As I begin, I should mentioned that I just noticed the significance of this “learning to fish” idea being used on a post dated December 24th, Christmas Eve. It wasn’t an intentional Christian reference, for good or bad, but it is a neat coincidence. Nevertheless, whatever one’s viewpoint on religion, I think we can all agree the “fishers of men” lesson is a great piece of wisdom in whatever context it’s used. It is, in my humble opinion, one of the most powerful lessons mankind has ever learned, the idea that teaching someone how to do something is exponentially more valuable to them than simply doing that task for them. I would take that another step further and say that looking within yourself to discover and develop your own beliefs rather than simply taking others for gospel (again with the religion!), is equally powerful and important.
I also have a confession to make. I was wrong about a lot of stuff. I was wrong about a lot of stuff throughout my whole life and still am today (though I’m not yet aware of what that stuff is or I would be changing my view at the moment). I won’t go into everything I have been wrong about as that could clearly take, well…more of my lifetime than I have to explain it probably (unless artificial intelligence allows us to conquer mortality sometime before I meet my end). But I’ll narrow it down this way and say that I was wrong about health. And I’m glad I was wrong because now I know better.
As I started my journey of actively seeking optimal wellbeing in life, I went through the natural process of being a cynic. I can’t blame myself, or anyone else who fell into the same trap, though, because it was the natural step the process of awakening. When you start out in life, it feels like there’s just you, a bunch of other stuff around you, and things that happen to you. One of those things around me was “doctor.” One of those things that happened to me was “sick.” That was the only paradigm I knew; I was healthy until proven sick, and when I got sick, I went to the doctor so they could fix me. Until they couldn’t. That was the beginning of the awakening.
Once I realized they were not really able to help me with my plight at the time, me being the self-motivated creature that I am started trying to figure it out myself. And along the way, I learned a lot of stuff that did help, at least to an extent here and there, and I thought to myself “Why the hell couldn’t THEY figure this out?!” There is a lot of cynicism today in the alternative health space or the paleo/primal space about “modern healthcare” and “broken systems,” and I think it’s good to an extent, at least to the extent that it opens our eyes to the possibility that there are other mediums out there that can improve and extend our health status, but it’s also wrong. I was in this wrong camp for a while.
It’s only natural, when you come from a worldview that there is only one system and then realize there is an alternative system that happens to help you more than the other system, that you immediately go “That old system was wrong! That old system is bad! Get rid of the old system and go to this new one instead!” I became very much against modern medicine, against surgery, against doctors, even to the point of thinking they might be inherently evil and trying to make us sick, or at least not fixing us, so that we were doomed to keep coming and paying them money. Now that probably does happen in pockets of society, but despite the flaws of the modern medical system, I think they do have good intentions and do believe they are doing the right things to help people.
Like many other things in life, when you really want to understand the full scope of an issue or a problem, you need perspective, you need to zoom out your lens as far as possible to see the big picture. As I continue to zoom out, I notice that not only are there the “bad modern medicine” and the “alternative health” entities, but there are actually a bunch of systems, all with reason to believe they can help you. There are chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, mental therapists (probably a better and more encompassing term, but I thought it drew a neat contrasting comparison to “physical” clearly), acupuncturists, shamans, and the list goes on and on (and on and on and on)…
I have been to a lot of these other systems, and I have gotten some benefits from each one, noticed flaws and shortcomings in each one, and have begun to understand the scope of what they can and can’t do. I have gone through periods of time where none of them seemed to help me, and I have gone through periods where all of them seemed to help me. How is this possible you ask? What is the one variable I am missing so far? Clearly it’s me.
The best health and wellness plan or system is the one you create based on your continually evolving understanding of you. The best plan or system is the one that empowers you to roll up your sleeves, get underneath your hood, and do the dirty work to figure out who you are. It’s the key to opening all the other doors and make all of those other systems work for you. It takes you out of the victim role and teaches you how to control your own destiny. After that, everything else, medical doctors, chiros, massage, whatever, is just a collection of tools and guides. They can all help you heal, but they can’t fix you. You fix you. You make you great. If there’s one major shortcoming of any of these systems, it’s probably in their failure to to tell you this part, to tell you that they aren’t “god” and can’t fix you, and that healing comes from within. After all, they have egos too, and they want to be great at what they do and give your a reason to “pay them the big bucks,” but the real results come when everyone understands the truth and the limitations. When you know your doctor can’t “fix” you, and he knows he can only help and guide, you become empowered, AND you get to do it with their expert help.
It (healing, growth, optimizing potential) has to come from within, and until you realize that, you will forever be the cynic, the person who believes everyone and everything has failed you, that you are a mystery of science that simply can’t be cracked. Let me tell you, it can be cracked. Do you realize the crazy things we have done as humans? We put men on the moon…almost fifty years ago! We mapped the entire human genome. We created equations that explain how subparticles, particles smaller than atoms, actually move and work even though they are so small we’ve never been able to see them. There is a company out there, SpaceX, that started their own space program since NASA kinda gave up on the whole rocket launching thing, and they are working on a mission to start a colony on mars (I think they’re underestimating the issue of how to be connected to the sun and the lack of a magnetic field on Mars, but that’s another post entirely). We are close to developing artificial intelligence that may someday – perhaps really soon – be smarter, much smarter, than we are. This is all happening, and it’s much bigger and more complicated than you.
In order to heal or grow or change yourself in a meaningful way, you have to have the passion, the drive, and a purpose. And the purpose of “I don’t want to be sick” or “I don’t want to be in pain” isn’t a purpose. I know because I’ve been there. Flip it around and ask yourself, “What do I want? If I were healthy and strong, what would I do with my opportunity?” Because until you identify that, your body has no reason to waste it’s resources on healing anything. It’s like your muscles when you stop exercising; use it or lose it, pal!
Now to get off my soapbox a bit, I realize this is hard. It’s still hard, even for me, to continue building this mindset. It’s hard to fathom, almost to the point of being counterintuitive, that getting your mind right and finding your purpose and passion from within has anything to do with your bowel issues or your headaches or your back pain, but it does. And until you get this right, those pills and dietary changes and physical therapies aren’t going to do you much good. How else do you explain the placebo effect? How else do you explain an otherwise healthy person dying hours or days after a partner passes away, the so-called “death by a broken heart?” These things alter the mind and change a person’s sense of purpose and their outlook on life.
You’ve potentially spent a lot of time this holiday season buying and giving gifts to other people, but I challenge you to give yourself a gift too. Give yourself the opportunity for introspection and self-discovery. Ask yourself what your purpose is, what’s driving you right now, and if you’re “sick” at the moment, what is it you want to get “healthy” for? The obvious surface answer might be something like “my kids” or “my job,” and they may be right, but go a little deeper. Ask yourself what makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning. What challenges you to be a better person? What would make you work with your blood, sweat, and tears for more hours than you should and actually have you feeling grateful and healthier after having done so? Once you do the dirty work to identify this, you might find everything else falls into place and starts working too.