Sprained ankles, and the unhappiness motivator

The following is a post I wrote for my clients on Saturday afternoon.

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m writing this to you from my couch, as my left leg is elevated with ice on my foot. No, this isn’t some weird way to lose weight. I’m icing my foot because I sprained my ankle yesterday morning while playing basketball.

Want to know the quickest way to appreciate what you have?

Deprivation.

When the electricity goes out, or the Internet connection goes out, or the TV isn’t working, it’s almost all we think about. “When is the power going to come back on?” we keep thinking.

Like our health, when we don’t have it, it’s all we think about, until we have it again. And then when we do, we appreciate it so much, until we don’t again.

I’ve always tried to appreciate my health. I got really into exercising and eating healthfully when I was 9 years old. And then when I was 12 years old, my father was diagnosed with MS. Once that happened, I took my fitness to the next level.

Almost every time I exercise, a thought of gratitude pops into my head. To me, exercise is a celebration of life.

For so many people, they don’t appreciate their health and fitness (aka: freedom and independence) until they don’t have it.

This is when they vow, “If I get through this, I’ll change my ways.”

Often times, it’s a scare or fear that really gets people going. As opposed to wanting to enjoy life more, and having more fun.

Everything is better when we’re healthy and fit.

AN INSTANT WAY TO FEEL GRATITUDE AKA HAPPY WHEN SOMETHING DOESN’T GO YOUR WAY:

Imagine yourself in a worse position.

For me, it’d be a broken ankle that required surgery to fix, and months of rehab. Thankfully, I’ll be on crutches for only 2-4 weeks and I should be back to 100% within 6-8 weeks.

Boom. Instant happiness.

Now, imagine how you’d feel if something happened and you lost your freedom and independence (aka health and fitness) altogether?

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Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) had a great blog post the other day about the unhappiness motivator. He writes:

“I wonder how much of a role unhappiness plays in peoples’ ability to plan for success. I was thinking about this lately because I know a lot of successful white-collar types who had unpleasant manual jobs when they were young. In my case, I worked on my uncle’s dairy farm in upstate New York.  And let me tell you, nothing makes you want to avoid farming as much as actually doing it. When I studied for a test in school, I was keenly-aware that it meant something.

Where I live now, in the San Francisco bay area, most kids either don’t have jobs or they have the easy indoor kind, as in scooping ice cream or handing out towels.

During the school year, most college-bound kids in my area have no time for jobs. If you play a school sport and have four hours of homework per night, which is typical for college-bound kids, there’s no room for anything else. Weekends too are packed with sports and more studying.

So what happens to a kid who has never experienced a truly shitty job? Will those kids have the same amount of career drive as the folks who have?

I imagine how different I might have felt if I had never experienced unpleasant manual labor – and lots of it – and instead was tortured with several hours of homework every night. I think I might have longed for a simpler future with no books and not so much thinking. In other words, I think the homework would have redirected me away from seeking a career in law or engineering and toward something that didn’t require so much damned studying.”

I find this to be so true.

Not only with how seriously I took my school work growing up (caddying wasn’t easy!) but also with my health.

I had my fair share of dealings with death and dying as a kid. It always made me want to take care of myself because so many diseases are preventable — if we take care of ourselves by eating right and exercising.

It’s hard not to be motivated when you’re around sick people. It’s hard not to be grateful for your health. It’s hard not to want to invest your time and energy into being healthy and fit.

After all, health truly is wealth.

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Soon enough, I’m going to savor being able to walk without crutches. I’m going to savor every step I can take without pain.

Until…I don’t, and I’m focused on other things…

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We’re all so busy with life, that we often forget about our health and fitness. When life gets crazy whether it’s with work, kids, school, whatever, the first thing we stop doing is taking care of ourselves.

Why do we do this?

Because it’s not a pressing need. We figure we’ll focus on it “later on” when we’re less busy and less stressed. When we have more time to devote to it.

Here’s the interesting part, though: these same people that promise themselves they’ll take care of their health and fitness when/once/if….[Insert some random event here] are deluding themselves.

The short run eventually becomes the long run. Eventually, we’re going to have to deal with the things we keep putting off. And usually, we wind up dealing with it in a far more daunting way than if we were to deal with it all along.

It’s these same people that experience a major health event like a heart attack or diagnosis that vow to change their ways based on fear rather than actually wanting to and choosing to enjoy their health and fitness.

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No, this isn’t a long rant about scaring you into taking care of yourself.

Too often, we focus on the discomfort of not eating this or that. Or the discomfort of exercising vs. not.

Too often we forget to focus on the amazing benefits of eating right and exercising *consistently*. The increased happiness, focus, energy, clarity, intellect, and on and on we get.

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At the end of the day (and during it!) we always do feel better (and happier) when we eat right and exercise. As fun as eating junk is, and lounging around is, it’s MORE fun to eat right and exercise.

Said in another way, I have never felt better from eating poorly and lounging around than I have from eating right and exercising.

And the single best way to stay motivated (and even excited!) is to stay focused on the benefits.

Beautiful omelettes are being made, and too many of us are focusing only on the broken eggs.

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