“There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” — Mark Twain, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”
Good enough is OK for some things, but when it comes to my health, good enough just doesn’t work for me. Feeling a little like Tom Sawyer, I’ve felt that raging desire to dig all I can to find my treasure of the best health I can for myself, hoping that it might rub off on those closest to me.
So when I had the opportunity to speak with a doctor recently, I couldn’t help but ask “What should I be doing to make the next 50 years the best they can be? What am I missing? I eat mostly the right foods, I get some exercise, though maybe not as much as I should, and I try to limit stress, though I have lots of work to do with handling what stress I have.”
His answer wasn’t what I expected, but it caught my attention.
I’ve spent so much time trying to make sure I was doing all the right things on the “how to be healthy” list that I overlooked an important choice that could bring me a happier, healthier rest of my life.
“Enthusiasm, Susan, enthusiasm is the other piece of the health puzzle,” he told me, and like Tom Sawyer, I felt like I was embarking on a new treasure hunt.
Where’s a person supposed to find enthusiasm? I’m pretty happy, and I usually wear a smile in the midst of a crisis. Isn’t that enthusiasm?
In my research, I’ve learned that being cheerful and being enthusiastic aren’t the same things.
According to Dr. Todd Thomas, “Enthusiasm is not “perkiness.” It is a dedication and energy around what needs to be done. It is desire, not just achievement. Enthusiasm means you do what you do with vigor.”
My friend who trained for an Ironman triathlon had experienced intense enjoyment in the process that led to her completing the event, and she said she really never lost the enthusiasm along the way.
I felt a similar excitement in seeing a group I worked with several years ago complete a community playground project, remaining inspired by the result I knew would eventually come. Like many things we do, these were short-term projects, but life is a long-term deal.
Enthusiasm for the short-term goals seems easier to keep than for projects with no definitive end, like life. Maintaining enthusiasm isn’t as easy when the exercise program is no longer new, when the weight isn’t coming off as quickly, or when we are tired of getting up before the sun to practice meditating or to have a prayer time.
Are you reading this nodding your head that you love to start a project, exercise program, or even a relationship but find it hard to stay enthusiastic after a short time? If enthusiasm is the missing part of my healthy life puzzle, it might be the missing piece in yours, too.
What if we looked at the rest of our lives like a scavenger hunt of sorts? Finding hidden treasures along the way would result in our being winners when we reach the finish line.
I like pictures (I’m a visual learner) and being able to draw a map of the rest of my life is actually kind of exciting. I don’t know what prizes I’ll find between where I am now and the end of my life, but as I become intentional about finding enjoyment along that path I have to admit to feeling a little excitement.
Maybe you could do that right now. Get a piece of paper and a pencil and draw a dot on one edge of the paper to show where you are now and another dot on the other edge of the paper to symbolize the end of your life. Draw a line to connect the two dots, but be sure that it has a few curves between here and there.
If you’re 70, you might have 25 or 30 years of marking the treasures on the line, and if you are 20 you might have 70 more years to mark the way, even turning the sheet over for more of the hunt. Instead of having a list of things to collect, though, why not have a list of experiences to be watching for, and why not approach it with vigor, like Dr. Thomas suggests?
Here’s the list I’m using to begin the rest of my treasure hunt, and I’ll reward myself with a new mark along the line:
•Learning anything new
•Laughing with friends
•Moving away from negative people
•Eating well, instead of settling for whatever I can grab quickly
•Sleeping when I should, instead of when I find time
•Exercising, even a little
•Showing a kindness because I want to, not because I feel like I must
Accomplishing something that I’ve wanted to do but haven’t made time to do before — that looks like a good place to start, things to be watching for in my life. You’re welcome to share my list or make your own. I’m realistic enough to know that I might have a few less enjoyable experiences mixed into the journey. That’s OK, though, since the sad or difficult times seem to bring an interesting balance to help us appreciate the rest. I’m sure someone will remind me of that at the appropriate time.
I might have to have several sheets of paper to continue mapping my “finds” on this scavenger hunt, but just thinking about all of the dots I could place on my map is kind of exciting and leaves me feeling … enthusiastic!
As Edward Butler said, “Every man is enthusiastic at times. One man has enthusiasm for 30 minutes, another for 30 days, but it is the man who has it for 30 years that makes a success out of his life.”
Mr. Butler, I’ll see your 30 years and raise you 20. I have a lot of life left to enjoy and treasure to find!
Joy is the will which labors, which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph.~ William Butler Yeats
Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right. - Henry Ford
The best way out is always through. ~ Robert Frost
Real difficulties can be overcome, it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable. ~ Theodore N. Vail
Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall. ~ Oliver Goldsmith
You must be the change you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi