Seize the Opportunity
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Research shows that optimistic thinking leads to resilience, positive outcomes and even a healthier brain and body. But today, I am going to encourage you to go a different way. I want you to think about the worst-case scenario.
Don’t worry, we won’t stay here long. But for a minute or two, think about all of the ways that your healthy plans could get messed up this week. Indulge your inner curmudgeon and let him point out all of the flaws in your plan. Rain on your parade. Ready? Go.
Okay, now take those things and put on your optimist hat. Acknowledge the potential for things to go awry, and then go forth anyway. Seize the day. Carpe diem! Just march right into the day knowing that things could go wrong and you’re going to keep on going.
I used to look at that list of ways things could go wrong and use it as a place to start negotiations between my present and future self. For example, I may allow my present self to have an extra slice of pizza in exchange for my future self getting up and running the next morning to burn it off. Sound familiar? How about eating all of the cookies because tomorrow, you’re completely giving them up and won’t ever eat them again? Or going out for a “last meal” before your diet begins? Yep, we’ve all been trapped by the diet mentality, convinced that if we can just have what we want right now (giving in to the pessimist thinking), surely we will happily comply with the consequences later (believing the optimist).
Except that I might snooze the alarm too many times the next morning, and never make time for that run. Or I might have other circumstances come up that make it “impossible” to make the healthy choice. Or if not impossible, then definitely less fun and better off postponed to a day that is better-suited for the straight and narrow. Like Monday. Nothing wipes the slate clean like the promise of doing better tomorrow!
The truth is, there is no such thing as a last meal. Healthy habits are a zero sum game that starts with a fresh scoreboard every day. Whatever happens during that day is our real life and promises to undo things later are completely nonsensical. We cannot undo what has been done, and we cannot anticipate that we will have the opportunity to even try. Sorry to say this friends, but this healthy lifestyle thing is a daily gig and there are no breaks.
But that’s okay, because it doesn’t really matter what reasons the pessimist came up with when you’re focused on making today the best it can be given the circumstances of the day. In my opinion, seizing the day for better health doesn’t necessarily mean making the most of every opportunity, but just staying upright no matter what tries to knock you down. Truly seizing the day means facing into the wind, knowing that you’ve got what it takes to make the day great even if it wasn’t what you hoped for.
But, it also means you have to stop bargaining with yourself with the expectation that you can fix it tomorrow. Do not save up calories, do not burn them in advance, do not do something today anticipating something else later. Make today healthy because you deserve to feel great today. Tomorrow, you’ll get chance to do it again. And again. And again! Sure, there will be days that are better than others. Don’t worry about that. Just seize today, give it your best effort, and the big goal will take care of itself.
To fully embrace the practice of carpe diem, celebrate the effort and victories along the way. A morning habit of writing down your intentions sets a positive tone, and a nightly gratitude journal offers a chance to reflect on progress. Acknowledge what you could have done better, and frame that goal as an opportunity, not a punishment.
I don’t know who originally suggested that we should carpe diem, but I imagine it was someone who had a sense of urgency about the human spirit and didn’t want us to miss things because we were worrying about the future. This week, face into the wind and go forward with enthusiasm and curiosity for just how you’re going to stay upright.
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– HEATHER FUSELIER, CHWC, CFP, TTS
Health Advisor | Email Heather