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An Unhealthy Neglect

unhealthy neglect

Health is like so many things in life – unless it is prioritised and purposed, good health just won’t happen. It would be nice if thinking good health equated to having good health, however the entrepreneur more so than many people is acutely aware that getting things done requires activity. As entrepreneurs, our health and fitness is no exception, but us merely being aware of the need to exercise and make good health decisions is not enough.

As busy entrepreneurs we spend our lives looking forward to the ‘then’, the future state, or our vision of where we are trying to ‘get to’. While I believe that being visionary is a pre-requisite for the successful entrepreneur, when it comes to health and fitness, the visionary trait can carry with it a vice. The vice is the assigning of the pursuit of the entrepreneur’s vision as the highest priority above all other competing priorities; family, relationships, recreation, and of course our fitness and health. The result of this vice is too often evident when we hear of successful entrepreneurs with failed marriages, estranged families, mental breakdowns, relational dysfunction, and of course the all too frequent incidences of health implosions.

Interestingly, most of us view both the publicised and the personal examples of such cases as being occurrences that ‘would never happen to us’. We comfort ourselves by thoughts such as ‘I can’t believe it – I guess it was headed that way’, or ‘Heart –attack?! – I don’t eat that badly so at least I will be OK’. Sadly many entrepreneurs are deceived in thinking they will be the exception. After all, entrepreneurs are self-starters, and the effects of ill health, just like any business problem will be able to be solved as well. There will be a solution to the effects of neglected health, right? Wrong.

When it comes to our physical health, small daily oversights and neglects have the terrible propensity to become massive oversights with the passage of time. We tell ourselves that the seemingly innocuous missing of the morning jog, or the crucial late night at the computer to push out a project, don’t really make a difference. We assure ourselves that we can ‘catch up’ at some later stage with our health. But often, we can’t.

Let’s consider an example of a busy entrepreneur who, through the start-up phase of his business, spends 80 hours a week for the first 18 months solely and squarely focussed on the launching of the new product or venture.

The founder spends no time exercising, he eats poorly, and all of the time sits at their computer pushing the ball forwards for the business. What might the physical effects be of such neglect over this time-frame? Weight gain, loss of fitness, lethargy, less clear thinking, lowered productivity, mood irrationality, and possibly lowered self–esteem would be likely side effects, to name a few. Then there is the ‘invisible’ and unnoticeable changes occurring beneath the entrepreneur’s skin biochemically and cardio vascularly: the heightened blood pressure, cholesterol, and cortisol levels, and the reduced testosterone or oestrogen levels. That’s quite a list for just 18 months of neglect.

Let’s now pretend that this same entrepreneur, 2 years after starting their business, looks in the mirror and notices the weight gain and don’t like what they see. They are sick of their spouse’s comments about their appearance, and their recent illness mandated a series of blood tests which revealed the true status of their health markers. Ouch – reality sets in.

So the entrepreneur decides it’s time to course correct. They set about enlisting the help of a personal trainer at their local gym, they begin to go on some intermittent jogs, and they dive head first into healthier eating, all within one week. Yes the uber effectiveness utilised in setting up the business proves very useful in making such a quick and healthy course correction, and after 6 months the results are good.

But what if this same entrepreneur had not made the course correction when they did after 18 months of health neglect? What would have happened if the same lifestyle, consistent with the first 18 months of business set up, was continued for say another 8 years, making a total of 10 years of health neglect?

Possible health effects of this much longer period of health neglect might be: obesity, loss of bone mineral density (weak bones and predisposition to osteoporosis), joints that have experienced greater wear and tear due to the excess body weight, musculoskeletal ailments (back pain, knee pain, neck strain), fatigue, moodiness, loss of sex drive, onset of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, and a high risk of cardiovascular diseases (stroke or heart attack). This is not a very attractive list for the entrepreneur who is still full of vision, who is living for the attainment of their future state.

All neglect for a lengthy period of time has a cumulative effect. You may be able to neglect your health for a day or week with no serious consequences, but push forwards with such a lifestyle for a decade or longer and the damage caused might be irreversible. Unlike the entrepreneur who course corrected after 2 years with a flurry of corrective activity and measures, the entrepreneur 10 years on may not be able to reverse the consequences with an equal flurry of activity or corrective actions.

I encourage you to not let the pursuit and quest for the realising of your business vision steal your good health. Yes, the world needs the business you are building, because after all you are solving meaningful problems. But don’t lose sight of the fact that your world needs you in it – your family and friends for starters.

Build exercise and healthy eating habits into your week. Diarise exercise, start small, get a training buddy, do whatever it takes. Don’t trade in your preferred future for a future of ill health, and a life of regret for misappropriated priorities.