Many of us have heard Coach Glassman talk about the Sickness-Wellness-Fitness Continuum. We know that as we plot our health markers on the continuum, we move further from sickness and closer to fitness as our markers improve. As we improve our body fat, 1RM DL, 1 mile time, bone density, and resting heart rate, we increase the buffer between our current state of health, and the more dangerous place of sickness.
In other words, the more of our health markers that land closer to a place of “fitness”, the more likely we are to survive setbacks and still be in a safe place. On the other side, the more of our health markers that fall closer to sickness, the more likely we are to be in great danger if we suffer a health condition or crisis.
A CrossFit Games athlete is way over on the Fit end, while a Type 2 Diabetic with poor diet, minimal exercise, etc. is on the polar opposite side of the continuum. If they both gain 10 pounds of fat, the affect is very different. The Games athlete may dip into the wellness area (look different, miss PR’s, lose some energy, may even suffer an injury), while the Type 2 Diabetic will actually be in a very dangerous place (won’t be able to get out of bed, need to start a new medication, be rushed to the ER, could become blind).
Now, what I think is interesting is the same dynamic exists with regards to mental health and what I like to think of as the Mindset Continuum. Very similar, but now our checkpoints go from Weak to Stable to Strong.
Are we enabling our minds to be weak or training them to be stable?
Do we complain or do we see the good in things?
Do we hold grudges or do we remember to forgive?
Do we live in a hostile world or a friendly world?
Do we blame others or search out our own role in a problem?
Do we worry and live in fear or do we embrace the idea that hard times will inevitably come?
Beyond these bigger picture questions, are we training our minds to be strong?
Are we investing time into daily reflection or meditation?
Are we identifying and avoiding stresses in our day like overbooking schedules, taking on too many responsibilities, and rushing or being late for commitments?
Are we regularly reading, listening to Podcasts, and having conversations about things like Stoicism, the power of vulnerability, and learning about how to find joy?
Take the author of Solve for Happy, Mo Gawdat, for example. Mo has a wife and two young children, moves to Dubai to continue his already hugely successful engineering career, and is making more and more money with every passing year. However, what he finds is that the more money he makes, the more unhappy he is becoming. The more he works, the more empty he feels. And, the more power hungry he becomes, the more he drives his wonderful family away.
He decides he can’t go on living like this, terrified of the man he will end up being if he doesn’t make a change. Mo uses his resources to learn as much as he can and use his engineering analytical skills and decides to “Solve for Happy”. He designs an equation that he, and anyone he teaches it to, can use to turn any obstacle into something positive. And, it works. For everyone.
But, the ultimate test comes one day when his son decides to come home for an unexpected visit with the family. His son, Ali, is his best friend, most trusted business advisor, and video game buddy. While home, Ali goes to the hospital with an acute belly ache. They need to remove his appendix, a very routine procedure with barely any risk at all.
As Mo puts it, “When Ali was on the operating table, a syringe was inserted to blow in carbon dioxide to expand his abdominal cavity and clear space for the rest of the procedure. But the needle was pushed just a few millimeters too far, puncturing Ali’s femoral artery—one of the major vessels carrying blood from the heart. Then things went from bad to worse. Precious moments slipped by before anyone even realized the blunder, and then a series of additional mistakes were made with fatal consequence. Within a few hours, Ali was gone.”
A medical error resulted in Mo losing his son forever. But, because he had invested so much energy into solving for happy and moving his mental health markers from Weak to Strong, he not only survived but was able to make the best of a devastating situation.
In Mo’s words, “Our happiness model came through for us. Even the moments of our most intense grief over Ali’s passing, we were never angry or resentful of life. We didn’t feel cheated or depressed. We went through the most difficult event imaginable just as Ali would: in peace.”
Hardships are inevitable. Tragedy WILL hit each one of us. We may not lose a young child. We may not get cancer. And, we may not end up marrying someone who falls to alcoholism. But, something will happen; that is guaranteed.
And, the only way to guarantee that you will survive the way you would like to believe you will is to create as big a buffer now as you can…in preparation for those events.
In the same way that we so maniacally work to keep our bodies far from Sick and closer to Fitness before we get the call from the doctor, we need to commit to the same sort of preparation for when we get the bad news that will test just how Strong our minds are.