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Is Your Lifestyle Destroying You?

Physical well-being is the first step toward attaining your goals and dreams, says Matthew Kelly, author of The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose.

Have you ever been unemployed? Have you ever lived with someone who was unemployed? What happens? What changes? Most people suffer from an acute blow to their self-esteem, which produces depression in one form or another. A classic symptom of this depression is that when they don’t have to get out of bed — they don’t. Often when people lose their job, they tend to slip into the habit of sleeping in. After a while, they shave only every second day, then every third day. When they do get out of bed, they go down to the local store to get the newspaper and look for available positions. But by the time they call about the jobs, it is early afternoon — maybe late afternoon — and the positions are already filled. Before you know it, they shave only when they have a job interview, which is almost never, because they don’t get out of bed early enough to make the calls in time.

They fall into a rhythm of life, a certain rhythm that grabs hold of them and takes them for a ride. We call that ride “a vicious cycle.” Where does it take them? Nowhere.

This rhythm of life does not energize them or bring out the best in them; rather, it drains them of their energy and prevents them from achieving anything worthwhile. This rhythm of life that has kidnapped them does not support the fulfillment of their legitimate needs physically, emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually. This rhythm of life they have adopted is self-destructive.

That vicious cycle exists in one way or another in the lives of each and every one of us. We get caught up in certain patterns of behavior that are self-destructive, a rhythm of life that does not attend to our legitimate needs, a lifestyle that does not enrich and fulfill us.

Is your lifestyle destroying you?

How do we escape these vicious cycles? Little by little. Small victories are the key. If you decide to become a marathon runner, you don’t go out and try to run a marathon straightaway. You start by running one mile a day, then two, three, five, and seven. Over time you build yourself up, and as you strengthen and develop, you extend the distances. Many victories are won before a marathon runner’s first race.

Can you do one hundred sit-ups? If you are not in the habit of doing sit-ups regularly, you probably think it is impossible to do one hundred sit-ups consecutively right now. But if you start today by doing twenty each day for a week, then thirty a day for a week, and so on, before too long you will be able to do a hundred sit ups — and the impossible will have been made possible. That is the greatness of the human spirit — making the unknown known, making the impossible possible. Small victories, one upon another, are the making of every great champion.

These small victories build strength and confidence. The victory over twenty sit-ups builds strength, courage, and confidence to achieve the victory of doing thirty sit-ups the following week. If, on the other hand, you tried to do one hundred sit-ups every day, the first day you might stop after eighteen, the second day after twenty-one, the third day after twenty-five, the fourth day after twenty-six. After a week, most people would become so discouraged from failing over and over again, they would quit.

Set goals that stretch you but do not break you.

In the way that these small victories build strength, confidence, and courage in athletes, they can do the same for us in every area of our lives, whether in our professional work, our relationships, or our spiritual practices.

A large part of success in anything is victory. Success is mostly about victory over ourselves. The habitual and repetitious achievement of such victories produces the quality of self-discipline in a person’s character. This self-discipline is the founding ideal of all great nations and religions in history. It is the founding father of freedom and the foundation of the nation, culture, and dream we call America.

If you give your body a choice, it will always take the easy way out. Your body lies. It tells you it cannot when it can.

How did Michael Johnson become the fastest man in the world? By running when he felt like running? No. Michael Johnson tells his body what it is and is not allowed to feel and when it is and is not allowed to feel those things. His success comes from his mastery of his body. His higher faculties — intellect, will, spirit — reign over his lower faculties — bodily instincts. Each time his body says, “I can’t,” he pushes it a little further. The body has a natural capacity to increase its strength and abilities. The heart, mind, and spirit are all equipped with the same natural capacity.

Do Andre Agassi and Serena Williams hit tennis balls only when they feel like it? Did Bill Gates achieve what he has by sleeping in until one o’clock in the afternoon? Does Emmitt Smith show up to practice only when he is in the mood for it? Did Abraham Lincoln do only the things he felt like doing? Do you think Mother Teresa always felt like taking care of the poorest of the poor?

One thing is certain. If you do only what you feel like doing, your life will be miserable and you will be a failure.

Victory over self leads to ever increasing levels of achievement in any field. Our first opportunity for victory each day is when the alarm clock goes off and it is time to get out of bed. This is the first victory of the day. Most people when they wake up would prefer to lie in bed a little longer. The body cries out, “Just ten more minutes.”

Who is the master? Your lower faculties — bodily instincts — or your higher faculties — intellect, will, spirit? Do you do what your body tells you to do, or does your body do what you tell it to do?

If your dreams, goals, and purpose are not enough to inspire you to want to get out of bed in the morning, then you need to rethink your dreams, goals, and purpose.

Get out of bed. Grasp the day from the first moment. Achieve that first victory. Look at it as a victory. Affirm it as a victory. Victory encourages the human spirit to soar higher. Small victories are the mentors of greater victories. The human spirit responds to victory. Victory elevates the human spirit. We must learn to find victory in everything, even in defeat.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Kelly, the New York Times bestselling author of The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose (Copyright © 1999 by Matthew Kelly, Revised copyright © 2004 by Beacon Publishing), has been captivating audiences around the world since his late teens. Over the past decade, more than three million people have attended his talks and seminars in over fifty countries. Kelly is the president of Floyd Consulting.

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