One of Robin’s greatest phrases is: “It’s not your fault, but it IS your responsibility.”
I’ve heard her say it many times to her staff, to our kids–and to me. Today, we’re going to talk about responsibility and duty.
Your birth was the start of The Great Handoff. Your parents bore 100% responsibility for your health–your DNA, your genes, your cell structure, and some of your behaviors–until the instant you popped out of the womb. From that moment, you began to share that burden: you began breathing on your own, metabolizing your own food, excreting your own waste. Your first poop said, “I’ve got this.”
First slowly, and then increasingly quickly, you began to shoulder the responsibility for your own care. You fed yourself; then you dressed yourself; then you started consoling yourself. Your parents’ responsibility for your health decreased from 90% to 50% to–whatever it is now. Probably close to zero.
Who picked up the difference? Who is responsible for your health NOW? Your doctor? Your spouse? Are you still giving your parents way too much credit for the way you look and feel?
I want you to do a simple exercise with me. First, write down a list of people who share responsibility for your health. Start with:
Your doctor’s name
Your dentist’s name
Your parents (they gave you your genes, after all.)
Make a list of your caregivers (man, even using that term makes me feel like a penned animal.)
Now assign responsibility. How much of your current health should be controlled by your doctor? If you’re on a respirator, catheter and feeding tube in the hospital, then the doctor is shouldering close 100% of the responsibility for your health. If you’re on a feeding tube and respirator at home, and your wife is changing your bedpan and cleaning you up, then she might be taking 80% responsibility, the doctor 10% responsibility, etc.
How about your parents? What was their contribution to your health? Well, your genes are their fault, but past the age when you could wipe, feed and dress yourself, your health really isn’t their responsibility.
How about your dentist? Are they 1% responsible for your overall health?
How about your coach, or your nutritionist? How much of the load are they willing to shoulder? After over 20 years as a coach, I know that I’m willing to accept some responsibility for my client’s health. They’re putting their strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity in my hands. Sometimes entirely in my hands: they won’t do anything unless I tell them to. Does that mean 50% of the responsibility for your health sits in the hands of your coach and nutritionist? 30%? 70%?
Who else shares that responsibility?
No matter how many ways you slice it up; no matter how much responsibility you’re willing to surrender to others; you’re STILL going to hold most of the responsibility for your health. Sure, you can trust the doctor–who has 10,000 other patients, his golf game, his car payment, and his own health problems to think about. You can blame your parents, or their parents, or that weird virus from the Amazon, or the clouds. Blame ’em all you want. Tell yourself: It’s not my fault! Go ahead.
When you’re done yelling and blaming, we’re back to the only question that matters: what are you going to do about it?
How much responsibility are you willing to take?
Accepting responsibility means saying “Yes, and…?” every time you find a setback. It means accepting the fear of starting a new workout in a new gym. “Yes, I’m scared. And…?” It means accepting that giving up sugar is going to be hard. “Yes, it’s going to be challenging. And…?” It means accepting your frailties, real and imagined. “Yes, I’m too far out of shape to run fast. I might be the last person to finish the warmup. And…?”
But accepting responsibility for your health means that SOMEONE will. Because despite how many names you wrote on your list a few moments ago, NONE of those people will be willing to accept the amount of responsibility you assigned them. Ask your doctor: “Will you accept 10% of the responsibility for my health?” She’ll hem and haw. Ask your wife: “Will you take 50% of the blame if I can’t walk when I’m 80?” And she’ll–rightly–tell you to get up off your ass and go for a walk NOW, because she’s not lugging your lazy butt around when SHE’S old. Ask your dentist to accept 10% responsibility for your health, and they’ll say “I’ll save my worry for someone who flosses better, thanks.”
No one else is going to make you healthy. It’s up to you. You might be starting from scratch (Yes…and?) you might hate the thought of exercise and vegetables (…and?) you might be tempted to blame your parents, your doctor, your lazy friends, your job…heck, your current health might not BE your fault.
It IS your responsibility. 100%. Let me know if you accept it.