Our culture today is obsessed with the length of our lives. We pat ourselves on the back about it all the time. Statistically I can expect to make it 74 years! Sounds pretty great, but is longevity alone deserving of all the accolades? As soon as we add quality of life and quality of mind to the discussion, it immediately gets muddy. Do you want to live in pain? If your mind deteriorates long before your body, what then? The discussion gets further muddied if we talk about happiness and regret. Does adding 10 extra years of unhappiness sound appealing?
While a deep and lengthy discussion is worth having on this issue, ancient wisdom gives a practical way to respond to this question. Their answer was that we should conduct ourselves in such a way that our vitality and health last long enough for us to accomplish our life’s purpose before we die. With this frame of reference, we no longer focus so much on length of life, but on staying healthy enough to take care of business. I love using this frame of reference because it changes the whole conversation.
I brush my teeth so they don’t rot becomes I love to perform and communicate my ideas to groups of people. So I brush my teeth to keep them looking great.
I exercise because my family has bad hearts becomes I want to see my granddaughter graduate college. I need to pay extra attention to strengthening my heart because several members of my family have died young of heart disease.
All of the sudden we have some passion and direction to this discussion of longevity. It helps us frame what we need to focus on. Depending on our goals, it shows us how intense we need to work to stay fit, healthy, or mentally sharp. It also forces us to ask some new questions. Three of my favorites are:
1: Do you know what you want out of life?
2: Are you building the skills and maintaining your focus enough to get to the goals that truly matter?
3: Am a pushing too hard where it doesn’t matter?
We all want to live healthy, happy, fruitful lives that mean something. I hope this little bit of wisdom from the past can help you define exactly what that means for you. Setting the proper attitudes for why we do what we do is just the first step. While it is indeed a critical step, proper attitude is still just the first in the long journey of wellness.
Caution: Life is messy and time marches on regardless. It’s the same for everyone. Only you can set the priorities that will result in your contentment or regret.
Remember: Big goals are accomplished in little steps.