Health, Happiness, and Living an Authentic Life

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I recently watched a movie called Captain Fantastic, and in one of the scenes of the movie the main character, a father, played by Viggo Mortensen, is asking his daughter what she thinks of a book, to which she replies “interesting”. Immediately her siblings yell out “illegal word!”, to which the father follows up with, “interesting is a non-word, you know this, be specific.”

“Health”, “happiness, “authentically you”, these words can be viewed in a similar fashion. The words in and of themselves are vague, and nondescript. The provide no direction or meaning. To many, we think these concepts are common-sensical, almost matter of fact, but they are anything but.

In fact, in his Ted Talk given in 2010, Nobel prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, said this

“The word ‘happiness’ is just not a useful word anymore, we apply it to too many different things; I think there is one particular meaning to which we might restrict it, but, by in large, this is something that we will have to give up, and we’ll have to adopt a more complicated view of what well being is.”

In all my years, the discussions I have with people around health, happiness, and living true to oneself, are as varied as they are insightful. And they have guided my practice ever since.

I have come to realize that words do not have meaning. It is the people, us, that grant feelings to words that give them meaning, and have come to understand the distinction between how a word is defined, and what a word means.

This is an important distinction to make, because our goals, how we interpret them, need to mean something. Not to the world, not by definition, but to US.

Which brings up an interesting question…

How do we determine that, or if, some thing has meaning?

The concept of meaning has always been a topic of intrigue to me because one of the central themes of my coaching practice is…

how do we make the menial, meaningful?

A large part of success is derived from finding purpose within the ordinary. To make the connection between ordering the vegetable option in lieu of fries, and being the best mother someone can be, can seem like a stretch for most of us.

The idea that self care is an act of selflessness in the service of the people we care about, is not a concept that we have collectively adopted as a culture.

No, more often than not we are enamored with the more vain pursuits associated with health and fitness such as weight loss, aesthetics, and vanity.

Now, it is not to say that goals such as these are not worthwhile, BUT their relevance should be questioned if the quest for their achievement interferes with our self efficacy. In other words…

…if at any point the pursuit of such goals, puts our identity and self image in jeopardy, thereby affecting the pursuit of higher ordered goals, then those goals must be dispatched until a more resolute understanding of how they fit in within the context of what we TRULY value becomes more coherent.

As you can see, I am an advocate for championing the things we care about, namely family, friends, passions, personal causes, etc., as a means to guide the actions of our daily lives, and I hold this same philosophy when it comes to helping people make advances in there well being as a health coach.

Yes, I agree in the beginning it can seem like choosing to resist eating that tub of ice cream, or making yourself go for that walk, and equating that with being able to see you 5 year old graduate from college seems like a silly practice. But being able to connect with the things that mean the most to us in the critical moments of decision can help us make better choices. And that’s what this is about, making better choices. Ones that align with our identity, and personal values; that demonstrate our purpose and result in meaningful progress. One’s that ultimately contribute to our health, happiness, and position us to live an authentic life.