My mind wanders a lot when I drive, walk or run. I solve many problems by stating a problem to myself and allowing my subconscious mind to solve it.
This morning during my training walk for the Camino de Santiago, I was thinking about what to write about today. The concept of incremental change kept popping up in my mind – nothing solid, just the concept. I had read Jeff Olson’s book, The Slight Edge, several years ago. Since nothing solid was forming, I added another dimension to the problem – incremental change and health.
I look back over the health of most of the people I’ve known as their health diminishes with age, especially my parents and my wife’s parents. What caused the rapid decline in their health in the last ten years of their lives?
From writing my book on aging, I know what the causes of aging are and how different factors affect (accelerate or decelerate) the aging processes. What crept into my mind was the incremental shift in health – from good/OK health to poor/terrible health in literally the last five years of their lives.
Jeff Olson stated that we make choices daily. The results of those choices are our successes or failures later in life. Incremental change is not noticed on day one, or even on day ten in many cases. Yesterday, I had added five pounds to my backpack and noticed the difference immediately. It added over a minute to each mile I walked yesterday. Today, twenty-four hours later, I walked the exact same path, with the same weight as yesterday and did it five minutes faster – actually a little faster than we typically walk.
One day allowed my body to accommodate my extra baggage and adjust. Jeff Olson showed curves in his book regarding the incremental change as it applies over time. Some things are ‘easy to do’ and some things are ‘not easy to do’. Most of us choose the ‘easy to do’ option. It might not be the best choice given our long-term goals.
For long-term good health, we need to be attentive daily to our bodies – nutrition, attitude, stress levels, exercise and a myriad of other factors. We have to have the self-discipline and commitment to make those small incremental changes daily – eating right, reducing stress, exercise, etc.
When we choose consistently to eat fast foods (not nutritionally balanced), eat to excess, relax rather than exercise, accept stress rather than getting rid of it, and have a poor attitude rather than choosing what is more appropriate for the moment, we are going down the failure curve for health in our later years.