If you have not been exposed to books, classes, videos, commercials, and websites that teach you how to be physically fit, then you have been living on another planet. And, unless you are one of those skinny buff bodies that spend fanatical hours at the gym, you, along with 99% of the population, probably have some issues with your body. Ha, me too. Don’t you love it when they advertise exercise equipment with people who have zero body fat, a six pack and well chiseled muscles across every inch of their body?
Well, with all those resources available I won’t waste your time talking about physical fitness. You can have a perfect body but still be a total train wreck of a person. We need to explore what it means to develop and enjoy fitness in the rest of your being. Yes, there is physical fitness, taking care of this bio-machine that we live in, but there is intellectual, emotional, relational, financial, creative, and spiritual fitness. All six are linked together and have to be in balance for you to enjoy a beautiful life.
One of the best ways to understand fitness it so contrast it with the word “disabilities.” A person with physical disability has lost the ability to function at full capacity. If we explore what it means to be disabled in the other categories of our being mentioned above it will help us discover what it means to be whole, vibrant, capable, healthy person.
Intellectual Fitness has nothing to do with knowing a bunch of stuff, of being smart. I have known people who are really smart; highly educated, well read, articulate, and deep thinkers which is certainly impressive, but discovered they were not very wise. Without wisdom we will suffer from an intellectual disability. Wisdom is the well balanced, strategic, appropriate, and timely application of what we have learned from our education and experience. Wisdom is not knowing. It is accomplishing the right goals by the right means at the right time for the right reasons. Intellectual disability is the opposite of all of those steps.
Emotional Fitness makes life fun and beautiful. It allows us to feel and express the full range of emotions without causing damage to ourselves, our relationships, or those around us. Emotional fitness allows us to experience and accept the emotional expressions of others without taking them personally, or trying to judge or fix them. Some emotions are like a peaceful river flowing gently through a pristine woods. Some are like hand grenades that explode at the turn of events. Others are like a party in your heart and others like the inescapable weight of darkness. To be truly human, we must learn to own them all. When emotions become words they can build up or tear down. This is where wisdom and balance are crucial. Emotions are something you have, not something you are. If emotions are something you have, like clothes or tools, then you can choose when and how to use them, how to express them with words and/or actions. Be angry but don’t turn your words into bullets. Love deeply without the fear of vulnerability. Foster the enjoyable ones as you learn to express the difficult ones in non-destructive ways. Emotional disability happens when you lose control, when they control you.
Relational Fitness means that we can choose to love some, like some, tolerate some and even dislike others. It also means that others will love, like, tolerate or dislike us. This becomes possible when we learn to love ourselves, like ourselves and even tolerate those parts of ourselves which are not so beautiful. Relational fitness means we see ourselves as both independent and interdependent individuals who are confident in our own skin while risking the vulnerability of allowing someone else to know and love us. Humans are unique beings among all the living things on this planet and the universe. Each of us is a miracle to be respected and treated with kindness and compassion, even if we don’t like that person or group very much. We are all from the same race, human, brothers and sisters all coming from the same ancient ancestors, sharing this speck of dust floating in space. Any kind of prejudice is nothing more than a judgmental ego trip and is destructive to our own being and society. There is nothing healthy, balanced or wise about hate. Hate and prejudice are examples of relational disability.
Financial Fitness. There is a MONEY link in Life Lessons which speaks directly to this issue. I will just add this, I used to tell my students that I wanted them to become very wealthy billionaires so they could give it all away. Then and only then would they be truly happy. Uncontrolled opulent self-indulgence is a very sad and selfish disability.
Creative Fitness: Every book, movie, scientific experiment, government, invention, and relationship begins with the subconscious question: “what if…?” We humans have an insatiable compulsion to create new stuff. Take flight or example. From the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk to a helicopter on Mars in 120 years is truly breathtaking. The opposite of creativity is stagnation, a disability and it is boring and will suck the life out of us. A good synonym for creativity is “rebirth,” searching for our own personal renaissance as we search for the answers to our own “what if…” question. What if I dressed differently, did my hair and make up differently, spent my week ends exploring new hobbies or friendships, what if I painted a room a different color, rearranged the furniture, what if, what if, what if? Do something good for yourself. Stop being a couch potato watching the same TV shows. Recreate yourself. It’s risky, maybe dangerous, but almost always thrilling and filled with serendipity.
Spiritual Fitness: I will offer a bit of transparency here; I am a person of faith. I pray, read and study the Holy books and strive to live my life exemplary of a believer. Notice, I did not say I was religious or what my specific beliefs are. Spiritual fitness is the acceptance that there is more to life than these 70 or 80 years we spend on this planet. We are going to be dead a whole lot longer than we are going to be alive, and to reject any sense of life after death is to endorse a myopic and naturalistic worldview. It is a blindness, a spiritual disability. There is no scientific evidence which disproves there is life after death. No philosophical polemics can arrive at that conclusion. We are spiritual beings, we have bodies. It needs to be repeated, we are spiritual beings, we have bodies. Every religion (though I dislike using the word) reveals this reality and hope of a spiritual forever after our few moments on this earth are over. Faith heals, guides, inspires, and challenges us to seek goodness, truth and beauty. Spiritual fitness requires that we humble ourselves and seek the divine, the eternal One who gives life to us all.