Healthier lifestyle a matter of replacing “have to” with “choose to”

Paula Reece

It’s taken years, but now I hear it. I hear the phrase so clearly. I can pick it out of conversations. It usually begins with “I have to  … .” My own daughter now reminds me that I choose do something. It’s really true. We have choices. As a matter of fact, everything we do in our lives reflects the choices we make.

I choose to write about this subject related to fitness and lifestyle changes because I’ve learned you can tell others about the importance of exercise, nutrition and focusing on health. But until behaviors and mindsets change, lifestyles don’t change.  Once people learn that, they choose what happens during their days.

I had a very special friend hand me a calendar when I was so stressed telling her what I had to do that day.  She told me to take that calendar and make it my own.  Each calendar square was, of course, empty.  She told me I had a choice: I got to decide what I put in that calendar square. No one else had a pen or was allowed to write in that space.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the time constraints of a busy life. Take a day in the life of an average mom or dad, for example. Getting up and making breakfast for the family constitutes a choice. You want to send the kids off with a nutritious breakfast because you love them and want them to learn good eating habits. You head off to work because you choose to — or even get to.

At lunch time, you head to the gym. You go because you choose to. You know that by exercising, you’re choosing to take time for yourself.  You care about your body and health.  You know you’ll feel better, be more productive at work and have more energy. You’re choosing a healthy lifestyle for yourself. You’re choosing to become an active parent playing with your kids and setting a good example. 

You pick up kids and attend their school and sporting events, because it’s important to you to be involved and you choose to do so. You pay your bills because you choose to.

Keep in mind that with every choice, there are consequences.  If you choose not to pay your car payment, you won’t have a car for long. If you choose to brush your teeth and stay away from sugary sweets, you’ll have healthier teeth.

Living a healthy lifestyle includes more than just fitness and nutrition. One of the most important things is your choice of attitude. Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a bad mood and your glass of life is half empty, many people around you are also in negative moods? Attitudes are contagious. Choose to make yours positive. It not only helps you, but also encourages those people around you to follow suit.

Make a concentrated effort to think about your daily life as a series of choices. Your choice of a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally begin with you.

Simply learn to listen to yourself and see if you can replace “have to” with “choose to.”  What will you choose to write in your calendar square today?