You’ve seen the memes on the Internet, or heard the phrases: “What’s your excuse?”
Or heard the phrase, “if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”
I actually like this second quote – and not because of the judgement that’s implied with it, but rather the truth that it conveys. We all have priorities. A list from 1-100. And we can’t do everything.
On our list of priorities, we all have the same things: family, partner relationship, travel, money, career, health, and self-care, to name a few. They’re just in different orders. My list is in a different order than your list. Only one thing can occupy that top spot. Only one thing can occupy the second, and so on.
As a health coach, I would love for everyone’s list to have ‘health’ as their #1 priority. But the truth is that it isn’t. It’s not even mine. My health is definitely in the top 3, but its’ not #1. For example: if someone in my immediate family was in the hospital, you bet that my workouts would take a back seat.
Health is the thing that supports the rest of our life. It allows us the freedom to do those things in life that we enjoy. It allows us to LIVE.
When clients come to me, inevitably they tell me that their health is their #1 priority. They don’t mean to deceive; they’re trying to be good clients, telling me what they think I want to hear. But I would rather hear the truth, because that allows me to be a better coach if I know where our time together stands.
One of the exercises that I have clients who come to me for health coaching do, is list out their values, identity and priorities.
Identity: These would be the words that you use to describe yourself. I am a ___________. woman, man, American, Canadian, Texan, Christian, Jew, Buddist, straight, gay, mother, father, marathon runner, athlete, couch potato, sloth, drinker, teetotaler, teacher, scientist, environmentalist, spy… These are the words that you use to describe yourself. The list can be endless.
Values: Values are something that shape who you are, and what character traits. Although, when we see a list of values, we often, in our heads, say , “yeah! That’s important to me!” But we can’t hold on to all of them. The idea here is to pick 3-5 that really define your core value set.
Priorities: These are the things that are important to you. As I mentioned above, these can be difficult to put in order. Health, career, wealth, service to others, family, connection with others…
What I love about this exercise is that it clarifies our future, and our path. This is a really difficult exercise to complete because of competing demands. We say our health it’s important, but when work calls as we’re walking out the door for our personal training appointment, what decision to we make? Do we take the call? Or let it go to voicemail & honor our commitment to ourselves?
This exercise allows us to make very clear, what is our next step? How do I resolve this conflict?. If you’re finding yourself conflicted, pulling out your list of priorities will make your decision that much easier. Because now you have a blueprint of how you should proceed, or your next action step, according to your values and priorities.
When you have identified your values and priorities, it’s like a beacon shining the light in the direction that you want to go.
Now here’s the place where people get jammed up. We get jammed up in ‘the shoulds’. The shoulds are judgement. I know that I should workout (but I having some downtime is also important). Or I know that I should eat vegetables (but they taste better when they’re deep-fried). My health should be a priority (and it is, but I’m really comfortable sitting on the couch right now drinking wine. Ha!)
And I want to stress that THERE IS NO JUDGEMENT coming from me if your health is not a priority. Not everything CAN be. There may be a time in your life when health can take more of a center stage. Maybe now isn’t the time. Maybe now is the time that you dedicate on raising your family, or building your business.
Does that mean that you should just say, “Eff it!” No. It means that the time that you dedicate to that part of your life should be commensurate with where it resides on your priority list. You can balance multiple priorities at the same time. It just takes a little creativity in combining them: being active with your kids; instead of drinks with friends, having an exercise date; if you have to attend business lunches, dinners and/or cocktail parties, be conservative in your consumption.
And of course you know that priorities can shift. Maybe your health isn’t a priority today, but you know that, it needs to be back in the top again. And here’s why: your health is what is going to allow you to keep doing those things that are also on your priority list.
- You can’t take care of your family unless you take care of yourself.
- You can’t be effective in your business unless you manage your stress & sleep so that you can make good decisions
- You’ll enjoy travelling to far off lands better if you’re active than if your balance and stamina are poor
So, yes. There are times when your health can take a temporary back seat, but you do only have one body in this lifetime. If you take care of it, it will repay the favor tenfold.