I talk a lot (endlessly, some might say) about how to change your habits and make massive changes in your life, specifically with money. Being wealthy isn’t about making a ton of money (ask any NFL star who filed for bankruptcy), it’s about keeping more of what what you have. It’s about small actions taken over a long period of time.
$100 won’t make you rich. But $100 a month for your entire working life will definitely help you get there.
But it’s worth recalling that working toward these goals can rely on a certain number of privileges and assumptions that we might often take for granted. Until we can’t.
Here’s Maslow’s pyramid, for those who missed it.
It answers the question: what do we need?
At the bottom, there are needs like: clean air, drinkable water, food, shelter. At the top, we have true self-actualization. Yogis aside, if you don’t have food or shelter, you’re unlikely going to achieve self-actualization.
But food and shelter isn’t enough to thrive. You need to have your health too. And if you don’t have that, then nothing higher than that on the pyramid even matters.
I’ve been blessed to have very good health throughout my life. I’ve had very few in the way of chronic illnesses, I rarely get sick, and when I do, it’s usually very mild.
In short, I’ve been very lucky. (In this case, it’s more luck than fortune.)
But I know not everyone else has been so lucky. And I think compassion for those who are suffering is one of the most important superpowers we all need today.
Now is not the time for us to turn our back on those who are suffering. Now is the time to help in any way we can.
On impediments and defeat
And for those who are ill, who are sick, it might be tempting to admit defeat. “I can’t succeed because I have this extra impediment to success that others have.”
And this is where compassion can be combined with a little bit of a disciplinarian streak in me.
Impediments are real. But so is the mind’s ability to push past them.
In the same way: there is a difference between pain and suffering.
Doctors will often ask: “How is your pain level on a scale from 1 to 10?“. But your level of distress drastically affects your experience of the pain. More distress equals more pain. Doctors might be better to ask for two numbers: one for pain, and one for distress.
If you have acute health problems, you need to focus on getting better. This counts as an emergency. An emergency needs to be attended to above all else.
But chronic health impediments are not an absolute barrier to success.
Do you want to tell me that someone with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) can’t succeed beyond their wildest dreams? Ask Stephen Hawking.
Do you want to tell me that someone with Spinal Muscular Atrophy can’t succeed beyond their wildest dreams? Ask Jon Morrow.
Come at me. Tell me why it’s impossible for you to succeed, be it money, career, love, whatever. Tell me what you can’t have, and I’ll show you someone who had it as bad and who overcame.
We may not be able to fix our pain, but we can affect our suffering. And since our suffering affects our experience of pain, we can affect our pain.
On struggle and success
If you are struggling with your health, I don’t want to minimize your struggles. I just want you to know that this is one small part of you and it doesn’t need to define you. Just like anyone who has an impediment to their success. Which is to say, everyone.
And to everyone who doesn’t struggle with your health, I’d of course say to be grateful. But I know you struggle with something. And it might feel just as real to you. So I don’t want to minimize your struggles either.
Health is such an important aspect to our lives. Look at all that sits on it in our pyramid of needs. Let us never forget how important it is to take care of ourselves and of each other. Let us always wish each other good—and lasting—health.