My parents aren’t gamblers. They’ve never played the slot machines, bet on a game, or even driven much over the speed limit. And still, every once in a while, when the jackpot was particularly awe-inspiring, my father would buy a single lottery ticket. It was these small brushes with gambling that inspired one of my favorite games—the “what if” game.
My father would announce his purchase over dinner and ask each of us, “What if you won a million dollars tomorrow; how would you spend it?” My mother would take her turn first, setting the tone with, “I would start by setting aside 10 percent for charity,” followed by a number of practical decisions like paying off the mortgage on the house, etc. It was only after these allotments were taken care of that she would add on her innermost desire. All of us kids would follow, each following my mother’s suit by announcing our gift to charity and then revealing our personal innermost desires. To this day, I love imagining how I could change my life in the event of an influx of good (be that money, professional success, or personal achievement). It was the memory of these innermost desires; the type of desires that many of us keep buried for fear they’ll never come true, that made me wonder how the “what if” game could guide us in defining our greatest health goals and needs.
The question I’ve been playing with is this: What if our livelihood depended on our health, what would we add in? What would our innermost desires be in this “what if” scenario? I asked a few friends and clients in an informal poll. Interestingly (and something that made me quite happy), the “go to the gym” and “eat more healthfully” were givens. All the people I polled added the givens without a second thought, the same way my mother added giving to charity and paying off the mortgage when answering the “what if you won a million dollars” question. But it got interesting after the “givens” were out of the way and the innermost desires came out.
One friend expressed that if the only way to support her existence, financially and/or vocationally, was directly tied to her health, she would sleep more. Another would start a meditation practice, and yet another would add yoga to her workout routine. What intrigued me the most is that all these desires were essentially considered “extra” self-care. My friends and colleagues would continue to do the basics, like the gym and healthful eating, and would add in the extras as a bonus. It made me think about how one person’s “extra” was another person’s “must.” So why didn’t they make their extra a must? So I asked them why they aren’t sleeping, meditating, or doing yoga now. A long pause was followed by the same answer over and over again—time. A lack of time prevented the extra self-care from becoming a part of everyday self-care.
Time is a funny thing because we define our own time. We are in charge of our 24/7, and yet most of us cite lack of time for an inability to achieve. In my article, “Slowing Down to Achieve a Longer, Healthier Life,” I explain, “To facilitate a new relationship with time, try changing how you think about time. Rather than saying, ‘I don’t have enough time to eat breakfast before work’ or ‘I don’t have time to kiss my partner goodbye,’ try saying, ‘I didn’t leave enough time to eat breakfast before work or kiss my partner goodbye.’” By accounting for how you use your time, your priorities become clearer and more in your control. It almost sounds too easy to be helpful!
My challenge to you this week is to play the “what if” game by asking yourself that simple question, “what if my livelihood depended on my health; what would I add in?” Acknowledging what is missing in your self-care is the first step. Then, decide to shift your relationship with time to add it in. It doesn’t need to be a big change. Small changes can be just as helpful and life-altering. I’m curious to hear what you come up with, and how this small addition changes your livelihood, as well as your life.
Make A Change Today,