Eric Stevens

Fitness Speaker, Author & Personality

Eric Stevens is a health and fitness coach, trainer and practitioner. Eric has broadened that body focused fitness with writing, presenting and acting in order to reach people, change lives, and create dialogue.

Filtering by Tag: Healing

Health is y(our) most valuable possession

In my early twenties, I worked out frequently at a prestigious health club in Portland, Oregon. Working at the club was a man who had been an exercise instructor there for 60 years! In his eighties at that time, Joe was full of vigor, enthusiasm, and a zest for fitness. Like his friend and contemporary Jack Lalanne, Joe was considered a health and exercise guru and somewhat of a pioneer in the fitness movement.

Still fit, lean, and energetic, Joe would always make it a point to check in on me during my workout and provide a health tip or two. He lived by what he called the four D's: desire, determination, dedication and discipline. But of all the interactions and memories I had with Joe, the thing that has stuck with me is a sign that hung in his office. It read simply, “health is your most valuable possession.”

It’s hard to argue the point. Yet in many ways, it seems our collective focus is on anything but health – For weeks on end we debate football players kneeling during the national anthem. We spend months expressing shock and anger over the sexual inappropriateness of Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, and Kevin Spacey. We focus on whether we should allow certain people in certain bathrooms or whether the ‘news’ is ‘fake’ or not. When we do actually have legitimate societal and environmental health news stories such as hurricanes and mass shootings, they capture our attention only for a brief moment in time. We come together in unified thought for a day or two until the more important ‘news’ of celebrity gossip, dysfunctional politics, and reality competition shows come back to the front burner.

Instead of focusing on our own health, the health of our environment, and the wellness of our populace, we focus instead on the health of our money, our economy, and mostly our own egos. We are driven by distraction. Honestly, with things as screwed up and backwards as they appear to be, our insatiable appetite for escapism is understandable.

Sure enough, distraction seems to be a top priority for all of us these days. That is, until life hits you across the face and the compromised health of your body, your family, or even your environment becomes bigger than the needs of your ego. If you’ve ever been faced with the prospect of significant loss, you’ll know what I‘m talking about - a health crisis is enough to scare any of us straight.

This past year my wife was faced with some alarming physical symptoms. For months, she went through extensive medical testing, living with the constant fear of the unknown and the severe discomfort of her illness. Fortunately, she received excellent care and her team of physicians were able to determine that her issues were environmental, epigenetic, and ultimately treatable. After changing her environment, hear health issues subsided.

I’m happy to report that she is much better and continuing to improve in gaining back her strength and vitality. Perhaps more importantly, the episode changed both of us immensely and also refocused our priorities. After years of living comfortably and enjoying the fruits of our labor by traveling frequently, socializing, and playing hard on the weekends, we reprioritized our focus to God, each other, and actualizing the authentic lifestyle we wanted.

Both my wife and I have dedicated our professional lives to health and wellness. We exercise, eat right, and Patience has even convinced me in recent years that I should floss my teeth regularly! But it still took the proverbial wake up call for us to realize that Joe was right - health is indeed your most valuable possession.

The perspective gained when health is jeopardized is the great equalizer that brings your priorities immediately front and center. You can have all the money in the world, but frequently money can’t solve the problem of health. As a case in point, look no further than the wellness of our country - as a nation, we do have all the money in the world, and frankly, we do a piss poor job where it comes to the care and well-being of our populace. Consider the following:

·      Health related issues and subsequent medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in our country.

·      For many of our citizens, the rights to healthcare access and quality of care is appalling.

·      By almost any measure, the collective mental health of our populace is getting worse and increasingly dependent on drugs.

·      According to the governments of every nation on earth (except ours) the health of our ecology and environment is failing miserably at least in part by factors related to human consumption.

·      The health of our relationships, communities, and civic organizations are in peril. Loneliness and depression are at epidemic proportions, churches and community organizations are at low points in their membership bases, and philosophically and politically, we are in a sheer state of gridlock.

By any standard, societal wellness is in a state of crisis. In the face of such a fact, every effort and focus must be put on communal health. It is only in looking beyond ourselves that we will find true health and wholeness and the manifestation of our true most valuable possession. The origin of the word health comes from the Old English word haelen which means “to heal.” Indeed, we are in desperate need of healing. To be made whole, well, and sound we must realize that human kind and our planet shares the same innate qualities – we are all one.

Whatever you are doing, watching, reading or working on – if it’s not in some way related to health (yours, someone else’s, of our society, or of our planet) put it with your other possessions where it belongs – on the back burner.

As mentioned, my fitness mentor Joe used to talk about the four D’s relating to health. While I am no Joe, I would like to suggest that there are also four F’s where it comes to fixing our ailing society. Faith, forgiveness, fortitude, and fairness.

We must find a way to look after the needs of others in addition to our own. We must stop pointing fingers,find the resilience to fix a broken and lopsided system, and start finding creative solutions. More than anything, in a crisis of health, the glue that brings us all together is faith - faith in humanity, faith in goodness, and faith in God.

 

Learning to Fail

One of the more poignant moments I can remember in recent years is getting the crap beat out of me shortly after one of my biggest life failures. Just weeks after signing my divorce papers in 2012, I had to endure a few rounds of hard sparring at a martial arts testing and I got pummeled. Already bloodied and bruised, in the third round I was kicked so hard in the ribs that I doubled over and took a knee. In order to pass my test, I had to make it through all three rounds - I was literally saved by the bell.

In a twisted way, it was actually sort of cathartic to have my body feel the way my heart did – battered and broken. While getting beaten up isn’t something I’d necessarily recommend, I can also tell you that failure is almost a certainty in life and learning to cope with pain is a critical part of progression in anything.

Yet culturally, everything and everyone seems to be telling you the opposite – that success happens by finding your bliss and seeking pleasure. The quick fix is everywhere you look. Get rich quick seminars, crash diets, and fad exercise programs tell you the news your brain loves to hear – that there’s a convenient solution and a comfortable change - it just takes hard work and the right program.

But what if it wasn’t about the program, the right timing, or even how hard you worked? What if advancement was simply about the willingness to face the pain and the certainty of failure.

If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that I may or may not reach my goals, dreams, and aspirations, but I will most definitely fail while trying. The silver lining is that failure brings with it the opportunity to find authenticity and wholeness through introspective work and forgiveness. While more life lessons are surely on their way through my next mess up, here’s what I have learned so far:

o   Ego can take you to the depths of hell. In every major failure I’ve had, ego was in the driver’s seat. You are not your body, your job, or even your relationships, but you become the thoughts you give power to. Ego says you are defined by quantities, while your true self is defined by qualities.

You may lose your job, but you haven’t lost the qualities that got you that job. You may lose your relationship, but you haven’t lost the opportunity to love with your whole heart. Next time your ego tells you that you are defined by what you have, remind yourself that in the end, you will be remembered by your qualities.

o   Honesty isn’t your best policy, humility is. Your failure is an opportunity to perfect your virtue which is simply the opposite of your vice. My vice is pride. When others wrong me, I cast them aside and never, ever turn back. Puffing my chest up may be my default, but when I am at my best, humility governs my thoughts and actions. The problem is that when we fail, we often look for something or someone to blame, even if it’s us. In doing so we can lash out to those who have wronged us, and frequently, that lashing out is self-directed. Here’s the thing though – playing the blame game ultimately proves nothing. What matters is the humility to face the wreckage and move on.

o   Quitting is sometimes your best option. Anyone who’s ever been divorced can attest to the utter devastation associated with such a separation. You don’t get married before friends, family, and God to see it fail miserably. Compounding the effects of a trauma like a divorce are the prospects of acute pain, loneliness, and the loss of companionship. But if love, justice, and truth are worth fighting for, abuse and hatred are worth leaving behind. Leaving a relationship, job, or bad habit is sometimes our best option as something built on a false foundation isn’t worth salvaging, it’s worth tearing down and starting over on the right footing. 

o   Victims don’t heal. One thing I have seen over and over again in my in life both personally and professionally is that no one ever makes a lasting change that they don’t genuinely want to make. People make changes when they’ve had enough and their back is against the wall.

It sucks to get downsized. It sucks to get hurt or heartbroken. It sucks to get sick. It sucks when your genetics aren’t perfect. A lot of life’s setbacks aren’t our fault. It wasn’t your fault that your parents were lousy role models or your boss is an asshole. But it is your fault that you hold on to your pain, anger, and self-justification. True freedom can only come about by releasing negativity and allowing wounds to heal though the natural order of time and forgiveness. The statute of limitations is now – you aren’t a victim, you have the power of choice.

o   You must face the pain. Sometimes you’re going to get your ass kicked and it’s going to hurt - maybe even worse than you think. It’s tempting to run the other way. But the great irony of the things that mask our pain (booze, sex, food, etc.) is that these temporary reprieves only prolong and compound the inevitable pain. One of the best ways to cope with pain is to find support. If your body hurts, treat it gently and get a massage. If your heart hurts, join a support group and seek those who can understand your plight. If your mind hurts, force yourself to sit with your thoughts until they pass.

More than anything though, we have to face the hurt and the trauma. Peace is only found on the other side of it. There’s no way around the storms of life – our job is to face the pain and release its grip by swimming with the current.

Learning to fail isn’t something covered in school. There are no participation trophies in the game of life. We’ll have many wins if we’re fortunate and few failures if we’re lucky. But failure is going to happen and regardless of circumstance, the work is clear – peace of mind and character are forged with finding the resolve to face the mess and the courage to clean it up.