Jenny's Note: This is a guest post from Matt Gartland, an awesome blogger I met at SXSW. Matt blogs at Healthy Lifestyle Design and Untemplater - and I love what he stands for. Matt's mission is to "make the world a healthier place by inspiring others to 'healthify' their lives....to help others design euphoric, meaningful, and remarkable lives through bold & uncompromising good health." I love it! So without further ado...
How to Avoid Becoming a Health Cliche (by Matt Gartland)
"There's no such thing as a free lunch." "Misery loves company." "All's fair in love and war."
Ah! Good ol' clichés - how we love them! But what is a "health cliché," why should you care about it, and how do you avoid becoming one? Fantastic questions! This is important stuff. So let's get some answers.
Clichés 101: A Crash Course
In printing, a cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. This is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly as a single slug of metal. "Cliché" came to mean such a ready-made phrase. The French word “cliché” comes from the sound made when the matrix is dropped into molten metal to make a printing plate.
This definition tells me that clichés are dull and unremarkable crayons used by those passionate about fitting in, detesting change, and coloring their blasé lives well inside the lines. But clichés aren't just boring. They're insidious promotions of broad generalities, narrow views, and tempered creativity. Alas, clichés reinforce the status quo and inspire many to be remarkably average. How lame.
So what is a health cliché?
Health clichés are potent propagations of these effects because they attack your most precious asset and energy source - your health. Here's how:
- "I need to run a marathon to get healthy, and I don't like running."
- "Becoming healthy is hard and expensive"
- "My new year's resolution is to lose weight"
- "I can't become healthy because I'm too busy"
Do you see the big picture tragedy here? The tragedy is all the people that sell their own health - and thus life - short because they believe in these pernicious and illegitimate health clichés.
Why should you care about health clichés?
Because we - those of you reading this - don't accept being unremarkable, being average, and being apathetic. We're bold, assertive, passionate, and tenacious. We're in the business of changing the world.
And yet, our monumental energy is typically applied to our professional careers, personal branding, income generation, networking, relationships, etc. We also haven't grown up in a society that has consistently and meaningfully advocated wholesome nutrition, the importance of regular fitness, and the adoption of wellness behaviors.
The result is profound - our collective health sucks. Please, don't take my word for it:
- Check out the latest US obesity statistics
- Learn the facts of our health care costs and their effects on our economy
- Watch Jamie Oliver's unforgettable Food Revolution TED Talk
- Watch Food, Inc
Our world is becoming less great because of our declining health. That's why we should all care. And that's where we can make a difference and change the world.
How do you avoid becoming a health cliché?
Good news! The secret to avoiding health clichés is dead-simple. As Seth Godin says, "The effective way to use a cliché is to point to it and then do precisely the opposite."
True, this Jedi mind-trick won't make you an overnight health sensation. But it will put you on (and keep you on) the path to becoming one. Want to see how this tactic works so effectively? Let's retaliate against the health clichés from above.
Health Cliché: "I need to run a marathon to get healthy, and I don't like running."
- New Mindset: Running (especially a marathon) isn't the only way to get healthy. So, I'm not going to run and instead choose healthy pursuits that I enjoy - like hiking.
- Practical Tip: Choose the physical activity you most enjoy and do that. Next week, do more of it. The week after, do even more, or add another fun physical activity. And invite friends and/or family to join in! (Note from Jenny: Try the Weekly Activity Tracker template to help with consistency and accountability).
Health Cliché: "Becoming healthy is hard and expensive"
- New Mindset: Becoming healthy will be fun, liberating, and empowering when I define my own unique health plan. And being healthy isn't expensive because I'll reduce my unhealthy opportunity costs, reduce my food waste, and make smart buying decisions.
- Practical Tip: Visualize and list-out all the life value you'll gain from defining and adopting a healthy lifestyle (e.g. I'll have more energy to spend with my kids or friends).
Health Cliché: "My new year's resolution is to lose weight"
- New Mindset: My resolution today is to lose 8% body fat before July 4 and keep it off as part of my plan to design a unique, euphoric, and persistent healthy lifestyle.
- Practical Tip: Specificity rules! Be clear, concise, and measured (e.g. dates & metrics) when setting your healthy lifestyle goals.
Health Cliché: "I can't become healthy because I'm too busy"
- New Mindset: I will create and devote ample time to becoming healthy by eliminating busy work, minimizing my non-essential obligations, prioritizing my goals, and doing only what's important.
- Practical Tip: Check your email less often, turn off auto-distractions, adopt regular media/technology fasts, delegate minutia, don't let people abuse your time, just life hack!
Great! Got it. What's next?
What's next is up to you. You're in control. You make the rules. You break the rules. You. And that's what designing a healthy lifestyle is all about. It's about you discovering the passions that inspire you towards greatness and designing a healthy lifestyle to get you there. Don't let health clichés get in your way.