Reality check – You do not have time to wait!

The 28th of March 2017 marked a significant anniversary in my life. One which only those closest to me were aware of.

I was talking to friend about it at dinner a few days later and we were discussing the similarities of my story to others she knew of and she encouraged me to share it. At first I shied away saying I couldn’t see how anyone else could derive any value from my sharing of the story, but she argued otherwise. I thought about it for a few days and realised my strongest values, the way in which I live my life and a significant reason for my lifestyle coaching ambitions are inextricably linked to this anniversary.

I concluded she was probably right and decided I would write about it with 3 keys hopes in mind: 1) that the story will resonate with others who have been through a similar experience; 2) that some people may make some changes in their lives as a result of it; and 3) that at the very least it may be a way to document a significant experience in my life which my kids may one day be able to appreciate given they are way too young to understand at the time of writing.

So what is this event I speak of? Well, it marked the 20th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. But, it was not simply an anniversary. It actually marked a point where my Dad has now been dead for longer than I ever knew him – I was only 19 when he passed away. In many ways, it has been confronting to know that he has now been gone from my life for longer than he was ever part of it (in person at least).

Now, my Dad was a non-exerciser, a smoker and a hard worker. And, whilst his death was never formally attributed to smoking or other lifestyle choices, I don’t think it can be disputed they had some involvement in causing the pulmonary embolism that ultimately resulted in his death – at the very least it didn’t give him the best chance of surviving it.

However, the point of this post is less about his lifestyle choices and more about the impact and consequences that ensued. Being only 19 at the time of his death, and given he has been gone for more than half my life, means I lost more than just my Dad. I missed out on so much more: he wasn’t there to see me graduate from university, he wasn’t at my wedding, he never met my wife and my kids will never know him. Further, I never got the chance to truly know him or his life story and I lost the mentor I needed, and often still need, in life.

Together with the birth of my kids, these ‘loses’ made me closely evaluate the values by which I now live my life. This deep dive revealed my physical and mental wellbeing are without doubt the things I value most in life. I place these even higher than my family and work/income as I believe good health is the enabler of a fulfilling life and that without it, everything else suffers – especially your family and income.

While physical activity has been a constant in my life since my late teens, the deep evaluation of my personal values resulted in me making several other changes in my life, particularly regarding my mental health. A few key examples include: reducing my work hours so as to free up time for other pursuits and for spending more, and higher quality, time with my wife and kids; outsourcing many mundane tasks in my life to others; and ensuring I maintain a high quality diet (but not one that is overly restrictive). Making these changes has allowed me to live a life which aligns with my values and that ultimately brings me a much greater level of personal satisfaction.

But, most importantly, it is laying the groundwork for what I hope will be a long and fruitful life. The death of my Dad at such an early age, and the associated pain and loss, serves as a significant driver for me to stay true to these values so my kids (hopefully) will not have the same experience I had.

The next milestone is for me to live longer than my Dad – I have 17 years before I cross that bridge – but it is a goal I have every intention of achieving. From there I’ll be looking to raise my bat to celebrate a hard fought century (which I want to bring up with a graceful, controlled cover drive rather than an edgy nick through the slip cordon). Neither of these 2 goals will be attainable unless I stay focused on my values every day.

Many people think they have time to make positive health changes – start exercising, stop smoking, eat better – but things change fast. My Dad went from getting sick to dead in a month. Reality check – you do not have time to wait! Every day we lay down more blocks to the foundations of our lives and for anyone who has ambitions to live a long and happy life, every day matters.

My overriding hope for those of you reading this is that you recognise your decisions in life, especially those that relate to your health, can have a profound effect on the people you care most about. Moreover, know that these effects can have a lasting impact and in some instances may not become apparent until many years down the line.

If you know your lifestyle choices or your health are in need of positive change, don’t wait to take control of them. Recognise the potential impact to both yourself and others and start making changes that will ultimately benefit you as well as (if not more so) your loved ones.