No health goals are sustainable without the right mindset. Mindset and mental well-being are the foundation of all other aspects of health, ’cause if the mind ain’t right, we won’t have the awareness, the discipline, the balance, or the internal motivation to consistently make the choices that are in our best interest. Self-awareness creates the space and gives us the intel to decode and recode ourselves.
It starts with a reality check of where we are and gaining an understanding why we are the way we are, and then making a decision to learn better and do better, creating a vision of a healthier version of our lives that we can aspire to. We can remix our mindset, beliefs, and behaviors anytime we choose. It’s really an empowering, revolutionary process.
Living and learning produce self-knowledge that enables us to move forward from the limitations that no longer serve us. Life is a classroom. You can learn from any situation. Every experience is a part of the curriculum. The more we pay attention to our experiences and catch the jewels from them, the better we can understand their valuable lessons. L.E.D.G.E.—for Learn Every Day Grow Evolve—and it’s a lifelong pledge to keep learning every day, growing, and evolving. It’s about always remaining a student of life.
As the white belt, you are a fresh canvas. Nothing is decided. Everything is new. Anything is possible. Many people think that admitting that they have more to learn is a weakness, but owning our ignorance is actually one of the smartest things we can do. And when it comes to making healthy choices for your life, the humility to recognize and acknowledge that there’s always more to know and room to grow is one of the greatest strengths you can have.
A white-belt mentality recognizes there is no one right way to accomplish anything. Everybody is unique and learns differently, truth is relative, things change, context matters—there’s always more than one way up the mountain! There are conventional systems of knowledge and alternative systems of knowledge. You can learn from scientific methods, and you can also learn through your own spiritual instincts. You can learn through your own experiences and those of others.
Many impactful people throughout time have acknowledged that humility is the beginning of wisdom. Mike Tyson said, “If you’re not humble, life will visit humbleness upon you.” Albert Einstein put it this way: “A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” In her classic song “On and On,” my homey Erykah Badu said, “The man that knows something knows that he knows nothing at all.”
The old-school recommendation was to drink at least eight glasses a day. More modern recommendations say drink half the body weight in ounces per day, factoring in a bit more if you have an active lifestyle. But it’s tricky: we don’t only lose water when we use the bathroom, work out, or sweat on a hot day; we expel water vapor in our breath when we breathe out, and water passes through our skin any time we’re in a dry environment, whether it’s a desert-like climate or an air-conditioned hotel room.
As explained in the extensive water-metabolism research presented in the classic book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, when you’re not drinking enough water for things to function properly, the body will “cry out” in many ways. Many chronic health problems are misdiagnosed and are actually a consequence of dehydration—many illnesses and internal issues are the body’s way of signaling that it needs more water. We are living rivers, and just like the natural world, the human body has a water regulation system that prioritizes the most essential functions and parts of our bodies for the water we have available in our systems. Our bodies are more than three-fourths water—some say seven-tenths water, approximately the same ratio of water to land on earth—and so it makes sense that we need lots of water for our bodies and minds to function right. It’s essential to every aspect of our lives.
Kitchen Kung Fu
Learning to Cook is a key skill for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t cook or have a personal chef on your payroll to cook whatever you ask them to cook, your nutrition is pretty much at the mercy of what someone else cooks or what you can afford to buy from restaurants. Relying on restaurants and delivery gets costly, too.
Cooking for ourselves at home cuts out the guessing games. When you’re at the helm, you can make sure nothing you’re allergic to or don’t wanna eat goes into your pot, pan, plate, or mouth. Cooking for yourself makes you more aware of the quality of the ingredients in what you’re eating. And it makes you feel more self-reliant and responsible for your own nourishment and well-being.
Ordering takeout every once in a white ain’t gonna kill you on the spot, but after a while, a steady stream of fast food and microwave meals lowers our vitality, and we settle into a low vibrational pattern of eating that saps our energy and undermines our health. Living off Styrofoam staples just out of convenience, because we don’t feel like cooking or don’t wanna do dishes, is an unhealthy habit in and of itself.
Walk like a Warrior
The Inuit people have a beautiful practice called the anger walk. If a tribe member gets angry, they are given a stick and sent to walk in a straight line out into the arctic landscape. They have to keep walking until they feel their anger has been resolved. Then, the tribe member pitches their anger stick into the ice, marking the length and strength of the rage. And then they can come back. The real magic in this is that they actually have to walk twice as far as they thought (there and back), so by the time they’re all the way back, they’ve had twice the time to thaw out and are in a much better state of mind.
Walking is such an underrated exercise. It’s easy to do, it costs nothing, there’s no real risk of injury, and it’s great for the heart. When we get out and walk, we’re burning calories, stimulating circulation, and increasing muscle tone in our legs. It’s also an opportunity to unplug for a while, slow down, and notice things more both in our environments and in ourselves. After healing my leg and getting back on my feet in full stride, walking was no longer just walking; every step was a personal victory lap.
Enjoy the Discipline
When we exercise with an “I don’t wanna be doing this shit” attitude, it feels more like a chore than anything else, right? But when we lighten our attitude and approach it the way we might approach a game, that same amount of work becomes a form of play.
Some of us may think that using all our precious time watching TV, living vicariously through actors playing out the same old drama after drama, is the best use of our free time, but I just don’t think that all this wonderful breath, bone, blood, and muscle that we are blessed with were meant to be squandered in our beds or on our couches glued to the TV screen all the time.
When it comes to doing fitness activities for health and wellness you don’t have to always bring all that excessive, obsessive Olympic tryout anxiety to your practice. Sometimes less is actually more: the less stress we put on ourselves to perform better than somebody else, the more it can be beneficial, safe, restorative, and enjoyable. When your focus is health and well-being you can put less emphasis on competition and more emphasis on what’s in the best interest of your vitality and longevity. Sometimes you push it, sometimes you pull it back a bit. Well-being is more a marathon than a spirit.
The Wheel of Life
Respecting rest isn’t just about when we are sleeping. It’s especially important to respect rest during our grind as well. Again, take boxing as an example. Boxing is one of the toughest sports in the world. Like Sugar Ray Leonard put it, “You don’t play boxing…. You play golf, you play tennis, but you don’t play boxing.” Boxing is a combat sport. You go hard. You get in that ring with bad intentions to bring the pain and slug it out with all you got. But the thing is, when the end of the round comes and that bell rings, what happens? You rest between rounds. You go to your corner, get off your feet, sit down and take a breather, catch your wind, cool your head, have some water, reset, let the cut man nurse your wounds, and you listen to your corner so you can make adjustments to win the next round.
When you used to just banging out for hours straight without rest, you’re probably gonna be tempted to ignore the timer and keep grinding, especially when you feel like you in a zone and you don’t wanna break your stride. And shit, it’s up to you to make that call. But if you really want to test it out to see how it work, you have to honor that bell when it rings and let the break work its magic. To paraphrase how Miles Davis put it, sometimes it’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.
On a sunny Saturday in 2022, Lester Wright, a Black World War II vet and lifelong runner who just happened to be—get this—one hundred years old at the time, ran the one hundred–meter dash in the senior masters division at the Penn Relays. But not only did Mr. Lester Wright run, a feat in itself at a century old, he set a world record for his age group finishing in only 26.34 seconds! Keep going is the mantra.
Another one-hundred-years-young runner, Fauja Singh, became the first one-hundred-year-old to finish a marathon in 2011! He completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, running 26.2 miles in eight hours, twenty-five minutes, and seventeen seconds. Keep going is the mantra.
Baltimore’s Keith “Running Man” Boissiere, a Trinidad-and-Tobago native nearing his seventies, made headlines and even landed a sponsorship deal because of his status as a local legend for consistently completing epic twenty-mile jogs across the city—not once in a while, but daily! Even though he was diagnosed with stage-four chronic kidney disease in his late thirties, he never let that stop him. His doctor told him that running would help him maintain his health and he’s been running for his life ever since—logging twenty miles almost every single day for over thirty years, through rain, sleet, or snow. Keep going is the mantra.
Whether we’re putting in the work or you don’t, either way, we’re being consistent. The real “aha” is applying the law of consistency toward a healthy outcome. Enhancing vitality gives us greater capacity to handle our lives—mentally, physically, and spiritually. More chi! More life. More resilience.
Consistency generates its own energy. Once it clicks, and you make the connection with the power of consistency, it’s on! Discovering a new source of energy inspires you to work with it to understand it more and make use of it in your life. Second by second, eons accumulate. Drop by drop, water erodes the rock. When you take consistent action toward something you value or want to achieve, no matter if you always feel like it or not, the results manifest. The law of consistent action causes a chain reaction. It’s just a matter of time.