I was in Italy this time last year. I had six wonderful weeks enjoying this most beautiful country. There are some remarkable places and incredible buildings that have been standing, weathering the elements and the wars, for many thousands of years. The building in this photo is the Pantheon in Rome. It was first built in 27BC, burnt down, was struck by lightning, was rebuilt in 120AD and has stood ever since. Looking at the building, and the incredible pillars that are holding it up, it’s easy to see why the structure has been standing for almost 2000 years. Except, the pillars are not the reason why the Pantheon has stood for so long, it’s the foundation the pillars are standing on. If the foundation wasn’t strong enough, the pillars would have collapsed centuries earlier.
The greatest mistake a builder can make is to focus on the pillars of the structure without laying a strong foundation for it to stand on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? A home built, on a swamp, even with strong pillars, will sink into the swamp. This makes total sense, right? That being the case, I want you to think of your body and your life as your building. What are the pillars that you hold dear? Those which define you and give your life meaning? It will include some of the pillars in the diagram below.

The biggest mistake you will make, in the building of a happy, purposeful person and life, is to incorrectly assume that your wellbeing is a pillar. Why do you think that is a mistake? Why wouldn’t health and wellbeing be one of the important pillars in your life?

Great question. I have an even better answer. Would you agree that you cannot invest time in all of the pillars? You need to prioritise and choose where you will spend most time, based on what’s most important to you. Does that make sense? For example, if family is a priority, you will take time from other areas like social activities and hobbies. Agreed? If you are career focussed, again, you will steal time from other things to prioritise your career progression and achieving the goals you have set for yourself. So, again the question is; why shouldn’t wellbeing be a pillar?

Everything important stands on a foundation of wellbeing.

When you treat wellbeing as a pillar in your life, what you are saying is, you have a choice whether you invest time and attention to it, or not. Just like, when you are busy building a career or a business, you will choose to invest your time there and not in your social activities, for a period of time. What I have seen many people do, in my thirty years in the health and wellbeing industry, is choose and prioritise other things over their health and fitness, because they believe they have that choice. Please hear this and hear this well, you don’t have a choice if you want to live a purposeful life of joyful longevity.

Please believe me when I say, your health and wellbeing IS NOT a pillar in your life, it’s the foundation upon which all of your most important pillars stand. If family is a strong pillar in your life, think about how you will be able to interact with them and influence them with great health & wellbeing, and, without it. If, indeed, your career is a priority and a pillar right now, how will you be able impact that career and make the mark on it you want with, and, without your wellbeing? Are you getting my point here? Your wellbeing impacts every area of your life, both good and bad, so please knock it down as a pillar, and build it up underneath and as a foundation for everything you hold dear to you.

I have lost my mother. She passed away fifteen years ago after a 15-year fight with cancer. I truly I believe it could have been avoided if she treated her health as a foundation, not a pillar. Now however, she is gone. She wasn’t able to see her grandchildren grow up, she can no longer spend time with the people she loves, her travel days are over and her life, ended. Do you know what was affected in her life, when she got sick and then passed away? Yes, EVERYTHING! By treating her health and wellbeing as a pillar, and a choice, she lost everything that was most important to her.

I know that’s a little morbid and depressing, but I want to impress upon you that the time to stop treating your wellbeing like a pillar, and start treating like the foundation, is now, whilst you still have that choice. The choice was taken away from my mother, and, she started acting on it too late. The moment you can make the connection between everything that is most important in your life, and the small, seemingly insignificant, decisions you are making every day that are impacting your physical wellbeing, is the moment you will start making better choices. The choices, by the way, you know you should be making.

I think the reason people see wellbeing as a pillar is because they believe being healthy requires a large investment of time and money. Wrong! It just requires a decision and a shift in focus and attention. It takes relatively no time to eat a healthy breakfast. It takes no more time to drink water instead of soft drink or that extra coffee. It takes no more time to eat the apple, then eat the muffin. It takes no more time to prepare a healthy meal than go and get take-away. It takes no time to identify negative emotion, as I spoke about last week, and change the thought to create a more positive feeling. It will save you time to park further away and walk, rather than drive around and around looking for the closest car park. You will get up a level quicker by walking up the stairs than standing, brain-dead, on an escalator. Getting my drift?

These are all little choices we are making every day. The people who are living an amazing life of purpose, joy, fulfillment, success and accomplishment, understand this and simply make better choices. They choose the actions that will enhance their physical wellbeing, their important pillars, and, their experience of life. So, as you finish reading this week’s blog, I hope it has helped shift your perspective a little. You have one shot at living an incredible life, so make it a great one. My encouragement for you is to stop treating your wellbeing as a pillar and start regarding it as the foundation of your best life.