We’re well into the third week of the Challenge, and I’m thinking these days about fun. Yes, fun – the pure amusement, pleasure, and self-indulgence of it. Did Tuesday’s active entertainment post tip you off? A challenge, of course, implies goals, structure, progress, and the associated measurements of these. While indispensable, I get a little bored with them from time to time. Hands? Why can’t a healthy lifestyle be about fun and spontaneity? Why can’t it be about enjoying life rather than parsing it out in pre-approved steps? Oh, wait. It can.
It’s a simple but vital dimension of the Primal Blueprint – the concept of the journey itself. Yes, many of us have particular “highlights” we’d like to hit, but there’s plenty to savor along the way. Living the PB, after all, is about living “whole,” living fully – or at least relishing the attempt anyway. The heart of the PB of course isn’t the diet itself or the exercise or the sleep. Sure, these are all essential components, but there’s something bigger, more expansive, more ambitious and radical at the core.
The Primal Blueprint is a broader reclaiming of our evolutionary model – as much of it as makes good and useful sense – and molding it to promote better health and contentment in our lives today. While we have a lot to learn from our ancestors’ diet and movement, we can learn something from their overall approach to life. For example, I don’t imagine Grok carrying around an anti-stress checklist or putting a reminder on his smartphone to “play” at 5:30 today. I don’t envision him logging onto his FitDay profile multiple times in an afternoon or counting his lunges and burpees.
Are all of these modern tools great? Can they be immensely helpful and make healthy living (particularly a Primal transition) easier? Absolutely. I’m not out to knock them today. (I use them myself after all.) My thought today is simply this: taking a day to wing it.
In committing to the Primal Blueprint Challenge, most folks are naturally focused on results. They’re out to lose those ten pounds. They hope to improve some ominous lab numbers. They want to lift more, run longer, or push harder. Go for it. I hope you’re well on your way toward that goal, but I wonder if this point in the Challenge opens up another possibility. How about taking a respite from the mechanics of the process? How about releasing our attachment to any goal itself?
What would it mean, for example, if you didn’t keep track of anything today? No lists, no FitDay, no schedule (for Challenge related pursuits), no menu? I’m not talking about chucking the inclination toward healthy, Primally minded choices. I mean putting aside for a day (or more) the self-designed, individually imposed plans. Surrender some of the energy that goes into that structure. Turn your focus from any eventual goal to what Primal living can offer in this moment.
Think about your day today – or tomorrow – or the weekend (or better yet all of the above). What can be thrown out to make room for playing it by ear? What could a day look like in which you took every possible moment (excluding work and basic family care) to just do whatever felt energizing, even life giving in the moment? Accept the irony for a second. Sure, we’re talking about setting a vision for spontaneity, but too many of us forget, I think, what innumerable and incredible possibilities are even available.
I’m talking here about both unstructured activity and inspired diversions. How about skipping your scheduled gym workout and playing instead. Climb trees. Lift every large planter or stone lion you see lining the street. (And be prepared to sprint when the owners see you.) Play sack of potatoes with your kids. Set up an obstacle course for you and your dog. Go out dancing. Run the length of your local football field screaming chants for yourself.
Whatever you’d planned on eating tonight? Make a real, bonafide dining experience of it. (No eating over the kitchen sink.) Maybe it can be a picnic or campfire event. On the other end of things, maybe it could be a candlelit table setting with wine and music or a boisterous meal with friends that runs into the night and earns you a noise ordinance notice from the condo co-op board.
Put aside your stress management routine for a night and forget about managing anything while you soak in the bathtub. Play spa night on yourself (menfolk too). Or forget your own problems by offering hugs to passers-by or by sitting on a random street corner with an “Advice: 5¢” sign displayed.
Forget the strategic sunlight outdoor time allotment, and go for broke. Sleep outside. Eat outside. Wash your dishes outside. Wash yourself outside. Sit outside at eleven at night just because. Heck, bring your furniture outside and set up your living room in the backyard. (Thoreau did it.)
Whatever you do, don’t keep track of anything that doesn’t need your immediate attention for secured livelihood or survival (e.g. small children). Live the day as off the charts, off the grid, and off center as you can. Go big and bold – or not. Lay in the grass and do nothing but watch the trees and nap. Whatever. For the purpose of this experiment, think purposeless and all-consuming. Wherever the moment brings you. Go beyond spontaneous and push the boundaries of your impulsivity.
Why do I say this? A few reasons actually. I’m not trying to throw all the type As and competitive freaks out there into a mental tailspin. (Yes, I am both of those myself.) In a challenge kind of setting particularly, we can become too attached to the goal, too caught up in the outcome. Not only is this kind of limited focus unsustainable for most people, it’s frankly unsatisfying. The Primal Blueprint aims to be gratifying in both its end results and everyday journey – wild in many ways, indulgent at turns, vitalizing in no uncertain terms. If we get too zeroed in on the end result, we run the risk of missing out on some of the deepest rewards of the Primal experience.
Finally, the PB is a scaffolding more than structure, a principle instead of program. Ultimately, each person must make it his/her own. It’s a grounded but loose design that looks and feels different when shaped to each individual’s life. Though we can get a jump start by following a laid out formula, we eventually have to internalize and personalize it. I call it the Primal lens – the ability to judge and select from the choices of our environment with the context of general Primal principles. It’s about letting go of the map and feeling your bearings – best done in a wider scope and wilder state.
How will you go unstructured and unfettered? Let me know your thoughts on winging it Primal style. Have a great end to the week, everyone!
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.