Many of us never think of our health at all, much less about how to improve it. In spite of the fact that our overall well-being is something that we should invest in, and even plan ahead like a Wall Street guru building their portfolio, many of us simply use what we have with no real thought for the future.
This doesn’t mean we lack the intelligence or even the desire to continue being healthy; what it means is that we have adopted the “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. But unfortunately, even if our health isn’t “broken,” it doesn’t mean it is operating properly.
Our health is like the vehicle we drive. Most of us simply get in, turn the key, and use the vehicle to get where we are going. Sure, some of us prefer flashy cars or fast cars as opposed to the family “bus,” but for the most part our idea of maintenance is fuel and an occasional oil change — maybe some windshield wiper fluid when the windows get too dirty. We might start out washing and waxing our assorted cars, trucks and SUVs, but after a while we just think of them as transportation.
Once the “new” wears off (read fad diets and poorly planned New Year’s resolutions here) we just sort of push it to the background and chock up aches, pains, and breathlessness after walking across the driveway to things like getting older or being “a little” out of shape. And though these things might be contributing factors, they aren’t really the problem. Sure, we might have started out driving a shiny Cobra Mustang and are now tooling down the road in something closer to the old DeSoto station wagon my brother used to own, but the fact of the matter is that we are all still moving. And that, after all, is the goal, isn’t it; to keep moving and keep living the life we always wanted?
It most certainly is. But in order to achieve and maintain whatever goals we have for our health — not to mention actually making those goals — we need to understand a few things that might have slipped under our radar. The first of those things is that even though every vehicle on the road shares a lot of basic characteristics, they are all different. A Corvette, for instance, shares a lot of very basic characteristics with a Smart Car. Both have wheels, an engine, a transmission, and some version of a seat where the driver sits. But there are many other things they don’t share such as fuel economy and the possibility of impressing, well, most everyone. Still, both can get you from point A to point B, and both are considered transportation.
Another thing to consider is what road or roads are we traveling and why. It seems these days that “roads” have covered the entire planet; they all go somewhere and for some purpose, but are they really the roads we want or even need to travel? There is definitely no shortage of people who are willing to give us directions, either. Television, print, and the internet is filled with people who are telling us this or that road is the one true road to happiness and health, but we can’t travel them all, can we? Well, the short answer is that, in spite of the fact that all of these “helpful” directions are necessarily wrong, it doesn’t mean that they are all “right” for us, either.
Health, at the end of the day, is a very personal thing. And that isn’t only from an emotional or intellectual viewpoint. The biology, though often subtle, is different for each of us. There are some things which are universal such as eating better, more nutritious food and getting exercise, but how these things effect each of us is unique. Unfortunately, this is also why some people pursue a health regimen without seeing results and others follow no regimen at all but still seem phenomenally healthy. It can be quite disheartening when we think about it, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, that uniqueness is what can ultimately give us the advantage.
This doesn’t mean that we should throw out all of the “road maps” or delete our GPS; it just means we should find out where those roads are going before pulling out of our driveway. And honestly, roads are a fantastic resource whether we travel them or not. There is no need, after all, to cut a new road where one already exists. The key to traveling, however, is picking the destination first, then choosing the best road to get us there. We wouldn’t need a superhighway to get us to the local market, for instance, any more than a rural road would be the best road to choose to reach a bustling metropolitan area. And we should never forget that there are times in our travel when will might need both at different times during our journey.
Obviously, an investment in our health can prevent problems down the road or make those problems easier to fix when they arise. But the investment needs to be personalized to our own needs and desires rather than someone else’s. Typically, it would be a bad idea to install a set of the “Mud Buster 200” tires on a Corvette – if for no other reason than they won’t fit. And a towing package on a Smart Car would largely be irrelevant — unless your lawnmower breaks down, that is. We might need all of those things or none of them, but the reasons for or against are uniquely our own.
There are roads or a combination of roads that will get us where we want to go, and whatever vehicle we happen to be driving will travel them all. We just need to remember that we are the ones driving and can choose those roads depending upon our own needs and desires. Some might want to go faster, and some of us might prefer a more scenic route. Either or both are perfectly acceptable. We simply need to realize we are in the driver’s seat and get to decide where we are going and the best way to get there.