In order to truly be free, we need to be healthy, both spiritually and physically. If physical health is lost, spiritual health can suffer. A person who has lost health spends all time and resources trying to regain it. This limits one’s ability to focus on spirituality, or anything else for that matter.
A person’s true freedom can be compromised when searching for health solutions, as it can become an all-encompassing endeavor. To maintain our freedom, we need to take stock of our physical well-being before our health begins to decline, and start planning for our future good health, happiness and continued freedom.
We all know the importance of goal-setting, but most of us don’t have clear and measurable health goals. Lewis Carroll said, “Any road will get you there, if you don’t know where you are going.” How important are goals and how can we make them most effective?
There was a fascinating study conducted on the 1979 Harvard MBA program where graduate students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The result: only 3% had written goals and plans, 13% had goals, but they weren’t in writing, and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again and the results were absolutely astounding:
- The 13% of the class who had goals, but did not write them down were earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals.
- The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined!
This study pertains to financial well-being; however, if we apply the same principle to our health, we can be more confident in our ability to be able enjoy all the fruits of our labors, well into old age.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the most critical part of our lives, our health, people rarely set goals. We should not only set health goals, but we should also write them down. These goals should not only be short term, but long term (20-30 year) health goals. What do we want our lives to be like in the future, and what are the steps we need to take to get there? Health goals need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound.
Sages have stated that the major responsibility for personal health falls on the INDIVIDUAL, not our physicians. To take care of one’s health is a commandment, and the Sages find this mandate implied in the words, “Take heed to thyself and take care of your lives.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) and, again, “be extremely protective of your lives (Deuteronomy 4:15)”.
In the Mishneh Torah (Hilchot Deot 4:1), Maimonides comments on the individual responsibility for health: “Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of G-d – for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator if he is ill – therefore he must avoid that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is helpful and helps the body become stronger.”
During the period when Maimonides served as the royal physician to the Sultan of Egypt, the Sultan never became ill. One day he asked, “How do I know that you are an expert physician, since during the period that you have been here I have never been ill, and you have not had the opportunity to test your skills?” Maimonides replied, “The ability of a physician to prevent illness is a greater proof of his skill than the ability to cure someone who is already ill.”
We are all spiritual beings engaged in the physical experience of LIFE. We all want to be free to make choices, enjoy our families and friends, contribute to our communities and spiritually connect to our source. We can maintain this freedom by taking care of our physical body that our soul inhabits. If health is a most important key to true freedom, let’s look at the different levels to reach for the highest:
- The lowest level of health is when you have a health issue and ignore it.
- The next level is treating the symptom, and not the cause.
- Next is treating the cause of a disease once you have it.
- The next higher level is Prevention.
- The highest level is Dorland’s Medical Dictionary’s definition of health: It is a state of optimal physical, mental and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Get on a healthy track now for you, your family, your community.