Soon after I began to adopt the wholesale lifestyle changes that would become the Health Warrior Way in response to my cancer diagnosis my oldest daughter asked me if I thought that I'd ever be satisfied or if I would forever be striving to improve myself.
This was a poignant reflection back to me, an opportunity to look at my choices and the intensity with which I approached them.
Yes, I adopted these changes with an intense energy (this was not the first time I was accused of being intense). The changes were disruptive, and I didn't really compromise for anyone or anything. After doing my due diligence I didn't think I could afford to. I was trying to slow the progression of my illness, which carried with it a real risk of premature mortality, and I committed myself to these changes 150%.The stakes were high, as high as they could be. I was on a mission.
But this reflection troubled me for another reason. I'm a child of the 70s, and I remember very well the birth of the self-help movement, all those books promising their readers washboard abs or a toned butt and thighs or the love they deserved. I had always been skeptical of this whole genre of books (and VHS tapes; yes, I'm that old), and I didn't want to think of myself as someone who could be seduced by their cheesy siren call. I didn't want to be just another gullible self-improvement junkie.
I've been thinking about this a lot as I've been preparing all-new HWW programming for 2019 (in addition to the one-hour Terminal Wellness Workshop I'll be debuting at O+ North Adams on Saturday 11 May I've also developed a day long version of the Workshop, and a 2 1/2 day Terminal Wellness Retreat is in the works).
The HWW can only be considered a self-help program if you're helping yourself not die prematurely or helping yourself get off and stay off medication to treat symptoms of a chronic illness or helping protect yourself from avoidable, lifestyle-related illnesses or helping yourself live a more meaningful life (getting the love you want or washboard abs could be a happy side effect of living the Health Warrior Way but they are not the goal).
The Health Warrior Way is not a book you pick up for an hour and then put away. It's not an instruction manual or checklist providing you with a ready-made recipe for achieving a discrete, self-contained goal.
You don't adopt the HWW to merely look good in a bathing suit. You don't overhaul your lifestyle simply to drive your former lover insane with jealousy or to impress your former high school classmates at reunion time.
The Health Warrior Way forces you to look inside yourself. It's about about the pursuit of knowledge, and the project is one of self-mastery.
It's true, though, that the more you learn about yourself, about the things that impact your health, about the world in which you live and your relationship to the things in that world, the more you will likely feel compelled to improve.
To improve your emotional, spiritual and physical health.
To improve your resilience in the face of things that are often beyond your control.
To improve your capacity for love and wonder.
To improve your equanimity.
To improve your quality of life.
To improve the lives of the people around you (including those that may consider you to be hung up on self-improvement).
But the Health Warrior Way doesn't discriminate. If your quest for self-improvement has led you here you will not be turned away. And maybe, in the process of learning more about yourself you will discover what really lies underneath this quest, the why which begins every HWW journey.
Why you want to be healthy. Why you want to live your best possible life. Why you would willingly upend your lifestyle and risk alienating family and friends.
Be prepared. Your HWW journey will last a lifetime. Not 60 minutes or 24 hours or even a week or a month.
It doesn't end once the workshop is over or after you finish the book (once there is a book to finish).
You will live your HWW journey every day.
Everything you put into your mouth will first pass through this filter.
Every time you choose to skip a workout and watch television instead will be subject to this scrutiny.
Every interaction you have with another human being will be a referendum on your integrity.
Every day you spend serving anything other than your purpose will be like a small rock in your shoe, tormenting your every (mis)step.
But in time this awareness will come to feel like more of a blessing than a burden.
This is how you will know you are living the Health Warrior Way.