resistance. Why? Even with individual personal comfort at stake we mortgage our future. Why?
To explore the question I don’t suggest looking for answers in our vast self-help industry literature. And it is an industry now. Right here in the midst of The Easiest Living Conditions in Human History. That literature makes much ado about stress. Stress is the cause of our inertia. Plenty of food, water, shelter, clothing, no saber toothed tigers, no chamber pots, heated and air conditioned homes, cable TV, cell phones, a car for each household member—stress? Seriously?
“Why don’t we…?” is a pointless question if we’re talking about practical, functional reality. It’s not about Why. It is clearly about What and How. What should we do and How to do it. And we usually know the answer.
Ah, but that’ll require resisting temptation, delaying gratification, not being impulsive, adding self discipline…
I’ve observed that self-discipline means different things to each of us, and I think it comes down to either self-denial or self-motivation. We’re better at one than the other. So I suggest adapting accordingly. But either way-it’s all on us. Right on our individual shoulders. We have to take charge of ourselves. Life can be difficult. Life can be challenging. There is no magic pill (and if there were, the side effects as explained in every TV commercial would qualify it as risky at best).
What’s my point? What specifically should we do? How do we do it?
The path to long-term goals should be filled with short-term commitments.
- Make saving money an automatic deduction before we have to choose.
- Have a scheduled pre-paid appointment time to attend a class or to workout before you just talk yourself into going tomorrow.
- Make buying decisions in the grocery store not consumption decisions in your home.
Stuff like that—you can make your own list.
And then put the shoes on and start walking. Everyday. Rain or sunshine. Like our ancestors had to. It’s really not complicated. We’re a spoiled society. We have so much. We have life very, very, very easy. We can’t keep avoiding better choices. Especially now that we all pay for those who don’t even try to be healthier.
Yes, I’ll start turning in my columns before deadline (and make a few other changes/improvements I’m not sharing). We can do this; We just have to start.