Cycling from one extreme to another never fixes anything; it only creates more problems. Many of our clients are disciplined leaders—they keenly feel their responsibility for the company, for coworkers, for outcomes—and need to make mindful, carefully considered decisions. Yet when it comes to their own lifestyle, often they don’t apply the same principles. They undermine themselves by either having no discipline or by using discipline in a blunt, unconsidered way. There is no structure or thought applied to building a healthy relationship with themselves—they tend to go in circles through extreme behaviors of indulgence and punishment.
It can be helpful to look into the definition of proactive: creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened. Someone who is proactive with their health and fitness isn’t indulging themselves, nor are they punishing themselves as a reaction to their own behavior.
For instance, we had a client, Jill, who struggled with her weight all her life and came to us in her twenties. Her pattern was to engage in extreme activities that she had to train for and would provide her with purpose. She looked for long pilgrimage hikes, runs for a cause, and other challenging events instead of changing her lifestyle. When not “training,” she fell back into old habits and regained the weight. Even though she wasn’t aware of it, she had created a lifestyle that stressed her joints, kept her weight unstable, drained her energy, and ultimately left her frustrated.
After following The Happy Body successfully for a year, she finally felt fit, strong, and energetic. She then decided she wanted to run a marathon. To me this looked like the dark side of discipline, when that passion for new achievement drives you to abuse the body. I asked her why she would want to put herself at risk of injury and perhaps undo much of the work she’d accomplished. She then realized that she didn’t even like running, she actually hated it. With this awareness she stopped the cycle, maintained control over her lifestyle, and had more time and energy for truly creative activities. Jill never had a serious injury or health crisis because she changed her lifestyle early. Had she been continuing these cycles into her sixties she would have ended up like many of our clients who come later in life after surgeries, injuries and with other serious health problems.
Being proactive is the opposite of being reactive, compulsive, and obsessive. It means examining in depth how the activity will benefit you over time and help you create a healthy, balanced ecosystem in your own life. It’s important to create good habits, loving discipline, and a healthy regimen.
Proactive also means preventive. Many people are successful in some areas of their lives but ignore serious deficits in others. If you’re following The Happy Body you’re already being proactive in the area of health and fitness. But there are many important areas in life where we need to do the preventive work now to arrive at a good place later, for instance:
- Health & Fitness (example: The Happy Body)
- Financial (example: Japanese practice of putting 20% every paycheck into savings)
- Relationships: romantic & friendship (example: romantic, ritual of dinner & dancing one night a week) (example: friendship, monthly book club, hiking, movie night)
- Life philosophy: spirituality, religion, greater connection (example: volunteering, religious practices, travel & education)
- Cultivating self-worth: psychology, self-awareness (example: reading, creative activities, therapy)
All ecosystems are built on interrelationships, so if one area is out of balance, the others will ultimately be affected. Frustration is the first sign that that ecosystem is unhealthy, and then it’s up to you to discover which area needs attention. I invite you here to build your own future with sustaining rituals and habitual practices that establish the architecture for happiness.
In reviewing the list above, do you notice anything missing? How do you decide what to cultivate in your ecosystem, and how do you do it?
Leave your response below in the comments.