It felt like I had an invisible elephant sitting on my chest. I struggled to breathe. Shooting pains ran down my arms. Instead of thinking, “These are the classic symptoms of a heart attack,” I told myself, “Huh. I may not go into work today.”
It was December 17, 1993 and my life changed that day. I became a heart attack survivor and a heart patient for the rest of my life.
In the weeks before my myocardial infarction, I experienced symptoms that were consistent with clogged arteries. I ignored them. I had work to do. I had a job I loved – actually two jobs: internal consultant with the Federal Reserve Bank and director of the YMCA Pacific Region High School Conference, held each Thanksgiving weekend.
I was driven to succeed in those two jobs. That drive caused me to make lousy choices. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t eat healthy. I compromised my relationship with my family – all because of my focus on my work and my desire to be successful.
A heart attack gets your attention! It let me know that my current path wasn’t a good one.
Most importantly, I learned that unless I was my healthy, best self, I was of no earthly good to anybody. Not my clients, not my family – nobody.
I may be slow but I’m not dumb. I changed my habits quickly. Healthier foods and daily exercise helped me lose 25 pounds in four months. Weekly blood pressure readings, quarterly blood panels, and annual stress tests helped me gather data about the condition of my heart and body.
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer had a similar experience. His drive to succeed as the Florida Gators football coach caused him to experience a frightening health scare that caused him to leave that coveted job. After a year off, Ohio State pursued him for their head coach role. Meyer sought his family’s blessing to take the job. They gave their permission only after Urban signed an agreement that includes:
- My family comes first.
- I maintain good health.
- I go no more than nine hours per day at the office.
- I communicate daily with my kids.
- I sleep with my cellphone on “mute.”
- I trust God’s plan and am not overanxious.
- I eat three meals a day.
Meyer says that meeting these requirements is a “work in progress.” He’s trying hard to be present and intentional with his health and his family relationships – so he can serve them and his football responsibilities equally well.
What gets in the way of YOUR best self today? How might you reduce the time you spend, boost your efficiency, or lower the anxiety you feel at or about work? How can you be more present for family, community, and friends so you can be of service and of grace, not discontent and anxious about work and life?
My health is good these days. I’ve lost another 20 pounds over the past two years on the slow carb diet. And, I am a work in progress!
Join in the conversation! What gets in the way of you being your best self? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Photo © iStockphoto.com/miqul
The music heard on these podcasts is from one of Chris’ songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). Chris plays all instruments on these recordings.