WHY do you do WHAT you do? The WHAT part is easy, right? I’m an accountant, a writer, a fitness instructor. And the HOW is pretty straightforward – I crunch numbers, words, abs. But WHY?
For most of us, it takes a life-threatening moment to force us to go deep, to seriously question why we get out of bed in the morning. When my husband Hugh died in late 2004, I went to that place, that emotional inner cortex known as the limbic brain, where emotion is stored, beyond the analytic outer layers of HOW and WHAT, to contemplate WHY. A lot. And because of that, when I attended a course called “Find Your Why?” at BlissDom Canada (a social media conference) in Blue Mountain last weekend, I was super-jazzed as soon as instructor Dai Manuel opened his mouth. He started by talking about death! How cool is that?
I know. Downer for some. And you could feel a death hush in the room as Dai put Steve Job’s up on the big screen and Jobs talked about how every morning he looked at himself in the mirror and asked this question: “If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?” If the answer was no for too many days, Jobs knew he needed to change something. Think about all that Jobs accomplished in his life, revolutionizing six industries as biographer Walter Isaacson has pointed out – personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing – despite his life being cut short at 56 by cancer. Worth paying attention to, yes?
And every day, every moment, could very well be your last, so why the hell not be doing exactly what you want?
Dai Manuel then shared with us “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, an article by Susie Steiner in The Guardian, gleaned from a book of the same name by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who worked in palliative care.
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I’d let myself be happier.
See that? “Let” myself be happier? Don’t wait till you’re on your deathbed to accept that happiness is a choice.
Dai shifted gears then, plucking us off our deathbeds to ponder “The Blue Zones”, a book by Dan Buettner that gives you “9 lessons for living longer”. Living longer would give us time to discover our “why”, right? It would give us time to incorporate this inside-out brain lifestyle, as opposed to the outside-in most of us do. Here’s the “Power 9”:
- Move Naturally. The world’s longest living people live in an environment that forces them to move “without thinking about it”.
- Purpose. Your why! It’s worth up to seven extra years.
- Down Shift. “Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease.” Inflammation is the enemy.
- 80% Rule. Okinawans (Japan) say a mantra before eating that reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full.
- Plant Slant. “The cornerstone of most centenarian diets? Beans. They typically eat meat – mostly pork – only five times per month.”
- Wine @ 5. “Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers, especially if they share those drinks with friends.”
- Belong. “Attending faith-based services four times per month – no matter the denomination – adds up to 14 years of life expectancy.”
- Loved Ones First. Centenarians “keep aging parents and grandparents nearby, commit to a life partner and invest in their children.”
- Right Tribe. “The world’s longest lived people chose or were born into social circles that support healthy behaviours.”
Dai then shared his why, beaming up a picture of himself when he was a “morbidly obese” teenager. It was shocking. I mean there’s this person in front of you, speaking, and he’s cut. And yet, he most certainly was not at one time.
I was fortunate enough to work out with Dai the next morning at 6:45. Ouch. It seemed easy enough – 15 minutes, that’s all! Here’s what we did – 1) squats 2) push-ups, any type you can do, arms in close to body though 3) planks (front, each side) 4) stepping up onto an ordinary kitchen chair, up, up, down, down 5) pelvic tilts. We did each thing for one minute, then repeated the sequence three times. Easy-peasy. I must admit that while my numbers went up for most activities, my push-ups – quality and quantity – were pretty pathetic by the third round. And, although I consider myself in good shape, my muscles hurt for a few days afterward.
But Dai’s point is that you do this every single day. Like brushing your teeth. I mean who doesn’t have 15 minutes each day to work out? (If you don’t have 15, surely you have six? Google Hal Elrod and the 6-minute miracle morning.) His recommendation is to give yourself a half an hour, so the workout is followed up by five minutes of meditation (just listen to your heartbeat, Dai suggests) and 10 minutes of self-help, like reading a section of a book or watching a TED Talk. It’s a body, mind and spirit formula. Go to www.wholelifefitnessmanifesto.com to find out more about Dai’s Whole Life Fitness Power 30 Program.
Do the physical, mental and spiritual work. Discovering your own personal why matters. The quality of your life depends on it.
As for me, my why? My man Hugh started each day by saying, “It’s going to be a great day today.” And it was, for him, even if there was a ton of crap in it. The cause of his death at 46? Unexplained. I see his life as a message to me to have great days because they’re way more fun than crappy days. Because of my WHY, the order of my WHAT has shifted – writing and fitness first, accounting out of necessity. **Website photo credit Dai Manuel.**