The Missing Link to a Well Lived LifeJun 09, 2023
By Joyce Mitchell, ACE-Certified CPT and GFI
Achieving great health and wellness reaches far beyond losing a few pounds or inches. It involves running after a lifestyle that allows us to accomplish goals, care for others, and thrive rather than survive. Behavior change is foundational to optimal wellness, and most often is the missing link.
Sink or Swim
Like a pebble dropped in a pond causing movement from the center, our choices can ripple out impacting our lives and others. Recently, I came across the first business brochure I wrote. It brought back memories of selecting the logo that clearly communicated my fitness and wellness philosophy. It was a heart-filled project between myself and my friend Christine, also a talented graphic designer. I pondered my decision between two. One, was a pebble dropping into the water with multiple ripples from the center, but the one I selected featured water droplets on beautiful vibrant green leaves. Christine captured it perfectly, conveying peace and healthful living. The morning I was to make my decision, I came across a reading that spoke of refreshment, life and vitality. That was it, and my philosophy has never wavered. Our choices matter - what we do today affects our tomorrow.
Notepads or Nothing
Staying on course with your wellness takes intention, planning and follow through. I had great examples - my parents. I believe their successes have been directly linked to determination, work ethic, community service and family priorities. My father was goal driven. When my older sister assembled table decorations for his retirement party, she included legal-sized yellow notepads and markers plus whistles, representing his years as a high school coach and athletic director. My dad accomplished many longtime goals such as publishing a fiction book, numerous articles, handbooks for coaches and manuscripts. He worked for his school district in different capacities up until his death at age 81. He was even speaking of important projects while in the hospital after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's T-Cell Lymphoma. My mother, a professional artist and retired high school art teacher, now 89, also a hard worker and involved community member, is still active with commission work and other projects. She continues to win local and national artist awards and has been published in numerous art industry magazines.
You may be thinking I had it made as a daughter of high achievers. But, have you ever looked back at your life and noticed a different version of yourself and asked: “Where did I go or what happened?” I have pondered these questions. I have struggled staying on course in different areas of my life. I would describe myself as a “bookworm” in high school, as I never dated but was involved in numerous service and scholarship organizations and activities like volleyball and cheerleading. My later years were productive at the junior college level and when I transferred to a state university. Then, it seems I got off track after a heart-breaking split up while at San Jose State. I lost my way a bit. I made poor choices. I became easily overwhelmed and insecure. Luckily, I had a strong support team helping me - dear friends, advisors and my faith. During this difficult season I remember struggling with time management and getting my list done. My boss asked me to submit my planned schedule for the day and it helped me grow. My co-worker, who could have been a Franklin Planner salesperson, encouraged me too. He loved his Franklin system, and I found it improved my day’s routine. I was well on my way to being more productive and organized.
Have you ever written a long list of goals and heard your brain say: “No way! Can’t be done” or “Who do you think you are?” and walked away to never revisit it again. Experts in the field of neuroscience and psychology say it takes patience and perseverance when pursuing a goal. Research by Phillippa Lally and colleagues at the University College London suggests that new behaviors can happen within 66 days (their study range was 18 to 254 days), but it depends on the complexity of change and personality. The good news is an unaccomplished goal is not a bad thing. In Psychological Science, researchers George Miller and Carsten Wrosch of the University of British Columbia share that if the goal is unattainable or unrealistic, the lack of accomplishment may be better for your psychological well-being and physical health. They refer to this as “gotta know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em”.
Psychologists say it is possible to pursue the wrong plans. There are five questions helpful to ask in this process, says Mark Travers, Ph.D., and two of them would call out an objective: “Does somebody else want me to achieve this goal”, or “Will I get something from someone if I do?” New research suggests that individuals who pursue ambitions that are in alignment with their own interests - rather than someone else’s standards - are more successful in achieving them. Author of the research, Aidan Smyth of Carleton University in Canada clarifies in The Journal of Research in Personality that "mindful" individuals, or people who excel at existing in the present moment in a sustained and non-judgmental way, are better at setting the right goals than others. Bottomline, they are self-aware and in tune with themselves and where they want to go or what they want to accomplish.
Change or Chance
As we know, individuals intentional with their health and wellness may receive a diagnosis like cancer or a terminal illness at some point, but does that mean making changes for the better - or setting goals - is not important? Absolutely not. When I was about 13, my father called a family meeting and shared with us he had a heart condition. Things were going to change, specifically our diets. Out with the whole milk, steaks, fried foods and more. His reason, he shared: “Because I want to be at your weddings. I want to be here for a long time.” His older brother died of a heart attack at a young age, leaving a wife and five children, and he did not want that for our family. In addition to dietary changes, my Dad started running up to 5 miles every morning before work. If my Dad had not taken his heart condition seriously in the 1980s, I suspect I would have lost my Dad at a much younger age. My father was healthy and active. Yes, in the end, lymphoma took his life within 7 days, but with his known health challenges he kept ahead of them with his positive behavior change through diet, exercise and mindset.
A disregard for health challenges will catch up to you like compounding interest on a credit card. You will come to a fork in the road. For example, weight gain can lead to joint pain. From there health difficulties can domino, then with lack of activity more challenges can appear. Take the path toward greater wellness one step at a time. You can take it slow and steady. Avoid the all or nothing mentality. It is all too easy to go full steam ahead, then get frustrated. Health coach Alice Bowman calls this the “0 to 60 Method''. Life obstacles make it too easy to give up or give in. Although overused a lot, it is true: our body is a gift. You may have seen the decline of someone’s health right before your eyes. All knowing it could have been slowed down or avoided with intentional behavior change long ago. It is never too late to make the switch from chance to change for improved health and wellness.
Plan or Postpone
Ready, set, go is the name of the game. First, you have to be ready. Second, you have to be prepared. Third, you need to start. You may need help from a health coach or nutritionist or both. You don’t have to do it alone. A strong support system is important too - whether that’s family, friends or a fitness community. It might get messy, and you might need to answer difficult questions like “Do I really want to pursue this goal?” It is a look-in-the-mirror-kind-of-moment.
There are simple steps you can take now. Set specific goals and keep at the forefront your big picture. Whether you are trying to eat better or move more, behavior change is required. It is the missing link to our health and wellness. Leaving your health - body, mind, and spirit - to chance will not serve you well or your loved ones. Make the shift, embrace the change for a healthy and well lived life.
Joyce Mitchell, ACE-Certified CPT and GFI, has been a fitness professional for years. In 2012, she opened her own studio, Joy2BWell Fitness, in Vacaville, California. Knowledge and communication being top priorities, Joyce loves that she is able to couple her Public Relations degree with fitness and wellness. Whether on the studio floor or through newsletters and special events, Joyce coaches on ways to get fit, stay strong and move well. In 2016, she was featured in IDEA Fitness Journal showcasing her approach with clients and was also featured in a local magazine, SolanoFIT, teaching effective stretching techniques.