Since I write about leading, living, learning, and sage-ing, I am very interested in the the Healthiest State initiative based on the book The Blue Zone by Dan Buettner. Richard Leider, one of my role models in this work, worked with Buettner to help Edina, Minnesota create a healthier community. Buettner's book is based on listening to the stories and studying the lives of people who live in the world's blue zones–pockets of people who live long, quality lives.
According to Buettner:
"The world's healthiest, longest-lived people have many things to teach us about living longer, richer lives. If wisdom is the sum of knowledge plus experience, then these individuals possess more wisdom than anyone else."
Becoming a sage is about wisdom and one of the key elements is to reflect on life's experience and process this experience (lessons learned) in order to share it with others. So what Buettner is doing is very consistent with sage-ing or the positive aging movement.
But the key is the MIND.
When we think of health, we often think of exercise. Buettner's identifies nine key characteristic that he labels Power9 and the first lesson is to Move Naturally. While exercise is certainly important for health, we don't exercise unless "we make up our mind" to do so.
How many times do we say things such as:
"Put your mind to it."
"Mind over matter."
"It is all in your mind."
Wellness is a combination of mind, body, and spirit, and the mind controls what we do with our body and spirit. We have to decide that we want to be healthier and this will be the challenge for the State of Iowa if the initiative is going to be successful.
Lesson Five Buettner calls Purpose Now. "Why should I get up in the morning?" Having a strong sense of purpose I believe is also powered by the mind. Even when we don't have much of a purpose, we know it in our mind and that is reflected in our body and spirit.
One of my friends in her early 60s just got a great position heading up a community foundation in an attractive city with nice weather. Her husband was a successful lawyer, but decided to retire because he was tired of practicing law. He is very willing to follow his wife and let her continue to follow her passion and purpose. But she tells me he is getting grumpy.
So I asked her, "What is his reason for getting up in the morning? What does he want to do with his time?" And immediately she told me that he does not have a focus, a purpose, and few to no hobbies.
Now I could help coach him and I like these challenges. But until he realizes this is a serious problem, he will continue on as he is and she will struggle with what to do. Hopefully, it won't affect their relationship, but it easily could and often does.
Couples are in this aging thing together so we have to talk to one another, help one another, and it all starts in the MIND. Aging is a part of living. What we don't think about is aging starts at birth. We are continually developing or we can stop growing, but it is all apart of the aging process. Aging well is about quality of life not a chronological number.
Now is the time to intentionally decide how we want to live the rest of our lives. If we want to be healthy, we need to MAKE UP OUR MINDS to do so. While some things are clearly out of our control, as long as we have our mind we can become healthier.
Quality of life is a reflection of the decisions that we make. Making intentional decisions based on a keen awareness of how these decisions affect our lives is what will increase the quality of life. This is why I believe the mind is the most important part of the body.
As Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi, on whom sage-ing is based, says, "Are we actually living longer or are we taking longer to die?"