“What is your five-year plan?” This is a question that we often associate with career or business planning. It is commonly asked during job interviews. It is used often because the interviewee’s response is informative. Employers want to know if you have the ability, interest, and focus to voice a plan for your future. Being able to do so indicates some intelligent forethought and the desire to reach a specific goal. Too much of the time, we are passively wandering through life. It is easy to follow the crowd, abdicating your authority to think for yourself and formulate your own dreams and goals.
This same premise affects us when it comes to establishing a healthier lifestyle. When I look around, it is not unusual to see several overweight or obese people hanging out together. When I was growing up, there might be one or two overweight teen girls in a class. They stood out when seen with their average size friends. It seems much more common these days to find entire groups of teens and adults with considerable extra weight. Somehow, this has become the norm in our country. Statistics show that more than 50% of Americans are overweight or obese. Our children are dealing with health problems such as Type II diabetes and hypertension because of their eating habits and lack of physical activity. Now, I know that misery loves company and that we all try to find a group that we can fit in. But, do these associations fool us into thinking that it is okay to be overweight? Do these friends make it hard to establish new behaviors? How likely are you to engage in some physical activity instead of hanging out in the food court with your group?
I’m sure you recall the uproar caused by Oprah’s weight loss several years ago. Women all over the country wrote in, called in, and emailed complaints that Oprah had betrayed them by losing weight. This is an example of the ‘misery loves company’ mindset. These women felt that they had an advocate in Oprah as long as she was part of the ‘fat crowd’. By losing weight, Oprah had become the enemy. I was surprised and disappointed at their reaction. It reminded me so much of high school. Doing anything that differed from the standard set by your little clique, you risked being ostracized. I also felt ashamed that as women, we still are so afraid of competition, and filled with envy that we could not support another woman’s efforts to be the best that she can be. Even though Oprah has fallen a time or two (haven’t we all?) on her journey, she remains focused on making her life healthier.
As we can see, breaking free from the crowd can be a difficult task. This undertaking will involve some self-examination. In order to be successful, you must find three things: courage, determination, and a desire for something more. Courage is not just about being brave. Bravery is doing something despite your fear. Courage involves being willing to take the next step, especially when you think it’s no big deal. We are so quick to minimize our feelings and needs in order to fit in. Courage helps us to acknowledge that we are individuals who see alternate paths. Some of these paths are lonely adventures, but they lead to places worth going to.
Determination will keep us on the path that we choose. If our path involves becoming more healthy, clear goals help to outline the way and give us ways to measure progress. When we can actually visualize goals that are right for us, such as focusing on losing 10% of your body weight rather than trying to fit into your jeans from high school, we increase our chances for success.
The ‘something more’ factor refers to how we see ourselves. Sometimes, we stay hidden in the group because we doubt that we could do anything different. We stifle our own dreams and waste so much time and talent when we mindlessly follow what the crowd is doing (hanging out at the food court) instead of identifying what makes each of us unique. You may find that a brisk walk relaxes and energizes you with inspiration to write poetry.
So, what are your plans for the next five years? How about for the next five months or 5 days? Are you formulating a plan to move forward to a better you? Do you want to become more confident or get involved in helping others? You may surprise yourself when you start taking better care of your health. Where do you want to be in five years?