Longevity is a Goal, Not a System
If you want to achieve longevity in life, don't focus on longevity. If you want to achieve anything in life, focus on systems, not goals.
We often hear people say that they seek to adopt habits which will help them ensure they achieve longevity in life. In conversations with extended family about loved ones who happen to be over the age of 90, the phrase "I wonder what her secret is", is often uttered.
The problem I see with taking aim solely at longevity as a value, is that it's too abstract to have any tangible meaning for the individual in the here and now. Longevity simply translates to 'longer', or, 'a long time'.
It's a subjective value, and, although there's nothing wrong with that, subjective value targets are easy to miss in the absence of a practical, systems oriented methodology, especially when the timeline stretches over multiple decades. That's why I propose that instead of aiming for longevity at some indeterminate point in the future, we aim for quality in the here and now.
Longevity is abstract, quality is immediate and practical.
This involves treating longevity as an outcome, or a symptom of a system, kind of like choosing quality over quantity. The benefit in terms of human health however, is that it's not a trade-off. Although it's likely that a focus on longevity alone may cause you to miss your target altogether, a focus on quality every day not only ensures that you live as long as is physically possible, but also dramatically improves your moment to moment experience of life, especially as you age.
Longevity is abstract, quality is independence. I've seen it too many times to believe otherwise. As loved ones age beyond what is considered to be the norm, they progressively lose their independence.
More often than not, the loss of independence occurs long before the golden years arrive. If they valued longevity, they've no doubt achieved their goal. But what value is longevity when you can no longer take care of yourself? What value is longevity when getting out of bed every morning becomes a painful or damn near impossible endeavor? What value is longevity when your own confidence and vitality turns on itself, and you no longer feel like the productive and useful member of society you once were?
A daily focus on quality ensures independence. You might be asking, quality what? 3 things come to mind.
- Quality strength training
- Quality nutrition } Together these 3 elements = optimal metabolic health
- Quality sleep/recovery
Quality strength training translates to the system of using excellent bio-mechanics to lift, push, and pull heavy objects in such a way that you keep 100% of the tension on the muscles the entire time you're performing the movement in question. Doing this ensures you fatigue the musculature in a safe and sustainable way, which is what triggers a strength and growth response in the days following the activity. Quality strength training also entails engaging in activities you genuinely enjoy - ideally outdoors. Whether it's biking, walking, swimming, or rock-climbing, the effects of 30 minutes of daily physical activity on strength, mood, and quality of life, cannot be overstated.
Quality nutrition translates to the system of fueling your body with the nutrients it requires to perform at an optimal level, as this is where the rubber meets the road of metabolic health. Even if you're not a professional athlete, I don't at all feel cliched to call life a marathon. Each of us is engaged in a marathon every day of our lives. Those of us who fuel properly are moving towards the finish line with increasing levels of strength, confidence and vitality, while those of us who don't, slow down a little bit more each and every day. Quality nutrition includes getting 95%-99% of your nutrients from the best sources of animal protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. In the absence of these inputs, whether you feel it or not, I can all but promise you you're steadily losing strength and lean body mass with each passing month.
Quality sleep/recovery translates to the system you use to truly gear down and practice mindful rest and sleep. If you take pride in being able to constantly 'push through' a rough day on little to no sleep, I can assure you you're doing yourself a massive disservice. Arguably nothing is more important than restful, deep, uninterrupted sleep, as it consolidates memories, contributes to your parasympathetic & autonomic nervous systems returning to baseline, and also confers a whole host of other metabolic, physiological, hormonal, and psychological benefits related to proper circadian entrainment. As far as leisure goes, whether you're chatting with true friends, practicing mindful or transcendental meditation, getting a massage, or sitting by the lake sipping on a whiskey sour, don't ever hesitate to turn off the phone, take an hour for yourself to decompress, and truly feel an unencumbered blissful moment.
String a few of those together, and you'll be doing just fine. Stay tuned to learn more about the specific systems I use in each of these 3 essential categories.