Years ago, I created a presentation which I called, “The 7 Habits of Highly Fit People”. The title borrowed from the seminal Stephen Covey book. I love that book, and highly recommend it. It is one of my all time favorites for personal development. The purpose of my presentation was to give the audience a framework for developing and following a successful fitness lifestyle. However, I have revised my thinking a bit. I no longer use the term “fit” in this regard, opting instead for “well”. You see, a person can be fit without being well. And since my focus is on Therapeutic Training, I have changed the title of this work to “The 7 Habits of Highly Wellthy People”. Most of you know by now that my desire is for each and every one of you to join me in my journey of strong health and vitality. It is my raison d’etre. I know that you don’t have to be and do what everyone else is and does. We can be different. All it takes is strict adherence to simple principles. These principles guide me in my wellness journey, and it is my hope that you adopt them as well. I have modified my original list as I have grown and experimented. So, here are the 7 habits, continuing with habit 7:
Plan and Implement Regular Downtime!
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”
An old story goes something like this: A man walks up to another man who is frantically working to saw down a tree. The first man asks, “What are you doing?” Man2 says, “Can’t you see? I trying to saw down this tree.” Man1 then says, “Wow, how long have you been at it?” Man2 says, “Over 5 hours! And I am beat!” Man1 then says, “Well, why don’t you take some time to sharpen the saw? I am sure it would go much faster.” Then Man2 says impatiently, “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw! I am too busy sawing!!”
In 2013, I was in Texas visiting my parents. My father asked me how many days I worked each week. “7”, I replied. “You don’t take any days off?” “No, I don’t need to”, I said. “I love what I do and it really doesn’t feel like work”. My father looked at me and said, “Son, it doesn’t matter how it feels. When you work you have an obligation to other people. It is the obligation, having to be ‘on’, that will take its toll. If you don’t take time off each month you are going to burn out.” Even though I wasn’t completely convinced by his words, I decided to take 4 contiguous days off in early 2014. I left town and visited Charleston, SC. I chose Charleston because, even though I had lived in NC for decades, I had never been to Charleston. I had also never tried “Shrimp-n-Grits” (I didn’t even think the two could go together in one meal. Is it a breakfast or dinner?). So, I figured I’d kill two birds with one trip out of the city. On my first day in Charleston, I took a horse and carriage tour of the city, and learned a lot of history while enjoying much of the Charleston’s beauty. I then walked around the downtown area and visited some great restaurants and shopping areas. I then found a place in Charleston known for its shrimp-n-grits. It was delicious! Moreover, I sat at the bar to eat and had great conversation with the bar tender and some other folks at the bar. By day 3 I realized I was experiencing a relaxation I did not know was even missing — or needed. I called my dad and thanked him for that advice. And from that point on, I made it a point to take that time off every month, as well as a couple of longer vacations each year. Because the fact is everyone’s saw wears down. Therefore it is imperative to take time out to sharpen your saw on a regular basis.
Now, something that I was doing for many years prior to 2013, and continue to do, is to have mini-breaks every day in which I spend anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes meditating, napping, or just lying or sitting and doing nothing. I call these brain breaks and “grounding and centering”. Whatever you choose to call it, you should take these breaks each day in order to allow your brain to rest and remain at its best. Lying or sitting with your eyes closed for even 5 minutes has been shown to have profound benefits for your brain. The key is to practice taking deep breaths into your dantien (which is the area just below your navel, towards your spine), expanding your lower abdomen with the inhales, and breathing out in a controlled manner. You can add to the power of this practice by repeating affirmations to yourself as you relax. Imagine programming your subconscious with these powerfully affirming thoughts. You will amaze yourself with how well this works.
Most of you reading this would be classified as a “Type A” person. This means you have no problems getting things done. You are driven. You are competitive. This is all fantastic! But, please understand this — You can accomplish far more, and better quality, tasks when you plan and implement regular downtime. Moreover, it is imperative that you give yourself permission to enjoy your downtime. And to answer the question I know you are thinking, Yes! You do indeed deserve downtime. Everyone deserves downtime. In fact, downtime, when implemented properly, is essential. And to optimize your wellth, you should plan downtime for each day (in 5 min or more sessions), along with much longer periods of downtime throughout the months and years. In my experience, the daily downtime is the one most neglected. So, please be sure to incorporate your daily downtime along with the longer vacations. All you need is 5 minutes.
Habit 7 — Plan and Implement Regular Downtime!
Remember my vision for us — We will age together! But we will be different from previous generations. I want us to be functional centinarians, free from the chronic diseases and pains so common today. Know this: Aging is mandatory. Maintaining functional fitness and vibrant health — well, that’s optional!
Have a super great day, and an even better tomorrow! If you have any questions, please do flip me an email. See you soon!
To Your Health!
Jeff Wooten, “The Body Mechanic”