It was the winter of 2001. Two of my closest college buddies and I were traveling back from Pune to Delhi by the Goa Express train during our college break. My can't-wait-to-get-home excitement was suddenly interrupted, by my friend - let’s call him Buddy A, who suddenly remembered an instance, which he decided to tell my other friend, let's call him Buddy B and me. On his previous visit home, on this very train, he bumped into a school friend of mine (let me call him Mr. Well-wisher). Buddy A opens up to me the conversation he had with Mr.Well-wisher. The entire chit-chat he had with him is of no consequence except for this part –
Buddy A to Mr. Well-wisher: “Oh, you are from DPS RK Puram?”
Mr. Well-wisher: “Yeah, passed out in 1998”
Buddy A: “Do you know of a guy named Mayur Mathur? He’s a good friend of mine. He too, I believe was from your batch.”
(Ok so, before I type the response of Mr.Well-wisher, I'll give you a brief background of what constituted my 'recall-value' during my school years right before college. I was generously on the healthier side weighing 87 kgs..ok.I was fat and had a receding hairline. I was very meek, shy types and didn’t have much of a social circle to be proud of. Ok back to the conversation!)
Mr.Well-wisher then, unhesitatingly and judgingly replied, “Oh, you mean, the half bald and that plump guy.” (mind you this he enacted amusingly depicting the baldness – by circling one finger around his head and the plumpness – by enacting the plump action!)
My Buddy A obviously was amused at his depiction however I was shell-shocked.
Pause my story here.
THE WORLD IS DRIVEN BY FEELINGS AND SO ARE WE.
Back in the era of emperors, rulers, and kings, they felt it just, to annihilate the people who were their enemies, without any qualms. They plundered all the wealth from the kingdoms they conquered and used that wealth not only for themselves but also to make their armies feel comforted coz they knew that would make them feel good.
Fast forward to the early twentieth century, when people didn’t have cell phones and had only landlines. When they weren't smart TVs, there were those bulky lying-pyramid shaped boxes called televisions. Airplane travel was a luxury. There was no email and people sent telegrams or posts to each other. There was no internet. If we are told to visualize today, how life was back then, it might seem that it must have been so damn ‘hard’, right?. That ‘hard’ thought is a feeling. Similarly, today, with technological advancements our lives are so damn convenient, right?. That ‘convenience’ is a feeling. And we subscribe to the various technologies coz it makes us feel good. We have been and still are driven by feelings.
Throwing in a bit of psychology here, imagine that our brains are divided into two i.e. the Feeling Brain (term courtesy Mark Manson) that rakes up all sorts of emotions on experience, and the Thinking Brain (term courtesy Mark Manson only) that attaches a meaning to that experience or narrative. We are all emotionally-Feeling-Brain-driven fools no matter how much we try to think that we are logical-Thinking-Brain-driven. Our decisions are driven by our feelings and not by facts, data, information or logic.
To get fit, for me in hindsight was an emotional decision. And that decision for getting fit NEEDS TO BE AN EMOTIONAL ONE FOR YOU TOO.
WHY WAIT TILL SOMETHING HAS TO HAPPEN
Here’s what I think. Why wait till that one moment when your perspectives about health change, due to some adversity in your life or the life of a loved one? Why wait till your doctor’s reports show a dangerous spike in your cholesterol levels? Why wait till the needle on the weighing scale jumps (figuratively) out of the weighing scale? Why wait till that moment when, one fine day, you yawningly stand on the weighing scale and ‘Oh shit, I’m 20 kgs overweight’? Why wait till ‘they’ tell you “It’s time you start going for walks”? Why wait till your girlfriend aww-ishly calls you ‘Mere motuuu!”? (or my cute little fatty. Okay, no offense on that one!) Or maybe someone calls you “weirdo” (looks-wise) behind your back? Why wait till some bozo calls you “Just look at yourself in the mirror”?
Agreed, that change happens or can occur when something hits us. When that happens obviously you will change, but why wait till that moment of self-realization. But can it be done consciously? I think it can be - only if we attach a feeling to it i.e. a positively-moving feeling only will drive us. I mean, we hear people say, especially successful one's harp – “Get disciplined” or “Be disciplined” or “you should workout..” or “you have to work out...” but, here’s my problem with people who throw a lot of ‘shoulds’ and ‘haves’ or ‘have-tos’ at me. To me a ‘should’, a ‘have’ and a ‘have-to’ is a burden on the mind. It’s an indirect pressure that “I have to do this..” or “I should do that” and I am pressurized into doing something, but that’s fleeting, it won’t stick and soon fizzle out. It needs to be like pure creation. Like genuine inspiration. It needs to be at free will. It needs to be a free choice that I make.
If I ask people who are, let’s say, ‘consciously’ fit (you know what I mean!) – and what is it that gets them to do the same thing every day on and on, they reply – “I don’t know. I just go workout coz it’s good for me. And I want to reduce my weight to 57 kg” But is that it? my counter to that thinking is – once they have hit the 57 mark (or whatever), do they stop doing altogether? No. They still continue and if they stop, they experience withdrawal symptoms i.e. they experience feelings. What I am trying to drive home is – the resultant feeling is the key. The fitness-driven people do something about their health daily coz it makes them feel good about themselves. Goals (vital though!) will show us the direction, but feelings will close the loop and push us to go further and further. Getting disciplined is based out of a consciously developed habit, which gets programmed into your subconscious, so deeply that it becomes almost second nature. But the beginning and drive is always based on a ‘feeling’ that you attach to the activity.
Say some random person walks up to you and says – “you have a nice physique”. How would you feel? Or someone comes up to you and says “you look good.” How would you feel then? One day some random guy, while I was sitting at Starbucks, comes up to me and says “you look like you workout?” Now I have no idea who this guy is, I haven’t even uttered a single word to him but he gets triggered to walk up to me and sort of indirectly compliment me on how I look. Okay, enough of boasting. This feeling when someone tells me – that “you have inspired me to work out every day”. The feeling of achievement you get after a hard workout. The feeling you get when people come up to you in the gym and say “You workout really well”. The feeling you get when someone compliments you by saying – “I love how disciplined you are.” The feeling you get when someone says “Wah! Just look at you man, like what the f**k ”
These resultant feeling(s) you get in such instances is the ultimate psychological reward. This is what we humans are actually vying for and striving for. It’s similar to the feeling you experience when you receive appreciation for your performance at work. No amount of money, no matter how much you get, can beat that feeling. And that’s what I am harping about here. That’s exactly what keeps me going, to stay healthy and stay fit. It’s nothing to do with looks, that’s artificial. That resultant feeling, you get when you feel healthy, knowing that you are staying healthy and people get inspired by you - IS THE REAL KICKER FOR ME.
This resultant feeling is the feeling I want you to think about or at-least start thinking about. Think now and at this very moment on what feeling you wish to experience – in the future or today about your health. How is it you wish to feel about your health? 'coz that’s the very crux of it all.
To help you do that, imagine and visualize this hypothetical but a probable scenario below as if this happened to you. Keep aside the wit, if you find any, but try to get the essence of it and gauge the emotions they arouse in you –
You wake up in the morning and as you walk to the washroom for your usual morning pee, you feel something uneasy in the chest area. You feel numbness in certain parts of your hand and sudden dizziness overcomes you. You call out for help, but you realize that your speech is slurred. And you collapse. You wake up on the hospital bed with tubes and pipes around and on you. Dreamy-eyed you look around to find your loved one’s sullen face staring right at you. Knowing that he or she has wept through the night, while you were unconscious, you try to confirm what happened. At that very instant, the doc walks in and explains that you had suffered a stroke. You mumble, “whaaa.. whhyy.. doctor, howww..” The doc goes onto explain as usual that, there was a blockage, etc and we had to perform this procedure. He then asks you to take rest, tells you to meet him at the time of discharge and leaves. After a couple of days, at the time of discharge, you and your family sit with the doctor and ask what is to be done?
He goes on to elaborate, “Mr. ____(your name) I don’t think you care about yourself or anyone around you. Due to your sedentary lifestyle, it appears that you are 20 kgs overweight. This obese condition has been exacerbated by the fact that your cholesterol levels are touching 320 which had resulted in the hardening of one of your arteries, possibly due to unhealthy eating habits. The artery that got blocked is responsible for carrying blood to the brain depriving it of the regular supply of oxygen, which we call a hemorrhagic stroke. It’s a blocked artery in your heart affecting your brain. Now you see how serious this condition is or could have been? However Mr. ____(your name), I thank God, you got admitted and we operated on you on time, coz had we been a little late, it could have been fatal for you.” An eerie silence fills up the doctor's cabin, as you look sideways sly-ishly, embarrassingly at the faces of your loved ones, and as the doctor scribbles a shitload of medicines on his prescription to be had by you henceforth now every day and come for regular checkups for a couple of weeks. As you and your family are leaving his cabin, he asks you to maintain an easy-going and a healthy lifestyle henceforth. And you leave the room filled with a cornucopia of guilt and regret.
It might be slightly exaggerated but with due respect to all, trust me this could happen to anyone and at any time. So, my question is -
AND THEN THE SEED OF FITNESS GOT PLANTED IN MY MIND...
Un-pause my story.
Okay, back to the wobbly Goa Express train compartment, my Buddy A ended that narrative, he saw my jaw-dropping expression and felt a little embarrassed in narrating this to us. It was then and at that very moment, the seed of getting fit was sown in my mind.
Although at that very moment I must’ve hurled countless four-letter expletives at Mr. Well-wisher, today I somehow am thankful to him to have made such a remark, as it was at that moment, in my mind the idea stuck, and I boarded the train to embark on my journey of fitness. That’s how it all began for me.
That narrative by Buddy A and this idea triggered feelings of anger, irritation, frustration... though at that moment I felt like bashing up Mr. Well-wisher (but he was twice my size at that time and I’m sure he would have kicked my butt!), but it opened up a sort of a moral gap (term courtesy Mark Manson again) inside me. A moral gap of an inferiority-thing may be opened up inside me, with the rest of the world, hearing what Mr.Well-wisher had to say about me. It almost felt like, I am being judged here!
Ok, so one school of thought (the GaryVee school of thought, which I now completely subscribe to) says – Don’t give a fuck about others' opinions or who the fuck are they to judge you. Rightly so! but back then – it played its part on me and I felt mentally pressured to close that moral gap, somehow. It kind of shaped me and my thinking about looking and feeling good. Now the genesis of this may have been a bit lopsided – trying to equalize my (inferiority) moral gap with the world by gym-ing my ass off but during the course of doing so regularly, it hit me that MY HEALTH IS MY GREATEST ASSET no matter what and I need to be worried shit about it.
Believe me when I say this and I proudly quote this below like any best-selling author would (thinking that in future someone would copy and paste this quote and write my name on his blog/book or post. Lol!)
Your health is your greatest asset. It’s the only thing that cushions all the painful blows of life. It has cushioned the blows in mine.