Seriously. We get our hair cut every 6 weeks, change the filters in our water systems every time the red light comes on, change the oil every 3000 miles, pressure wash our decks, rotate our tires. We take better care of our stuff than of ourselves
Why is it so difficult to get off the couch and take a walk? Or go to the gym? Or hire a health professional?
What stops us from taking better care of ourselves?
Actually, in a lot of ways, it’s not our fault.
Part of the reason is because our brain is wired that way. Our brains are predictive and always bent on efficiency. So whatever behavior patterns we have created for ourselves-like being trapped behind a desk for 8 hours a day-are the patterns we automatically default to. And the more we practice them (40-50+ hours a week x how many years?), the deeper the patterns become which makes them even harder to change.
Another part is a simple law of physics: a body at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Our brains simply will not use energy unless it is necessary. An outside force could be any number of things: a mean dog chasing us down the street, an upcoming wedding or family reunion or vacation, or bad news from the doctor. Whatever is perceived as necessary for survival, unconsciously or eventually consciously, will be the action we take.
But I think there’s more.
Humans are always telling stories, most of them to ourselves. But are they the truth? When it comes to improving our health and fitness, often the stories are not. They are scary and like the jeopardy that they imply, take the form of a question. We know the answer but ask anyway: If I get in better shape, will I lose all my friends who didn’t? Do I deserve to succeed? What will people think of me? What if I improve my health but my partner doesn’t? What happens to our relationship? If I change my appearance, I’ll get a lot of attention. How will that make me feel? Will I enjoy it? What kind of people are these new admirers? Why didn’t they pay attention to me before? And the biggest one: What if I suck at it? What if I fail?
But besides the scary stuff, getting this kind of help is a unique process. First of all fitness is a service, but the work isn’t performed for you or on you. You have to do it yourself. You also have to have clarity about what you need and know how to get it, or maybe just know that improvement is possible. Our health can decline very slowly and silently. Most of our chronic conditions (heart disease, Type 2, high blood pressure) take 12-15 years of poor choices to show up at the doctor’s office. That doesn’t really provide that “outside” force to get you up and running until it’s too late.
If you have tried to get fit and be healthier in the past, but slid back to your old behavior, that failure makes it much more difficult to try again, even if the failure wasn’t your fault (and it usually isn’t-It’s actually normal. On average, it takes 7 attempts before success).
None of this means we can’t change. It just means it’s tougher than we think. When we’re young, we take our strength and fitness and good health for granted because our poor choices won’t register for years and we think nothing’s wrong. But sooner or later, if we choose to age well, not simply decay, we have to take action. If you’re ready now to embrace health and wellness, get off medications, get stronger, then this is the perfect time to get started. Understand that it’s a lifetime commitment. Work on training your brain with new patterns. At first, it’s hard, but it gets easier. To keep myself going, I always remind myself of a one-line prayer I heard years ago: “Let me not die while I am still alive.”