August 16, 2019
If social and emotional priorities are the cornerstone for sustaining a healthy lifestyle, then how do you build a motivational platform? Where does a man find his “why” and the purpose that can drive his behavior? Is there a formula for aligning one’s habits routines and rituals to create an active social life where the next installment on your calendar is a continual source of inspiration to stick with your diet and exercise program?
Growing up, I witnessed the power of social motivation and ritual firsthand in my dad. While he wasn’t the exercise and behavioral health nerd I’ve grown up to be, his 91 years on this earth – he was still dancing weekly and extremely active up until a month before he died – qualifies him as a man who enjoyed the quantity and quality of life for which we all strive. At the heart of his world were his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and of course the daily and weekly rituals in his later years: swing dancing every Friday night preceded by dinner at the same restaurant, his breakfast club with the guys several days a week, and Saturday morning stop-ins at our house.
And this only scratches the surface of inspiration and fulfillment I observed over a 50-year period. He loved his routine and wouldn’t miss a single installment for the world. Anytime I sought to take him out to dinner, I’d have to make arrangements so that dinner would not interfere with his schedule.
Dad’s local rituals were peppered with a number of milestone events often built around the experience brought by his children and grandchildren. For example, I have two nieces about five years apart who were All-American softball players at Division I schools several years ago. Among Dad’s must-do events was attending the Softball World Series tournament when they were competing. In his own way, he took over the games, got face time on several ESPN broadcasts and thoroughly enjoyed himself and the time he spent with my sister and his championship granddaughters. These stories, and how much he cherished these experiences remain very much part of our family culture to this day.
Yes, Dad had his “why,” in fact, he had several and was constantly finding new ones as the opportunities presented themselves in both his life and those of whom he loved. So how about you. Where can you find the motivation and the drive to live healthy and sustain your inspiration over the long haul and achieve the quantity and quality of life that I saw in my dad?
Here are 5 steps that can guide the development of your personal lifestyle architecture:
Write down your top 10 priorities in life. This is your “why.” This may seem obvious but the process will spur some deep thinking. Engage others. You need not and should not do this alone. By nature, social priorities include others that are near and dear to you. Include their voice.
Specific goals work best. We all want to dance at our grandchild’s wedding or attend their college graduation, so don’t just list your grandchildren as a priority, tease-out specific activities in their lives that you want to experience. The more granular the better. The events can range from major life milestones like graduations and weddings to grabbing dinner a couple times a month. Details are critical.
Reconcile your current age with some of the major milestones you’ve identified; the graduation of your grandchildren, your retirement, the weddings of your children, whatever you aspire to experience in your lifetime. Approximations are fine. Quickly you’ll see how old you’ll be when these things occur and what it will take not only to be around, but to be active enough to enjoy the events. For example, I’ve calculated that I will be about 82 or 83 when my grandson graduates from college, something I’d like to see and enjoy. I now have a very specific goal to work towards and another reason to live healthy.
You can’t rely solely on life’s milestone events. Yes, they help frame your goals, but beyond your big-picture events, life breaks down into day-to-day installments. The social pyramid is my conceptual model for organizing the variety of activities that comprise your social life and create the well-spring of continual motivation. Daily, weekly and monthly activities form the base of the pyramid. Build layers using occasional, annual, special and ultimately milestone events to compete the pyramid. You get it. The exercise reinforces your thinking and adds another level of focus and self-analysis that’s helpful.
With your plans in place its now a matter of execution. Work your plan. While you always reserve the right to call an audible, it's important that you continually evaluate your social life and hopefully the fun and fulfillment you’re experiencing — that’s the goal. The better and stronger the fulfillment, the more motivation that you’ll create to handle your behavior, and that’s the winning formula.
Louis Bezich, senior vice president of strategic alliances at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50."