I’m puzzled. For years I have spoken to many people about changes they desired in their lives. Some desired to simply lose weight or stop smoking but most longed to enjoy happier and healthier lives. It seems there is also a drive to have more money among most. So why then, when you go back years later, has nothing changed? That is my puzzle.
I recently interacted with a team of rehab professionals within a hospital. They administer both a health education and exercise program chiefly for cardiac patients. The exercise is monitored and structured well but the education part is an example of why people fail to change. Let me flesh that out.
The goal of their educational program is to inform patients of the importance of taking their medications regularly, the type of medicines, the abuse potentials, etc. They also aim to educate patients about food and diet. What foods to consume and what foods to avoid. This makes sense, but when I asked where their mental training was, things like mindfulness, meditation, self-hypnosis, autogenic relaxation techniques, subliminal reinforcement, and so forth, they informed me they did not cover these things—they only focused on the model used at other rehab facilities.
Knowing vs Doing
So, think of it this way. One of the patients when asked what he ate, responded, “Primarily hamburgers because of my job.” Now I’m quite confident that this fellow already knew that hamburgers were considered junk food and not the best thing for you. The hospital team telling him that hamburgers were not good for him probably failed to provide him with any new information. They also totally neglected teaching him strategies to actually want to eat healthier foods, in addition to techniques that would empower his own innate self-healing abilities.
Imagine a car, any car. Now you want your car to work well, but you have some driving habits that are hard on the car. You are either full on the gas or the brake. You’re informed that braking hard over and over damages the braking system and can cause other issues with the suspension, etc. Follow this analogy a little further. The team of mechanics tell you how you should drive—slow down, don’t punch the gas over and over, change the oil often, keep your fluid levels full, check your brakes every six months, and be sure to have a thorough inspection of all engine, transmission, cooling, and suspension components performed regularly.
Now just assume that you’re a very busy person and doing all of these things is not quite so easy for you. However, now you have all the information to properly care for your car. Does that mean you will? Indeed—how many of you actually do take this sort of care of your car? What kind of mind training would it take for you to prioritize this kind of care for your car?
The body is much more than a machine. It requires care that is more demanding than that of a car. We know what the healthy foods are, we’ve all been told to eat our fruit and vegetables, to avoid fats, and so forth. We know smoking is very damaging to the body. We know that obesity underlies many forms of illness. We know the many advantages in regular exercise. So why isn’t there a mental component, a mind training aspect, to help the cardiac patients?
My puzzle turns out not to be so puzzling after all—and yet still puzzling. There is too little, if any, emphasis placed on the importance of conditioning your mind to support your goals and ambitions. With a little thought, we know that it is our mind that enables our success and yet, most invest little if anything in training their minds to support them. Indeed, just a little bit of careful thought will tell us that the problems lay not in knowing what we should do, but rather in the mental processes that stop us from achieving these healthier behaviors—therefore the real problem rests in our minds.
I would be willing to wager that the cardiac hamburger eating patient will do little to really change his situation. Oh, he may restrict them some for a while, but sooner or later the idea that ‘it’s just one hamburger’ and ‘look at how many people eat hamburgers,’ will creep in and undermine whatever resolution he may have made about hamburgers.
Think about your own life. How many things are you doing that are not in your best interest and ask yourself, “Why?” Perhaps seriously asking yourself this question may provoke a new dedication to doing something meaningful about changing. I hope so—but it’s you that must make the change you’re seeking.
Those are some of my thoughts—what are yours?