Training to be Well – Remembering, Repetition, Reminders

file6771268338549Last week I was talking with a friend who’s been struggling with a variety of health issues for a long time, and her frustration was apparent. I listened, but I didn’t have much helpful advice except to hang in there and keep doing what she was doing. If I was in her shoes, I’d be frustrated too. One thing I did mention was that God has a plan and we can be sure it’s a good one. She responded, “I know, but why can’t I remember that?” Well, because you’re human, that’s why. Humans need reminders. Then I thought I should also remind her that there is no condemnation for frustration, or anything else, for those in Christ, and that nothing she may do or not do can cause her to lose the love of God. (Romans 8:1, 38-39) It’s hard not to feel better when you’re reminded of that. Just writing it is making me happy now.

Her question, “Why don’t I remember?” is one we all could ask about many things we’ve learned. But maybe we should rephrase the query to ask instead, “How can I remember?” or, more to the point, “How can I embed new learning and important facts into my everyday thoughts and behavior?” Repetition and reminders are part of the answer.

Often people think that just “learning” something, that is understanding and agreeing with the concepts, means they’ve “got it.” That’s true, so far as it goes, but “getting it” may not help you actually live it. Under stress, or just by habit, we live according to deeply ingrained thought and behavior patterns, and any new thoughts are going to have be thoroughly embedded before they become our default mode. That’s why Christians are advised to read and reread God’s word and meditate on his character and his works. Once through is not enough for the gospel, or anything else really, to be embedded. It takes repetition.

Consider training. Training, of all types, is necessary in most work settings today.   Pilots, police officers, fire fighters, medical personnel, and soldiers are some roles that come to mind when I think of training, but almost all of us have had some sort of training in our careers. The course work is usually both didactic and hands-on with a great deal of repetition to reinforce the learning. For many skills, periodic refresher training or recertification is also required. With time the learning becomes second nature. Eventually the emergency arrives and the firefighter saves a child from the burning building or the hospital “code team” saves a heart attack victim as the correct actions are taken. Invariably, when asked about it later, the hero always says some version of “I didn’t have time to think. The training just kicked in.

And so it is with living a healthy lifestyle. It’s great that you read a good book on healthy eating, but how about reading it once a month, over and over, for a year? What about designing specific “training exercises” for your desired new lifestyle? For example preparing a healthy meal, the exact same meal, over and over again until you’re an expert at it. You’ve got to embed the knowledge and the actions until they become ordinary. The most helpful books in your wellness library should become your old friends, having been read many, many times. Similarly, making and eating the same few healthy meals fairly often may be much more helpful to you than “dabbling” with multiple recipes that never become your new normal.

This concept may sound strange, but realize that you are in lifestyle training of some sort. Everyone is. Whatever you’re doing repeatedly is training. Perhaps you’re training to be a couch potato, watching several hours of television each evening. During that time you’re undergoing intensive education and reinforcement to drink more beer, eat more chips, buy more stuff, and especially to keep watching more TV. TV’s the worst, but other forms of mass media aren’t much better. If you don’t choose your training regimen, the American culture will choose it for you. Choose wisely.

Reminders are also important. I’m glad I was able to remind to my friend about what she believes and the attitude she wants to maintain. I’ve built reminders into my life in the form of daily email thoughts, notes written to myself and posted on my bulletin board, and quotes and pictures on the wall. Even my Facebook news feed is designed partly as to remind me of what’s important and how I’d like to live. But people are the most important part of this plan. We are created to be in community, helping and encouraging one another, and I have worked to build trusted relationships with a small group of friends who’ve become my training partners.

Of course, there is no perfect in this lifetime. You and I are God’s works in progress. With the right training program we can hope to continue to improve in mind, body and spirit. My training seems to be going okay. How’s yours?

Let me know if I can help.

Comments

  1. Sandra D'Cruz says:

    Hi Pete,

    Great blog! Hope all is well with you. I am trying to live a healthy lifestyle so this blog was perfect timing since I was slipping back in my exercise routine. Will be following your blogs to keep me on my path.

    Sandra

    • Peter Weiss says:

      Thank you Sandra. It’s nice to hear from you. All is well here, and I hope it is for you too. Pete