As fathers, one of the greatest blessings of our lives are the births of our children. I can’t speak for all of you, but I’m sure the vast majority of you dads feel the way I do about my kids. I love them so much it hurts. I have three, a boy and two girls and they are the best part of my day.
There is no better job in the world than being a dad, and no more critical one. I might ruffle some feathers with this one, but the state of affairs here in the United States can often be traced back to a household where the father was either absent or not pulling his weight.
I am not a sociologist or a psychologist by trade, but I work in an environment where I see the outcomes of these homes. I am a college coach and have over 500 athletes I deal with every day. I can tell you from years of anecdotal data that the most well-adjusted, responsible, well behaved young adults are the ones where mom and dad have been present and actively involved in their lives. The opposite can be said when dad has not been around.
I know you fathers who are raising little girls want to raise strong, independent, driven, and worthy feeling young ladies. We want our girls to make great choices for themselves and respect themselves — especially when it comes to interacting with boys. And we fathers of boys want our guys to grow up and be strong willed, smart, forward thinking, and, at least in my house, gentlemen.
The only way we can do all this is to be around.
My Personal Wake-up Call
I have always been healthy as a horse, even though I have spent my entire life neglecting my health by eating a terrible diet. Well, right around my most recent birthday, the wheels finally came off.
I spent my 41st birthday in the emergency room with a blood pressure of 170/110 and staring into the face of some questionable blood work. And, like any red-blooded American man would do, I freaked. After doing the most ill-advised thing you could do (i.e. Google my symptoms), I went on a multi-week binge of fear, convincing myself I had every terminal disease you can think of. Fortunately, my doctor is a level-headed guy and we put a plan together about how to tackle my situation. (Mind you, I didn’t have a terminal disease, even though I was certain I did.)
So I got to work. I cleaned my diet up, front to back. I ramped up my exercise and nurtured myself with my Qigong practice and meditation. I made these things a priority. I had to. And guess what?
In one month, my blood pressure dropped to a consistent 128/78, my blood sugar normalized, and all of my panels on organ function were right where they needed to be. In a month, I had blood work that looked like a completely different person. All because I decided to take care of myself.
Guess what motivated me to make these changes?
Three little reasons to stop being a slob and to start being responsible and kick some ass. Their names are Elogious, Delaney, and Avery. Yes, my wife was certainly a motivator, but when I found myself in those dark times of self-inflicted worry and terror, the saddest part was considering not seeing my kids grow up. It shattered me more than I can put to words.
Volvo has a commercial where a handsome older man is sitting in the back of a car, doing some reflecting on his wife and his life as she drives them to a church to give his daughter away. Watching that commercial and thinking of my two little girls, ages five and three, and the idea of that time of their lives and the potential of me not being there was more than I could bear.
After being brought to my knees by this, I got up and said, “It ends here,” and got to work. Those girls and my son are the center of the universe. They make the sun rise and set, and my heart beats only for them and their mother. I had to get my act together.
According to the American Cancer Society, 39% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. In 2013, over fourteen million Americans were living with cancer. Prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers were the most prevalent in men.
Listen, I know this sounds dramatic, especially for someone who wasn’t given a diagnosis that rattled his life. But what you need to understand, and how this might apply to you, is even though I wasn’t given a terminal disease to face, I was walking the path of someone whose destination was eventually going to be that exactly that diagnosis. I was lucky. I just got a big scare that was exactly what I needed to set a new course in my life.
All this is precisely what the Whole Life Challenge is all about. It’s about making healthy, lasting, worthwhile decisions that enrich your life and the lives of those you love.
Think about the ones we love whom we have lost. We have all lost someone in our family who is sorely missed. I’m not talking about that person who provided security or financial support. I’m talking about that person who made the Fourth of July or Christmas morning better simply because they were there. I want to be that person for my kids.
I want to be that dad who shows up to the senior night on their last game as a college athlete, shining with pride. I want to be that dad who is sitting outside the waiting room the moment all of my grandchildren take their first breaths. I want to be that dad who, when my kids are succeeding in their lives, is there to celebrate with them.
It Doesn’t Take Much
Guys, we over-complicate things. Truly. If you find yourself in a situation like mine, where you know you aren’t doing the best job taking care of yourself, it doesn’t take some herculean effort to get things turned around. And, it’s one of those times of your life where being legitimately selfish is a good thing.
There are scores and scores of articles on WLC that can point you in the right direction. Nutrition, exercise, spirituality and meditation. The Challenge itself outlines ways to get things moving forward. It outlines ways for you to take your life back one small step at a time.
If it feels overwhelming or if you feel like there are too many areas that need fixing, then pick one thing:
- Stop smoking.
- Give up sugar for thirty days.
- Go for a walk every day at lunch.
- Quit caffeine.
- Commit to sitting down for ten minutes each day and doing nothing but breathe.
- Get a notebook and fill one page with writing each day.
- Make a list every day of three things you are grateful for.
- Play the next Challenge and pick just one of the 7 Habits to focus on.
The great part about feeling like a total train wreck is that any positive change you make is going to have a massive impact. So pick one thing and start doing it today.
The title for this article comes from an interaction I had with my middle daughter, Delaney, when she was three years old. Our kids are wise beyond our understanding. Delaney and I, along with my son who was five at the time, were outside getting ready to barbecue and we were talking about me living a hundred more years.
My son said, “Dad can’t live that long. It would make him 139.”
So, I turned to Delaney and said, “Would you like for me to live that long?”
Without hesitation, her little mind came up with the most eloquent and wise answer for me, she said, “If you were to work out more, you can stay longer.”
I wish all you fathers the best in health, life, and love. Remember why you are here.