*This essay was previously published by Joel Mwakasege, editor of the Medium publication Be Yourself. If you prefer to read it there, please hit the heart button when you get to the bottom of the essay.
When some people meet me or when I chat with family and friends, there seems to be a connective thread that runs through our conversations. They feel like we need to talk about health and fitness. And even though most will never admit it, there is an invisible wall between our exchanged words.
In replies to questions and concerns, I watch them nod their heads up and down. But I also see their minds shaking from right to left.
“It’s a nice idea, but I could never do that.”
That referring to being healthy in the broadest terms: Eating well, moving more often, practicing gratitude in small ways, training the mind and front loading happiness before success.
I don’t think these things are radical. In fact, if we met for lunch today — and health and fitness didn’t come up — you wouldn’t assume that I’ve oriented my entire career around the idea.
You’d realize that I’m a lot like you. I eat food. I work. I wrestle with doubt. I’ve failed in big and small ways. I’ve won in big and small ways. I watch Office re-runs. I savor a good cup of bean juice. I have stuff like a laptop, some books, a car, and an L-shaped couch. I have mixed feelings about Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors. I scroll Twitter way too much.
I’m human like you.
However, when we lunch together, I won’t be ordering the double-bacon cheeseburger with curly fries tag-teamed with a chocolate milkshake.
That is where the distinction is found: I choose to be healthy not for the sole purpose of looking good (although that is a positive by-product) — but because I’ve learned that being healthy makes me better in other important areas of my life.
I believe self-leadership precedes the leadership of other people and other things.
When you board a plane and the flight attendant takes you through the emergency routine, they always tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first, before you attempt to help others right?
This same logic must be applied to your self-care.
To be the best spouse you can be, doesn’t it makes sense to be the healthiest you can be?
To be the best employee, business owner, or creative leader you can be, doesn’t make it sense to be the healthiest you can be?
To nourish your spiritual life, doesn’t it make sense to be the healthiest you can be?
Somewhere along the way, being healthy has become the radical stance. Consider this story my friend told me a few days ago:
I’m walking into the break-room and there is a pink box of fresh, fluffy doughnuts. My co-worker walks in with me and asks, “Are you going to have one?”
“I’m just going to cut off a piece of one. I can’t have a whole doughnut because it gives me a stomach ache.”
And then he glanced at me with repulsive eyes and replied, “Well of course you’ll get a stomach ache. All I ever see you eat is fruits and veggies.”
This situation is off isn’t it? It’s like watching a goldfish swim around in a bowl of Mountain Dew. The irony in this man’s posture is almost to0 significant to understand, but it’s this:
Being unhealthy is the norm. Being healthy is radical.
This isn’t an attempt to bring the hammer down, shame anyone, impose guilt, or claim that a sensible indulgence in a comfort food is off-limits. Rather, it’s an honest attempt to reveal that being unhealthy is a consensus reality — an agreed-upon concept that a group of people accept as normal.
Healthy living is not radical. Our environment has only made it foreign. And whether we’re aware of it or not, the pressure to conform squeezes us until we are forced to decide.
Will we follow … or will we go rogue?
Perhaps the vain posture of health, fitness and wellness doesn’t light your fire. If that’s you, consider framing the journey with a different outcome.
If I make healthy living my normal, how will my relationships improve?
If I make healthy living my normal, how will my work, creativity, and business improve?
If I make healthy living my normal, how will my spiritual life improve?
If you dig deep enough with these questions, you’ll discover that high performance — in business, at home, and in your personal life — require that you do great work at an elite level for a long period of time.
Good health is what fuels high performance. Ultra wellness is the vehicle to living your best life.
Nobody can tell you what your soul is crying for. Only you know that. But maybe you’ve been ignoring the loud whisper of, “It’s time to change.”
If that’s you, I give you permission to pursue a life of Ultra Wellness. It’s not radical, I promise. And if you feel alone in your attempt to change, know that you have one person in your corner rooting you on. I’ll be cheering for you each step of the way.
And maybe one day, we’ll lunch together and both pass on the double-bacon cheeseburger with curly fries tag-teamed by a chocolate milkshake.
Until then, press on my friend.