If you’re in midlife, it’s time to take stock. Dr. Joseph Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, describes a lifetime as four 8,000-day periods, so 43 is the average midpoint. Your third quarter behavior can set up your fourth quarter results. Establishing a baseline now to assess your current situation, evaluate future risks, and modify daily habits increases the chances that you will end up where you planned.
“To change your negative habits, you have to know what they are.” – Deepak Chopra
Why you should spend time creating a baseline report
“I need to start exercising.”
“I’m going to start exercising.”
“Ugh, I ate too much.”
“I’m too tired today.”
These are things I say frequently, and I know that many people say the same things. Another week goes by, and nothing changed. Perhaps you gained weight or never took your blood pressure. Time passes and a decade goes by in an instant.
It’s common for women to use up their energy paying attention to everyone but themselves. We’ve all seen it but may not notice we’re doing it to ourselves. By creating a baseline report on yourself, patterns of self-neglect may become apparent.
Stanford Geriatrician and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine Mary James explains that “your health is your existing illnesses as well as your future risk.” When patients insist that they are healthy, she points out that they may not stay that way, and they need to do things to prevent illness down the road. “If you can avoid taking medications, as a geriatrician, I’ve seen you’re better off in the long run,” she stated in a talk about creating a baseline with your physician.
Forget about the past
Lamenting sun-worshipping after a skin cancer diagnosis is a waste of time. It may be a cautionary tale for others, but you can only focus on improving. “I’ve always done it this way, and I’m fine” no longer applies as you age. As far as I know, there are no biological functions that improve with age.
“Imagine a small rowboat. Your goals are like the rudder on the boat. They set the direction and determine where you go. If you commit to one goal, then the rudder stays put, and you continue moving forward. If you flip-flop between goals, then the rudder moves all around, and it is easy to find yourself rowing in circles.
However, there is another part of the boat that is even more important than the rudder: The oars. If the rudder is your goal, then the oars are your process for achieving it. While the rudder determines your direction, it is the oars that determine your progress.” – James Clear
Design attainable goals
Goals need to be measurable over time. The more specific, the better. A goal of “eating better” is too hard to quantify. Cooking at home can be checked off daily. When you see that you’ve prepared meals six days this week, it shows action and success. Using an app to log daily food consumption provides data on nutrients and calories.
Your environment affects your habits. Systems to keep your home or office organized will make it easier to accomplish more. Measure decluttering by comparing the number of new items brought into the home versus unwanted things donated.
It can be hard to escape old patterns of dropping everything to accommodate a family member or friend. Once you set your goals, you have to be assertive about the changes you want to make. The research is mixed about announcing your aspirations to others – it may depend on your support system.
“You don’t need more time, you just need to decide.” – Seth Godin
If you haven’t had lab work done recently, that’s the place to start. A comprehensive blood panel gives you and your doctor information about where to focus your attention. Blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar numbers are the least you should know.
While health information is essential, social interaction is equally important. The value of friendship to your health may not be something that you have considered.
A self-evaluation is an investment in yourself and I created a workbook to help! To download the free workbook, sign up for my newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time.