You want to live forever? Great!
Clear out a cupboard for all your supplements, and plan on spending the equivalent of your current food bill on popping pills.
Clear out another cupboard in the bathroom for all the creams and potions you’ll be applying to your skin. Those will set you back the price of a nice handbag.
Now clear out a shelf on your bookcase for all the latest research you’ll be reading and applying. New books come out regularly, so you won’t have time for television at night.
And I almost forgot! The home gym!
Complete with yoga mat, mirrored walls, and free weights for strength. If you’re not breaking a sweat by 6am, your Fitbit delivers a light shock to the wrist.
There must be an easier way.
How much of your life are you willing to spend pursuing a longer life?
No one wants to live forever if those extra years come at the cost of deprivation and superhuman discipline.
Surely pleasure, contentment, and sheer fun are more important in the end than racking up a few more years in a nursing home waiting for your children to visit.
But how do we get to that sweet spot?
That perfect balance between being as healthy as possible and still having a life?
It seems impossible.
Being healthy is a full-time job in itself. Any other work is hazardous to your health.
Sitting for more than 6 hours a day at a desk can impact your health as much as smoking. Stress on the job has been linked to obesity. Bringing in doughnuts for morning meetings should be a crime.
So give up your day job. You don’t have time for it. You’ve got too much exercise, food prep and supplement-popping to do.
But diet and exercise are only part of big picture. Less well-known are the other factors that contribute to a long life: staying socially connected, feeling a sense of purpose, and enjoying meaningful work.
It’s hopeless. You can’t fit everything in. Might as well just give up, live how you want, and hope for the best.
I was lucky. I figured out something back in my twenties that has served me well ever since:
As long as you see a discrepancy between what you want and what’s good for you, you’ll struggle to live healthily.
You cannot force yourself to deny everything you want in favor of what’s good for you. It’s not sustainable. It takes insane willpower.
So here’s the secret:
Learn to want what’s good for you.
Brainwash yourself. It really works.
I’ve been using this technique since college with great success.
You see, I grew up eating a typical American diet. High-carb breakfast, meat for dinner, and sugar overload just before bed. I was pretty happy. I was also not terribly slim.
As a college student, I didn’t have to eat properly. I didn’t have to eat at all. So I happened upon a great idea.
I told myself that cabbage soup was the most delicious food I’d ever eaten. (These were the days of the cabbage soup diet.) I told myself that herbal tea was divine ambrosia. No one was around to contradict me. No one cared what I put into my mouth. So I could covertly brainwash myself. I was going to learn to love health food if it was the very last thing I did!
And you know what?
I really love healthy food.
Twenty years of self-inflicted brainwashing totally did the trick.
I love green smoothies, vegetable soup, salads, arugula, and everything fresh and organic. A slice of pizza really can’t compare to a pot of Greek yogurt with blueberries and cinnamon.
Brainwashing is brilliant. You can learn to love anything. Deprivation becomes indulgence. Sweat is just the lubrication of endorphins.
It helps if no one else is around to wave brownies in your face when you’re just starting out on your self-brainwashing campaign. Keeps the temptation to a minimum.
But if you’re going to have to exercise, if you’re going to have to eat healthier, you might as well find the pleasure in it.
Tell yourself enough times that a mango is ten times more delicious than ice cream, and you actually start believing it.
Is that really the secret to living forever? Brainwashing yourself into loving healthy food and exercise?
Probably not. But it helps.
It helps to do things because you want to do them, not because you’re forcing yourself.
If what you really want is a McDonald’s burger with fries, then willpower is only going to keep you away from that drive-through window so many times.
But if what you really want is a thick banana smoothie with blueberries and chia seeds, than you can indulge yourself every day.
I’m all about indulgence.
Why live forever if you can’t enjoy it?