Healthy Investing

4 Steps to Dying Slowly

Everyone seems to be talking about the health of the nation’s economy. And everyone seems to have a theory as to what is causing our economic problems.

I won’t waste your time giving you my theory. But I do know this — your stress and your unhealthy habits may be killing you and hurting your company.

Ron Goetzel, vice president of the Medstat Group in Washington D.C., a health information company, found that our nation spends 25% of its total health care tab on medical care for unhealthy habits. That’s about $250 billion a year. That’s what I call an unfortunate waste of money.

To get more specific, Goetzel studied 46,000 employees, from six different companies, for six years. He found out that the unhealthy habits of these employees cost their employers $20 million a year. The sad thing was that all of those costs were unnecessary because all of the habits were changeable.

Unfortunately, there’s even more bad news. Michael Cook, editor of Training and Development Journal wrote about excessive stress and its relationship to jobs and illness. He wrote, “Last year, American industry lost $25 billion due to the premature death of its employees.

In a sense, training your employees to get rid of their unhealthy habits and get rid of their stress may be one of the best investments your company can make. There’s almost an immediate return on investment. That’s why my on-site seminar, “Take This Job and Love It! Keeping Your Balance in a Stressed-Out World,” is so popular.

Of course, you may not be a manager and you may not be running a company, so…

1.  Make It Personal.

The research cited above says there are a lot of stress problems in a lot of companies.

But what about you? Are you as healthy as you could be or want to be? Are you doing everything you can to maximize your health? Or are you guilty of slowly killing yourself?

Don’t be like the person who said, “I finally got my head together. Now my body is falling apart.” And don’t delude yourself, thinking that you’ll soon be back to normal. You won’t be — if you keep your unhealthy habits. Don Marquis says, “Middle age is the time when a man is always thinking that in a week or two he will feel just as good as ever.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your less-than-stellar health just happened. Dr. Paul Tournier said, “Most illnesses do not, as is generally thought, come like a bolt out of the blue. The ground is prepared for years through faulty diet, intemperance, overwork, and moral conflicts, slowly eroding the subject’s vitality.

If you’ve heard me speak, you know I’m extremely passionate about the issues of stress, burnout, health and work/life balance.  That’s because I was severely disabled some 30 years ago, with some doctors predicting my future would be a wheel chair. Rejecting their prognosis, I went on to do my own research and learned that my disability was coming from my unhealthy habits.  When I changed those habits, I began enjoying incredible energy and health.

Of course, we all have to deal with genetics, accidents, and other factors over which we have no control. But there are some tremendous benefits if you choose to get rid of your unhealthy habits.

If you’re ready to claim those benefits, you must…

2.  Overcome Inertia.

In other words, you must overcome laziness.

Unfortunately, it’s easier to keep up your unhealthy habits than change them. But that’s pure craziness, because no one wants a life of mediocre health.

Everyone wants to be healthy. No one likes being ill. No one enjoys pain and suffering. Yet few people live the healthy life they know they should. They eat too much; they exercise too little, and they know it. They’re slowly killing themselves and doing nothing about it. They’re stuck with inertia. You’ve got to overcome it.

Then, you’ve got to…

3.  Visualize Health.

Take a few moments every once in a while to picture yourself as whole, healthy, and well, whether or not you are. You might even repeat an affirmation to yourself, something like: “I am filled with energy, vitality, and health.

What you are doing is laying the groundwork for good health. Your life is strongly influenced by your thoughts.

If you dwell on how badly you feel, you will make yourself sick, even if you’re not. And if you focus on how tired you are, you’ll get more tired.

When you think thoughts of health, however, you go a long way towards being healthier. When you think energy, you will have more energy.

Almost every day, at one of my programs, someone will ask me about my energy level. They wonder how I keep it up, day after day, year after year, despite my heavy travel schedule. The answer is simple. I don’t think about how tired I “should” feel or how much jet lag I “should” have. I never get jet lag. I just don’t think about it.

Are your thoughts leading you towards health or towards illness?

Two sisters went Christmas shopping together. One said, “Isn’t it fun? The crowds in the street, the throngs in the stores, and all the new things that are on display. I love to watch people as they shop.” The other sister remarked, “The crowds drive me crazy! You can hardly move there are so many people. Things are overpriced and all they’re selling is junk. I’m tired and my feet hurt.

The next day, the first sister felt fine. The other one went back to bed with a headache. I wonder how much their thoughts contributed to their outcomes.

To maximize your health, you also need to…

4.  Make Conscious Choices.

Every day you make dozens of decisions that affect your health. Those decisions will either build you up or tear you down.

Unfortunately, most of those decisions are so subtle that you don’t make them consciously. You may not even stop to think whether the food you are putting in your mouth is adding to or subtracting from your health.

You need to get off autopilot and make conscious choices. Take exercise, for example. Instead of just getting on the elevator, you may sometimes choose to walk up the stairs. You need to consciously choose what will add to your health.

Of course, some people think this conscious choosing will kill all the fun in life. It’s like the doctor who gave his patient the results of his annual physical. He said, “There’s no reason why you can’t live a completely normal life as long as you don’t try to enjoy it.” Or as Johnny Carson said, “I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the time he killed himself.

That’s not my point at all. Good choices don’t have to kill all the fun in life. I’m simply saying you can have more health if you consciously choose healthy behaviors more often. Don’t let your unhealthy habits be in automatic control of your life.

Professor Norman Cousins was a man who overcame great health problems.  He wrote, “Don’t defy the diagnosis; try to defy the verdict.” When you’ve got some health problems, don’t deny their existence. Don’t waste your time pretending they’re not there. Spend your time making healthier choices instead.

Final Thought:  Health is the slowest possible rate at which you can die.