Habit 3: First Things First

You have to take care of your biological needs first. This includes a good diet plus basic vitamins and supplements. It also includes good sleep, ideally 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night and blood pressure in the normal range. Hormones like thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, and blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, iron, and B12 are important. To be ideally healthy you have to be physically fit. “First be a good animal.”

According to Ken Cooper (aerobics) this requires a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity three times per week for cardiovascular health. To help with depression or to control weight you need to exercise 6-7 days per week. The effort level required is equal to a brisk walk (2 miles in 30 minutes).

A lot of my patients say, “I hate to exercise.” That’s okay. Don’t call it exercise. Call it work. Vigorously vacuum, mop and clean house, or wash the car – an effort that gets your heart rate up to at least 120 to 144. Or you can call it play. Go dancing, play basketball.

But whatever you do make sure to get off your butt and get fit. It’s a lot easier when you find something that you enjoy doing and for many people it’s easier to do with a friend or loved one. One of the easiest ways to stay fit is to have a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationery bike in front of a TV where you can exercise while watching the news, sports, or a favorite show. Don’t put it off – you have to do it!

One thing I do is keep a log of my workouts in my day timer. I convert all exercise to miles and I keep a weekly total and an ongoing total. By running competitively at least once or twice a year I keep myself motivated to work out even on days that I don’t feel like it. To feel good and to be optimally productive you have to be fit! You have to take care of your body, and the most important part of your body is your brain!

Being physically healthy obviously means not smoking – that includes second hand smoke. It means not drinking excessively or abusing drugs or medication. It means being smart and wearing your seat belt.

Although not as essential as physical fitness, a good sex life enhances quality of life. Since stress inhibits sex drive and can interfere with sexual functioning and since we live in a high stress world, a lot of people have a sex life that they are not completely happy with. Thankfully we now have many effective treatments for sexual problems and you need to be able to discuss this openly with your doctor. I will discuss all the specifics of sexual dysfunction in men and women and all the current treatments in a future article.

In addition to your physical well being you have to address your spiritual, emotional, and intellectual needs.

What’s next? Your basic biological needs are being met and you are not in any acute danger. Should we focus more on love (relationships) or work (productivity)?

Actually you can go either way. By focusing on education, training, and work you become independent and self sufficient. That enables you to be in relationships interdependently. You are not needy and you are not manipulative. There is give and take. You can focus on relationships first, especially if you had a healthy family and had “good enough” nurturing. This means you feel good about yourself and your uniqueness. Having a lot of emotional/social support can make it easier to build your career and become self sufficient. Most people alternate between these two major needs.

Stephen Covey describes these levels in Maslow’s hierarchy as “to live, to love, and to learn.” The highest level then is “to leave a legacy,” or what he now refers to as the 8th habit – “find your voice and help others to find theirs.” Your deepest most personal, most passionate driving force or motivation is somewhere inside of you. You may or may not know what it is – you may need help in being able to understand what it is or how you can fulfill it. For me, writing this is expressing my voice and if I can help one person to find theirs my life will have meaning. Find your voice!

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One Response to “Habit 3: First Things First”

  • megan says:

    I love this book and your take on it. I wish you would have done a series with all 7 Habits though! This is great!