Learning From Lives of Successful and Healthy

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Some are successful in their career by paying the price for success with their health and happiness.  By the time they reach the top position in their company, high blood pressure and heart ailments have become a part of their life.  The doctor has ccautioned for moderation in drinking.  The long hours on job, frequent traveling, late evening and week-end appointments get the most of one's attention and time which results into spouse moving out, becoming alienated and/or divorced.  Perhaps, also, the children feeling emotionally deprived are experimenting with alcohol and drugs with little interest in education or future career.  We sigh, "Oh! The price we pay for this thing called success!"    

Some are physically healthy but emotionally sick.  Some are healthy but poor.  Some are rich but sick.  Some have all the money and success you ever wanted but as a person, they are awful.  You take one look at them and mumble to yourself, "Grow up!"  All the money and success can't buy us health, mental peace, or emotional maturity.  But, what about those "fortunate" people who have got it all, success, money, health, and wholesomeness?  Are they a special breed, or unusually lucky, or did they do something unique to get it all?  

I recently reviewed some research that extensively studied the habits and behaviors of people who are not only extremely successful in their career but also enjoy optimal health.  For brevity, they will be referred to as "S&H,' for successful and healthy.  Dr. Pelletier of Stanford University School of Medicine who conducted the study did exhaustive personal interviews to analyze the early, formative experiences that fashioned them into becoming the kind of person they became.  The researcher analyzed how they perceive themselves and the world around them, their thought patterns,  as well as how they react to and behave when confronted with difficult circumstances and obstacles.  Observations from this study are instructive and worthy of our attention.  

Not all were born with a silver spoon in their mouth.  Not all had a safe and secure childhood.  Some grew up under tremendous hardships, poverty, or broken homes  However, from their childhood, S&H were self-reliant and had a sense that they control the direction and course of their lives.  Some had experienced significant trauma and loss in their childhood, but, instead of falling into despair, they found inner strength and learned to be self-reliant.  In fact, their experience with frustration in childhood laid the ground work to enable them as adults to effectively cope with disappointments and disillusionment.  

S&H are not passive or avoidant in discharging their responsibilities or dealing with the situations life presents them.  They have an active approach to solve life's problems and challenges.   Even when events are unfortunate and painful, they see a positive value in their experiences despite pain and suffering.     

S&H have a strong faith or spiritual values.  Their faith and spiritual values offer them a vision that life is always meaningful.  They believe that whatever happens in their life has a purpose.  It has something to teach them or ask of them.  No event in their life is random or absurd, it all makes sense.  They believe that they have some control over their fate because "God helps those who help themselves."  This gives them hope even in the midst of chaos, confusion, and failures.  For S&H, hope is the lighthouse when they are sailing in a sea of adversity.  

Because of a strong faith and adherence to inner values, self-reliance, and a basic trust that the world is a fair and okay place, S&H individuals remain as loving people even when they are "heartbroken."  Anger and hate from a few cannot kill the love they carry in their heart.  They are compassionate towards other people at all times regardless of the difficulties or challenges they are confronted with.  Acting with compassion towards others is a permanent trait of S&H; it's not just something they do on days they are feeling good about themselves or others.   They can imagine and experience the pain of another human being, an emotional ability often referred to as "empathy."  Incidentally, far fetched as it may sound to some, empathy is positively related to physical and emotional health in adults.  

Barring a few exceptions, we all receive an equal share of troubles, obstacles, and misfortunes.  And barring a few exeptions, we all have an adequate ability to deal with whatever problem life presents us.  It is not our mental or physical endowment or the life circumstances that set us apart as S&H or non-S&H, it is our ability to accept constructively life's obstacles, to grow from it, and to stretch ourselves even farther .       
file: newspaper/healthy index: mindbody, self-development


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