I’ve spent a good part of my adult life “working” on my health — making sure I eat right, exercise, get enough rest, and manage my stress. Believe me, I haven’t been perfect. And I’m sure many can relate to the constant pressure from all of the so-called experts who feed us a constant stream of “shoulds.”
You should eat kale, you should do yoga, you should get lots of aerobic exercise … no, you should lift weights and do interval training. Make sure you eat all organic foods, consume no sugar or caffeine, and get more sleep. And on and on.
And by the way, do it all while raising a family and managing your demanding job. It’s enough to make you want to close your eyes and cover your ears.
I get it. We’re supposed to be superwoman … or superman. We’re supposed to have boundless discipline and willpower so that we can have the perfect body, the perfect job, perfect health, and the perfect family.
Let’s take a deep breath and step back a moment. There are two words that I keep coming back to as I reflect on what contributes to a life filled with vitality, health, and longevity: “discipline” and “perfection.” But these two words set us up for feelings of inadequacy.
I’d rather focus on “purpose” and “intention.” I think purpose and intention are about love — love of others and love of self.
Several years ago, I read Dan Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones, in which he describes the lifestyles of the longest living populations in the world. None of these healthy people are worried about their pant size or what they’re going to put in their green smoothie. Granted, with the possible exception of the Seventh Day Adventists in California, they all lead much simpler lives than we do — not necessarily easier, but simpler.
What’s your intention for your life? What’s your purpose?
Perfection and discipline are not of much concern to them. What’s important is purpose and intention. Without exception, every member of each of these societies has a purpose, whether it’s sweeping the front stoop every morning or shopping for the day’s meals.
Every role or task, no matter how small, is carried out with intention and appreciation. Even the elderly have a purpose and are revered for their wisdom and contribution to family and society.
Instead of discipline and perfection (which is unattainable), let’s live with more purpose and intention. What’s your intention for your life? What’s your purpose?
What do you choose? Do you choose whole foods over processed? Do you choose to go for a walk instead of watching TV? Do you choose to appreciate the fullness of your life instead of focusing on what you think you lack? Do you choose to love and appreciate yourself as much as you love and appreciate your family and friends?
I’ll leave you to ponder these questions with a few lines from poet and writer Thomas Merton: “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”