Why might your smoothie, your choice of gym, or your Sundays in Church be irrelevant to your happiness? Here is a simple and powerful framework I work with that almost guarantees you a long and happy Healthspan.
Stick with me for a few minutes and you will grasp the skeleton of this powerful framework that you can then start to implement today itself. The framework does not suck away your time, will not cost you any money. In fact, it will add years to your life and is likely to save you money in both the short and long run.
If you are too rushed to read the details right now, go away with this 30-second quickie and come back to the rest of this later.
For ease of navigation, to allow you to jump to the parts that interest you, here is a hyperlinked content list.
Q U I C K I E
In Brief – a Quickie
A X I O M S
Axioms of the Internal-External Divide
Why have these Axioms?
E X A M P L E S
Gym & Club Memberships
Charity & Altruism
F I N A L T A K E A W A Y
Frequent Intraday Thoughts
In Brief – a Quickie [top]
Only that which is inside you is what matters. Be it the physical or the intangible, if you guard the Interface between the Internal and External, and focus on the Internal without detrimental effect on the External, then a long, happy and healthy life is yours to have.
Example: Hair dye and cosmetics which are on the boundary interfacing between what is outside you and what is inside you will not make you younger even though visually you may appear so. You may feel a healthy level of narcissistic vanity when you look at yourself in the mirror and benefit from appreciation from others. However, it is likely to be a driving factor for neurological disorders later in your life if you frequently allow optional chemicals such as hair dye or cosmetics to come in contact with your skin.
Example: Certifications are outside you. Whether they are part of some course you took or degree you earned, they are outside you much like the trophy in a sports competition. What truly matters is what is inside you, the skills and knowledge you actually have inside you. You will have seen people “with qualifications” yet low levels of competence. And you will have also seen some incredibly competent workers with no formal qualifications or even a CV!
More and varied examples from different aspects of your life are in a section below. Those examples will help guide your implementation of this powerful framework in your daily life.
Axioms of the Internal-External Divide [top]
The Existence Axiom – When considering any system, this framework always exists
The Importance Axiom – A distinction between Internal and External is critical and important
The Change Axiom – Change within any system is always Internal, even if it receives inward matter (solid, liquid, gas) or energy from the External
The Training Axiom – The Internal must be trained to benefit (filter, process, adapt) from what is External – the Inflow
The Excretion Axiom – The Internal must excrete out what is harmful to it – be it toxins in matter, or harmful thoughts – the Outflow
The Balance Axiom – The Outflow must not make the External worse for others, but in improving the External, do not sacrifice your Internal
The Time Axiom – Everything can change with Time – to make the Internal better, guard the interface, improve the processing, be willing to adapt and evolve
The Interface Axiom – The Interface between Internal and External is where your primary focus must lie
Why have these Axioms? [top]
All these Axioms provide structure to our thinking. But is there a need to have them?
As just another animal species that has evolved to be on the lookout for threats to survival, it is natural that you are mostly outward-looking. Other animals are, perhaps, only outward-looking. The Importance Axiom highlights that it is paramount for you to be continuously aware of the Internal and that it is distinct and more important than the External. The freedom and ability that you have to draw a simple sensible boundary at will between what might be considered Internal rather than External for the matter at hand leads to the Existence Axiom. Similarly, all of the other axioms help guide your thinking about the Internal-External divide at a very practical level of your daily life.
The Internal [top]
This is the only thing that should truly matter to you – the Internal. Even altruism, ultimately, is about the pleasure you get inside your brain, for carrying out that act of apparent selflessness for someone outside you. Greater wisdom is expressed through your understanding details of the short-term and long-term impact on your Internal based on something you might change in the External.
In the physical matter realm, each cell of your body is internal to you.
In the energy realm, anything that reaches you e.g. sound waves, photons of light, are converted into electrical signals or more vigorous molecular vibrations (e.g. if you stand near a fire your body heats up).
In the realm of thought, your thoughts are electricity inside the vast and complex network that is your brain.
The External [top]
In the physical matter realm, the External is what is outside of your physical body. Your clothes are external to you. Your favourite holiday destination is also external to you. Everyone you know is external to you. Every single thing that is not inside you is external to you. The sun, the moon, flowers from your friend, the air on the polluted streets, the food that is on your plate – they are all external to you.
In the energy realm, the light from the sun is external as much as is the magnetic field of the earth or the radiation from your mobile phone.
In the realm of thought, the opinions of your spouse, your parent, your neighbour, your boss, and, most definitely, that obnoxious news-reader – they are all outside you.
The Interface [top]
The External can only affect the Internal through the Interface.
The Internal can only affect the External through the Interface.
This Interface is often something very tangible e.g. your skin, your eyes, your ears. At other times it is non-tangible e.g. a decision to ignore a toxic work colleague means you have set up an invisible sound-proof wall between you and them.
Powerful Examples [top]
There are countless examples you will come across in your daily life from the moment you wake up in the morning until you wake up again the next morning. Here are some that I think are very powerful that you can use to get started with your daily learning-by-doing.
This is the biggest elephant in the room that I have spoken about on earlier occasions. A manmade construct, it is what causes most of us our biggest worries. Money is important for us as it is a store of value and a medium of exchange. To survive one does need some, but one does not need much, and to thrive, perhaps, only a little bit more. Although having a lot more of it can make some things easier, it is important to be aware of the damage you will be causing inside yourself by focusing too much on increasing something that is outside you.
For a host of reasons, this may have become fairly hard-wired inside you, but if you work away at it with simple mantras, over time, you will master money, instead of being a slave to it. Here is a simple mantra to say before heading out to work:
Animals and birds always seem so content – and they do not know what money is.
When I say “we do not need much money” I am often met with challenges from people who make reference to people they know of who have died earlier than later because of inadequate funds for medical care. Or had sub-optimal financial lives because certain education could not be afforded. I always have a carefully thought out lengthy response to those critics. For today, what matters is that you appreciate that your financial wealth itself is outside you and will guarantee you neither happiness nor immortality, both of which are about your Internal.
There is a place for artificially manufactured medicine in your life. However, instead of taking up 5% of your life, the way the world has structured itself, it often takes up 95%. If like me, you treat food as your medicine, a useful mantra to tell yourself when planning your next meal is:
If I do not make food my medicine, medicines will become my food.
As an add-on, you can remind yourself each time you see an expensive advert from an insurance company for health insurance – the premiums you pay for your policy for subsidising your doctor’s bill also pay handsome dividends to the shareholders of that insurance company. The insurance premia do not reduce your risk of falling ill, they only may reduce a part of any expenses resulting from falling ill. If prevention is better than cure, tweak your lifestyle to almost never fall ill. Do not be foolish and ignore taking care of your health because of the wrong belief that your insurance company has got you covered. Although the cute umbrella gives the impression of protection… what will fall upon you is not as harmless as rain!
Although your food and drink are outside you, the perfect mantra to say to yourself when you look at what is served in front of you is:
This food is my body in the making.
This mantra will help you focus your mind in deciding what in the External you are going to allow to pass through the Interface to be part of your Internal. Remember, food that does not get inside your mouth, cannot be part of you. And the corollary – food that you put into your mouth will impact what is inside you.
And what about that green smoothie? Remember, you are not what you eat, you are what you absorb. Here, the Training Axiom and the Excretion Axiom are relevant. I will never make myself a smoothie, I will eat what I want to consume, and it is for reasons that are based on hard science. Your human anatomy and physiology have evolved to bite, chew numerous times, and then swallow. Missing out 2/3 of what is natural will only make you be part of that population that says “I used to have a smoothie every day…”. Focus, instead, on being the human that says “I bite and chew and swallow nutritious wholesome plant parts“.
Gym & Health Club Membership [top]
It does not matter how fancy your gym looks and the equipment it has – that is all External.
To your Internal what matters is what you do when you are in the gym!
When someone complains “I have been coming to this gym for the last 5 years but my fat % has barely budged” they are not focusing on the Internal-External divide.
It might make you happier that you dress a certain way that allows others to identify your religious faith. Remember, that attire is External to you.
It might make you guilt-free to go to your place of worship once a week. Remember, however, that that Church or Temple is External to you. Being in a garage, will not turn you into a car.
To have true benefits to your Internal, you need not dress in a certain way or go to a specific place for worship. They might help, but they do not guarantee anything. Be conscious of the need to measure Internal progress based not on the frequency of dressing in a certain way or being part of a certain congregation!
Charity & Altruism [top]
We could all do more for charity and engage with greater altruism. The Balance Axiom tells us that in doing more for others we must not harm ourselves. If you are so busy with your charitable work that you cannot take care of your own health to the extent that your own health worsens, then you are being foolish.
How wise is your overweight priest or rotund yoga institute speaker? (Read: Balance is True Mastery)
Frequent Intraday Thoughts [top]
It is an observation, if not a law of the universe, that you get what you deserve and you reap as you sow. Increase your focus, not just on the Internal, but also on your control of the Interface with the External. If you get your thinking right, the action will follow. And only that can generate results.
The alternative will suck, I guarantee you.
As always, I hope you found this note useful. If you did, please share it with your family and friends.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.