By Patricia J. Sulak, MDDudley P. Baker Endowed Professor, Research and Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Medical Director, Division of Research Department, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Texas A&M College of Medicine, Scott & White Clinic/Memorial Hospital, Temple, TX
In my last blog post on this topic, I ended the post by saying that people who successfully avoid being “diverted and distracted” have definition and discipline. So, what does that mean?
Definition: Define Your Goals
Define “Who Are You?” Do you want to be a healthy, energetic, in-shape person who is not stressed out all the time? Define the person you want to be. Define the problems and the goals, such as:
- Healthier eating? So, what specific diet plan are you going to adhere to? What foods are you going to eliminate (eg, doughnuts and other pastries, Mexican food, cream sauces, fried foods, desserts)? Writing down your plan is a recipe for success. See my column Critique Your Caloric Consumption.
- Regular exercise program? So, again, what’s the plan? No specific daily plan equals failure. See my column Make Movement Mandatory.
- Less stress? Again, you have to find the cause of the stress—You! Are you arguing with reality? Are you using your time efficiently to put yourself in the schedule? Are you taking on others’ problems rather than dealing with your own? See my column Stifle Stress / Sever Suffering.
Without clearly defined goals, little will be accomplished. I decided I wanted to work on all three listed above. I slowly eliminated unhealthy, high calorie, and fat-laden foods (for me, Mexican food, pizza, bar-b-que, pastries, desserts . . . I could go on and on describing my previous food consumption) replacing them with Mediterranean diet-type foods most of the time. I reprogrammed my mind to eat healthy.
Exercise also became habit. Do I enjoy exercising? No! But I do enjoy how I feel after I’m done (and how good my husband says I look!). And the stress thing . . . that’s the toughest for me. But, I re-programmed my mind to question all stressful thoughts. Do I still find myself occasionally stressed out? Yes, but I always question the thought and search for the meaning I’ve attached to whatever made me stressful. I ask myself: Am I dealing with reality? Is being stressed out going to help this situation?
Be disciplined. Now, doesn’t that sound like a real pain, even boring, maybe robotic? Discipline sets us up for success in achieving our goals. It doesn’t chain us down; it sets us free. Let’s face it. Those that excel at anything just have better habits that get them there. They fill their 1,440 minutes a day, 168 hours a week, 365 days a year with accomplishing their goals (see “Definition” above). Aristotle hit the nail on the head: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Unfortunately many people fill the hours of the day with habits that are self-destructive: dietary indiscretion, sedentary lifestyle, substance abuse, hours of sitcoms and reality TV, and so on. They do the least possible to get by and then wonder why they’re not healthy, not happy, and why other people are luckier and have it better than them.
So, what’s the bottom line? If we want to become the best we can be and not be dangerously distracted and diverted, we have to search for who that person is that we should be (definition) and develop habits to get there (discipline). Defining the person we want to be is critical to leading a life of contentment. We need to define who we can become based on our talents, dreams, and desires. Why are we here and how are we going to accomplish our purpose? I truly believe we were all created to make this place a better world, each in our own way with our own abilities. We need to question messages in our society that bring us down rather than build us up. With compassion and understanding, we must try to understand why people do what they do and believe what they believe based on their life experiences.
As health care professionals, we can strive to be the best example to others. But, we must first define the person we want to be. I personally strive to be “a loving energetic force guided by God to lift others.” That’s who I want to be. Can you tell me, in one sentence, who you are? That defines your life and your actions. If you have a mindful definition that elevates the lives of those around you and have discipline to make it happen, everyone benefits. Who are you?
Patricia J Sulak MD
Founder, Living WELL Aware