Our ancestors required an acute sense of self-preservation matched with a keen sense of observation. Always scanning, smelling, listening to the surroundings, on the watch for danger, aware of what immediate action needed to be taken, whether it was running from a saber-tooth tiger, dodging a falling rock, eluding a poisonous snake, or just avoiding a careless footfall. Remember that a twisted knee or a broken ankle could spell death to anyone who couldn’t run away from danger. In fact, it was probably trauma (or a brief careless lapse in judgment) that was most responsible for the low average life expectancy of our ancestors, despite their otherwise robust good health. Avoid trauma and there was a very good chance you could live to be 60 or 70 – and be extremely healthy and fit. Modern day hunter gatherers maintain strength and health often well into their 80s.
Eliminate self-destructive behaviors. These concepts are self evident to most people (wear seat belts, don’t smoke or do drugs, don’t dive into shallow water), but so many of us live our lives oblivious to impending danger. Develop a keen sense of awareness of your surroundings and heed the logic of potential consequences.
The Definitive Guide to Stress, Cortisol and the Adrenals
Bodyweight Exercises and Injury Prevention
Exercising Through Injury
Last week, speaking as an elder of physical culture, I wrote a list of ten fitness tips for younger readers: the things that every young to middle-aged man or woman should know about training. Some were things I learned along the way. Some were mistakes I made. And some were big wins I figured out early. At any rate, people found it helpful, and quite a few asked for a follow-up—this time around general life advice.
Note: I’m no life coach. But I do have a nice life, one I figured out on my own through trial and error and with a good deal of hard work. I speak just for myself, but maybe some insights will resonate. (And I hope you’ll share your own hard-won wisdom below.)
What should you keep in mind as you look forward to a long, well-lived life?
We’re almost halfway through the year. History is accelerating. New advances, technology, scientific findings, and social changes are occurring faster than ever before. There’s never any time like the present, but these days it feels like the present is slipping away at an exponential rate. This is no time to be resting on your laurels, biding your time, or waiting to see what happens. It’s time to act. It’s time to make the changes you’ve been mulling over, the ones you know in your heart are the right moves to make.
To help you on your way, I’ve put together a 30-day action plan for the month of June. No one has to follow this to the letter, or even at all, but use it as a template or inspiration. Wake up on June 12 swelling with energy and unsure how to direct it? Check out the action plan. Feeling a bit lazy on June 19? See what the action plan recommends; it may resonate.
Let’s get right to it:
My staff and I are quite close. Things stay busy these days, so there isn’t a lot of downtime, but I’ve worked with some of these folks for over a decade. We don’t discuss every grisly detail of our lives with each other. But we do share. We care about each other.
So when one of the Worker Bees mentioned he was having some potentially serious medical issues, I asked for details. Turns out he went to his doctor for a hard lump on his throat that was getting progressively bigger. Initial pokes and prods were inconclusive. An MRI led to a biopsy, which led to an email in the middle of the afternoon with the results and a hell of an opener: “This may be a cancer.” May helped. It wasn’t a sure thing yet.
“Gratitude, with a capital G. The word should resonate as holy (which has the same root as healthy, and means whole), for without it, boredom prevails. With it, you acknowledge and appreciate life’s gifts. This embodiment extends beyond your attitude to become an actual personality trait, a stress management took, an an overall way of life. You live in gratitude because you are here today—appreciative of the lessons and journey of your past, however imperfect—for no other particular reason or caveat. And you remain in gratitude through the daily struggles that give meaning and richness to your life.
Living life on your own terms isn’t just a quaint turn of phrase. It has huge effects on your health. A large body of research shows that the less control you think you have over your life, the higher your mortality risk. That persists even when you control for other health variables and biomarkers. It’s even true for animals. Self-agency—or even the illusion of it—appears to be a requirement for healthy, happy aging.
And unlike some of the characteristics shared by centenarians, like good genes, control is malleable. You can’t change the structure of your DNA. You can, however, wrest control over your own life. Despite whatever challenges present themselves, you get to decide what purpose you contribute to each day.