Occasionally, even though I am not qualified, I am asked for fitness advice. I say, “It is simple, exercise discipline.”
“No, really,” they will reply and then ask, “Which is the best exercise?”
I reiterate, “No, really, it is discipline. Discipline in your life provides for physical fitness, financial fitness, intellectual fitness, relational fitness, and spiritual fitness.”
Physical fitness comes from controlling your daily intake of food and maintaining an active life style. Your daily food intake is your diet, a word which has been hijacked to mean some special way of eating, it is your day to day eating habits. If you are too fat you likely eat too much. (Ken Hutchins, Super Slow, 1992) What more is there? Oh, water, don’t forget to get plenty of fluids. Slight dehydration can feel like hunger.
Maintaining physical activity is about activity for about 30 minutes per day at least every other day, which causes muscle fatigue and rapid, deep breathing. Is that enough time, shouldn’t I work out more? Maybe if you are a professional athlete though if Mr. Hutchens is correct, if you are working out so you can eat more, you place little value on your time ($2 candy bar = 300 calories = 30 minute jog).
Now we are back to that, “What is the best exercise program?” question. The best exercise program is the one’s you will do consistently. It is really that simple. I would recommend some upper and some lower body exercise to keep it all moving and healthy yet is must be performed on a regular basis. Your exercise should be of an intensity to make you breathe faster and for your muscles to feel tired. Variety is okay but not necessary. I should warn you to consult a physician but that is up to you. People have been moving for eons, an old word I was eager to use today.
You now have a plan for physical fitness. Let’s move to financial fitness. What is the discipline here? Spend less than you make, or, make more than you spend. Put some money up for a rainy day and some money up for retirement. I learned from “Your Money Counts,” by Howard Dayton, Jr., that one method of keeping your spending down is to limit your exposure to advertisements. They really work toward convincing you to spend more. Marketing and advertising is $450 billion dollar a year industry, so someone is believing in the power of the ad.
There was once a television commercial which presented a young couple sitting in front of the desk of a mortgage loan officer. The loan officer was monotonously stating acronyms of the various loan types available, “FHA, VA, FannieMae, FreddieMac (maybe not a loan),” and so on. He stops and looks at the blank faces of the couple then states, “It’s a whole lot easier if you just pay cash.” He is correct. Maybe not up front but over the long run it is true, cash is king. The cash price will be less, you won’t pay interest and you are not enslaved, in debited, to a mortgage company. Save to pay, then buy.
“Intellectual fitness, is there such a thing? There are no advertisements selling quick ignorance loss or a stupid tuck, are there?” I would say much of our society today is out of shape in the dimension of intellect. Critical thinking would seem to be at an all-time low. Maybe it is tied to the other short comings of the lack of discipline which lead us to eat too much and spend too much. Yet, it seems, we want it now overrides intelligence. So, is there a discipline which will provide for improving the intellectual condition of our culture? I believe there are a pair of activities which will: reading and writing.
Reading exposes you to other ideas in a manner video cannot. It forces interpretation of words into ideas, which is what the producers and directors did in making the video. The big difference in reading is that you must do the work to understand the author. Video has lead to us to be oblivious just as labor saving devices and processed foods have lead us to be obese. We are not exercising the cerebral nor are we getting the fiber of the mind when we allow others to form the intentions and content of the message.
Writing is situated beside reading with regard to intellectual fitness as exercise tags along with diet for physical fitness. Journaling and blogging provide an opportunity to really think and reflect on the information we are bombarded with daily through conversation, multi-media and reading. Writing causes us to think as you cannot write without thinking. Thinking is a process we often short-cut ourselves. The opportunity to advance to “Stage Two Thinking” is processed out via commentators and sound bites.
“Stage Two Thinking” as Thomas Sowell calls it in his book, “Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One,” is seeking to understand more than the immediate and obvious. It is working through all the possible results and coming to a ultimate outcome or conclusion. Take buying a high dollar items such as a home. If I buy a home using a mortgage, Stage One Thinking would say, “I have a home.” Stage Two Thinking would say, “It not my house for 30 years and if I fail to pay for any reason in the next 30 years, I can lose my home and the accumulation of payments. If the house burns, I still owe the bank. If I am successful making payments for 30 years it will be mine.”
Reflection is another area of exploration in writing. It is asking the powerful but simple questions such as “What did I do today? Why did I do it? Would I do it again? Would I do it differently?” This allows us to learn from ourselves. It provides that, at least in theory, we will not make the same mistakes and we will improve our performance.
Relational fitness comes from social discipline. You are probably aware there are some “lines” of conduct or behavior you should not cross. You may want to do it though you will find that the Stage Two result is more costly than you were willing to risk. Much of this fitness revolves around respect and dignity of others, courtesy. “Them” others, as I have been taught and do believe, are created in the image of God. Each of us carries that likeness which should remind us, when we look at them, each person deserves to be treated with a degree of reverence, regardless of our perception. It requires that we should praise and serve, never to injure. This discipline to set self aside for their benefit and ours.
Networking is a benefit of relational fitness; a web of others who can support you and be supported by you with time, talents and treasures. This is having family, friends and acquaintances with which to share the burdens of life. It is neighbors helping neighbors. There is an old cliché, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” If you have not exercised your social discipline well and have offended others, your network will likely be lacking. You should know, that just as physical fitness, financial fitness and intellectual fitness can be restored, so too, can relational fitness. The primary tools for this are apology and forgiveness.
Finally, here is what I understand to be foundational, spiritual fitness. Spirituality is, in essence, the you behind you. It is your belief system and it is your bedrock. It shapes everything you do, controls all your thoughts and is a culmination of you. It is life and living, it is the animation, the personification, and to paraphrase a favorite song it is, “the words and the music, the song that you sing, the harmony and the melody.”
This song is kept in tune by a constant evaluation of what we believe and how we came to believe this to be. If it is not maintained, it will detune just as a guitar exposed to different temperatures and humidity. There is no empirical scientific method or modality which fully explains organics, inorganics or physics. Substance exists though we cannot prove it does. Ee live as if it does, why? This may be God, some other entity or nothing at all. It is worth your time because it defines you. You, without definition, are formless, shapeless and likely unfit.
Exercise a disciplined, periodic review, or questioning, of what you believe to be your purpose, the why you believe it to be your mission, the objectives required to fulfill the job and how. If there is no meaning to life there is no necessity for the fitness I have described here, and hence, no need for discipline.
Discipline, or the lack of it, is the exercise which determines our future, A.W. Tozer put it this way, “What we do today, determines who we will be tomorrow.” Establish some routines to each of these areas of discipline and grow fitter each day, even if it is unqualified.