The All-Too-Common Misguided Thinking on the Common Cold

“I’ve had three colds this winter. It’s hard once you have a kid. They’re around all these germs at school and they bring them home. I’ve got to do a better job washing my hands, I guess.”


Does this sound familiar? Have you had a cold recently? Do you feel victim to unavoidable germs? If so, I don’t feel sorry for you, not because I’m a jerk without any compassion, but because I have a solution for you instead.


Live a life with less chronic stress.

According to a study article published in The New England Journal of Medicine (1), one of the world’s leading medical journals:

“The rates of both respiratory infection and clinical colds increased in a dose-response manner with increases in the degree of psychological stress.”

Wow, right? There’s an association between chronic stress and incidence of the common cold. And not just any association, but a powerful dose-response relationship. As levels of chronic stress increase, incidence of the common cold increases in a direct one-to-one manner. Each pill of chronic stress you swallow makes you incrementally sicker.

Are you still questioning whether our bodies, hearts, and minds are connected?

Why is it that most people have been holding onto the belief that getting sick is bad luck, wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time stuff? Is it because this information linking chronic stress to the common cold is the result of new, cutting-edge research that’s just reaching us? That can’t be it, because the results of aforementioned study were public knowledge before the Red Sox ever won a World Series, before Al Gore invented the Internet, and before I kissed a girl—in 1991.

Many people simply don’t want to be aware of this information that’s been around for 25 years. It’s much easier to live in fear of germs and consider your self-care to be daily Purell baths than it is to live your life with the kind of conscious, deliberate care it takes to live with less chronic stress. That’s the nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever elephant in the room.

But wait, exposure to other sick people must be a factor, right? Not according The New England Journal of Medicine (1):

“These effects were not altered when we controlled for age, sex, education, allergic status, weight, the season, the number of subjects housed together, the infectious status of those sharing the same housing, and virus-specific antibody status at baseline (before challenge).”

Living in the same home with other sick people didn’t account for this effect; chronic stress acted alone. To avoid getting a cold, we must live with less chronic stress. Stated positively, we must love ourselves, engage in fulfilling work, engage in fulfilling relationships, and otherwise take great care of ourselves and enjoy our lives.

You can see why many people opt for Purell. You can grab a bottle at the pharmacy on the way home from work for $2.99. But is it really easier? Many of the things we need to do to live well and be well might seem like the harder option. Facing and dealing with our repressed feelings, starting a business or going back to school, and really caring for other people can be daunting. They take time, energy, and care. In a culture promising quick fixes, why bother? But inner strife, 30 or 40 years of cubicle walls you didn’t mean to sign up for, and a lifetime of things left unsaid doesn’t sound so easy to me. Plus, a life well lived reaps much greater rewards than a few less nagging colds. It’s what it means to thrive—now and well into the future. God bless you.

(1) Psychological Stress and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1991, 325(9), 606-612.


Thriving Illustrated: My Magazine of Choice

As a teenager, I read the magazine Sports Illustrated voraciously, mostly between my workouts. It was a big teacher of mine. Its pages full of photos of big, strong, fast, dominant athletes. I read about all the glory they lived with—million-dollar contracts (a million dollars was a lot of money for a pro athlete 20 years ago), adoring fans, and the hottest women. Not to mention, being featured in this magazine! The media, as we all know, has a lot to say, and it’s not always helpful. I let Sports Illustrated shape my worldview quite a bit. Life, according to Sports Illustrated, was about fame, fortune, adoration of the masses—all through size, strength, speed, domination of others, and in all ways being “the man”. The man. The only one. Better than all the rest.

Sports Illustrated also had a lot to say about men’s bodies. A cover graced by thickly muscled, no-bodyfat-at-all Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson stands out in my memory. I let images like these shape who I was supposed to be. I was convinced that the key to a good life was to be huge, jacked, ripped, strong, fast, famous, and the best.

I’ve done a lot of work over many years to release this fantasy. That the singular key to a good life is massive shoulders and winning. Wanting to take this further, I recently created a cool exercise for myself that I want to share with you. I think it will allow you to do a similar exercise for yourself.

I invented a new magazine for myself called Thriving Illustrated. It’s the magazine, with all the wisdom that I have now, that I choose as an influence for me and that I would choose for an influence for me as a teenager if I could do it all over again. The magazine is about thriving—being totally well in all ways and living a thoroughly rich life. In the last few weeks, I have thought a lot about who I’d feature in my magazine.

The last several weeks of the summer, I went blueberry picking at a local farm. The woman who co-owns the farm was always very pleasant to my friends and I. She really enjoys her work running the farm. She delights in the flowers and food all around her. She’s being herself really well. I put her in my magazine.

I have this yoga teacher who is just spectacular. She puts together super fun, super thoughtful music mixes for her classes. She remembers everyone’s name. She has a really inspiring reading to offer at the end of every class. She’s really vital, fit, and well. She runs a thriving business. I put her in my magazine.

I met this woman recently who facilitates a large dance community that I’ve recently become a part of. She’s be doing this for 10 years or so, I hear. She secures the spectacularly beautiful space, she gets tremendous teachers to lead us, and she is basically the glue that holds the whole operation together. She does it all with a smile. She’s giving a big gift to everyone who gets to be part of the community. I put her in my magazine.

I have many friends I put in my magazine. I meet people all the time I’d put in my magazine. There are beneficent, thriving people all around us! People enjoying their lives, serving others, and simply living well. They’re so happy and healthy—even without “perfect calves” and fame. I choose for them to be my influence.


So what magazine would you invent for yourself and who would be featured in it? You don’t have to allow any mainstream media to be your teacher. You can decide from within how to live well. You can choose your influences. You can custom design the magazine of your choice. How fun!


The State of America’s Wellness

In a mere 10 minutes this morning, I got a full, detailed snapshot of the state of America’s wellness. I stepped out my front door thrilled to be in the heart of my amazing city excited about the day to come. I wasn’t planning to write an article in my mind as I walked to work. But I was in some exceptionally receptive sensory state and I witnessed people in a few ways that really jumped out at me. The state of America’s wellness quickly came into clear focus for me.

It seemed like everyone was smoking. Around every corner, I ran into more people nervously puffing away. It wasn’t even 8 a.m. and it seemed like the whole city was starting the day wigged out on stress. A stress that could only be mitigated, hyper-transiently of course, by a quick smoke. We’re a very anxious people. Sure the direct effects of smoking are horrific (my mom killed herself at a far too young age via smoking), but the anxiety that pervades the air we breathe is just as troubling as the smoke. It’s no way to live.

There was an early buzz of people walking to a coffee shop or walking to work. And three out of four of them were rockin’ their earbuds. They were podcasting and Pandoraing and NPRing away. Or listening to something else. Anything else but their own sensations, instincts, emotions, and thoughts. As a people, we’re terrified of being with ourselves. We’re afraid of both our real, special, powerful authentic selves and the parts of us that are sorely disappointed that cheering for the Red Sox, getting a good mortgage rate, and wearing the watch from the ad in Men’s Health isn’t fulfilling us like they said it would. Rather than face these truths, we hook up like to an IV to our steady distraction streams. “Just keep it coming.” Whether it’s entertainment or information we’re mainlining, it’s surely a way to avoid what’s really present for us. We don’t like being with our realities very much. In fact, in a 2014 study, subjects preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. (1)


And then there were these robots. I’m not kidding. I saw these creatures walking the streets of Portland literally counting their steps, following a program that requires them to amass a certain number of steps per day. Their masters set the program and communicate to them through watch-like devices. These watches don’t give them the time. They show them commands from their masters: “You’re 400 steps short of your programmed amount for today. Bad girl.” Then they speak to themselves: “Bad girl. Must walk 400 more steps today.” [This article works best if you read these parts in robot voices.] The irony is that these are the people among us that seem to be the most well (things are not always as they seem). Not only do they count their steps, they weigh their bodies each day at the same time, they militantly avoided the nutrient fat in the 80s and they militantly avoid the nutrient carbohydrate these days. What they avoid next will come down from their masters. Your guess is as good as mine. They know firmly what is “good” and “bad” and they love to tell, um preach, to you about it. These highly neurotic body-taker-carers gravitate to wellness related fields and many are personal trainers and nutritionists. So the average person looking for guidance unknowingly, innocently turns to the experts and comes away similarly programmed. When it comes to taking care of our bodies, we’re pretty (or very) neurotic.

I arrived at the co-working space I work out of to the pleasant smell of coffee brewing. Of course I did, right? Nothing says American workplace like coffee. By 8 a.m., most of those I work with are downing their first cup. How could they not be? They got home late on Labor Day in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way home from their second home. Then last evening after work (doing the mostly ungratifying job they stay at for the health insurance (yes, that’s ironic) their kids had soccer, gymnastics, and a birthday party to go to. And they still needed to clean the house for guests coming this weekend. It makes me tired just thinking about it. People really enjoy it here at our co-working space as I do and if you took a survey of what they valued most about it, they’d rave about the collaboration on work projects and the fun ways we socialize. But if you took the coffee away, I’m sure the place would go bust. Americans are tired! We don’t sleep and rest enough and we’re drained from unsatisfying work and relationships. What would happen on the streets of any American city at 9 a.m. if you took all the coffee away? There would either be rioting in the streets or everyone would finally go to bed and get the sleep they need. Taking the coffee away would end America as we know it faster than a nuclear bomb.

Am I here to tell you to stop smoking and drinking coffee? Nope. That’s as boring as it is ineffective. Rather, I’d like to offer four powerful wellness boosters that are guaranteed to make you super happy and healthy. When that happens, you just might find that you have no need for any of these stop-gaps.

And know that I’m not here to cast stones. It’s true, I don’t smoke, drink coffee, binge-listen to podcasts, or rock a stylish fluorescent-pink FitBit. But I get anxious, scared about who I really am, neurotic, and tired just like everyone else. Much less than I used to and less and less over time, but I know these ways of being as well as anyone. These four things we can all do this weekend (and I will be) are some fun, effective ways to feel better, and better, and better.

Form/deepen a friendship. Friendship is a precious commodity. True friendship. A relationship in which both people can always be their real selves. A relationship in which each person is able to be with the other person in everything that we experience as people—devastating failure, despair, elation, boredom, massive success, stress—everything. Not dinner-party friends. Not use-each-other-when-we’re-lonely friends. Not Facebook friends. When you’re in true friendship, every cell in your body relaxes deeply. You know you’re not alone in this challenging thing called life and there’s not a much better way to promote wellness for yourself (and your friends). Countless scientific studies show us that true friendship reduces disease and extends life.

Go on dates with yourself. I have one planned for Sunday evening. I’m going to make dinner for myself and rest. After dinner, I’ll probably go for a walk along the waterfront or see what else I feel like doing that evening. I’ve been working a lot and spending a lot of time with my loved ones, so I know this is going to feel extra good. Over time, I’ve come to really enjoy being with myself. Like many people, this used to be very hard for me. I wasn’t good at spending time with myself. I was good at pretending though, when I was actually hanging out with busyness, endorphins, and sometimes the television “on in the background”. Now I love these regular dates with myself. I simply do what I do with my loved ones, but by myself. I enjoy my company. I encourage you to give it a try. You’ll bring even more to your kids and partner and colleagues and friends and clients when you see them next. You can’t give to others what you don’t have. So cultivating love for yourself gives you more to give to others. You may also be surprised to find that what’s inside of you can be a lot more enjoyable than the latest episode of This American Life. What’s inside of you is life.

Let movement and food be play again. Play. It’s your natural way of being and you were this way as a kid. Then someone told you that the reason to exercise was to make the veins pop out of your biceps or to dominate the competition. It’s only true for you if you believe them. Someone told you that the reason to eat was to not be fat. So eating for you is a minefield of evil food that is to be avoided. It’s only true if you believe them. It’s really as simple as this: Do some movement that you really enjoy. I witnessed two of my friends this week laughing like little kids talking about a recent kayaking adventure they shared. They have this down. Are you convinced that exercise has to be serious business to be beneficial? Consider the Okinawans, who are among the longest-living most-well people in the world. They don’t even have a word in their culture for exercise. They move around regularly, but certainly not while wearing heart-rate monitors or frowns that many Americans feel are required for a “good workout”. To have a blast with food, simply go buy any and all whole, natural, real food that you really enjoy and make and savor meals with your family and friends. The real skill is allowing yourself to feel pleasure. What if feeling good was good for you? It turns out it is.

Fall back in love with sleep. Start by making your bed and bedroom a fantastic place to be. Not an okay place to be, a truly fantastic place to be. To live. Because that’s what you do there. You live a third or more of your life there. It’s probably also the place you most often have sex. There’s an incredible opportunity here. You can spend one-third of your life sleeping deeply, lingering and resting, snuggling, and having wake-the-neighbors sex. If you choose to. Or you can stay up late watching boring television shows and getting up early even on weekends because you feel guilty not “getting something done”. What do you want to do with this third of your life?

It’s my firm belief that this kind of self-care is what is needed for us to thrive as individuals and as communities. It all starts with us. Are you with me?

(1) Just Think—The Challenges of the Disengaged Mind. Science, 2014, 345, 6,192, 75-77.


I Lost 200 Pounds and Nothing Changed

“J, I lost 200 pounds and nothing changed,” my friend said to me. “Nothing.”

He really made me think. I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last few days. My friend lost this much bodyfat long before I knew him, so we had not talked about it much even though we’re very close. He told me all about how committed he was to getting lean and how hard he worked at it. And when he reached his goals, he told me how it was. “It was easier to move around, sure, but everything else I thought was going to change didn’t change at all. I had this whole new body. People hardly recognized me I looked so different. I thought I’d have all this confidence in my work and in my relationships. I thought I’d have a whole new sense of self-esteem. I thought I’d feel amazing. But I didn’t. I felt the same. Going to work had all the same ups and downs. My challenges in relationships were still right there staring me in the face. Nothing changed, J.”

I was talking with him about something I’d like to change in my life and his words were words of caution. Sure, make that big change, he was telling me. Go for it with all of your heart. But don’t put too much faith in this change bringing you all the peace, joy, and the everything you’re thinking it will bring. Just like that person who takes trips to faraway lands and finds that wherever they go, there they are. Their worries, their doubts, all of their insecurity—it’s with them just as much in the Alps as it is in the Jersey suburbs. This is what my friend experienced. He literally traded in his body for a new one and he was still exactly the same on the inside.

We do this in our culture. We set our sights on the great body, the dreamy partner, the ideal job, our dream home, the ultimate vacation. We set our sights firmlycertain that this is the answer to the nagging upsetting feelings we live with. Like the triumphant scene in a Disney movie, we see ourselves attaining our prize with the sounds of trumpets in the background and doves fluttering overhead, while all our problems fade away.

Life isn’t like that. Peace and joy—feeling great—is an inside job. It’s inside of us. As another friend, and yoga teacher, described in a class I took with her recently, “You are powerful. You are special. Just for being alive.” She guided our class in feeling the natural rhythms of our bodies and helped us to connect these natural rhythms within us to the natural rhythms of the world around us. I felt the life inside of me. I felt alive, powerful, special. As my friend would say, “special, but not better than anyone else”.

Photo 118--Woman with a Smiley-Face Sign

I often guide my clients to getting in touch with their inner wellness. It sometimes takes some time, but we almost always get there. We’re a culture of outside wellness, so it’s foreign for many people at first. And despite being well aware of this, I was falling into the trap myself. My friend’s story that he lost 200 pounds and nothing changed was a strong cautionary tale for me. The things I want to change in my life, the things I want to attain, they will never by themselves bring me the peace and joy I desire to live with. And as my other friend reminded me in yoga class, that peace and joy is always instantly available to me. I find that comforting.

Is there something you’re pursuing without being grounded in your inner wellness, in the inherent peace and joy of your being? Perhaps like my friend did years ago, you want to change your body as so many people do. If so, I offer this inside-out approach:

  1. Enjoy the unconditional peace and joy that is your birthright. (Use yoga, meditation, time in nature, creating and taking in art, and anything and everything that helps you to do so.)
  2. Take great care of your body, just like you take care of children in your care. Lovingly meet your needs.
  3. Let your body naturally conform. As you take good care of your body (without any concern for specifically altering its weight, body composition, or shape), you will naturally get more vital, fit, and well. As a natural side effect of wellness, you’ll get leaner over time.

With this approach you get a huge result, not just snazzy before and after photos and a new wardrobe to go with your new body. You’ll be winning right away, not in some distant future when you reach your body-change goals. Feeling great is available to you right now. How does that sound?


Do a Nourish

“So I’m doing this cleanse—no gluten, no dairy, no wine—ugh!”

“I’m doing all green juice for three days—that’s all. Gotta give my body a break from food.”

“After this is over, I’m so having pizza, I’m starving.”

What is the significance of these quotes? These are things people on cleanses say.

Cleanses are all the rage and I get asked about them often. Let me be frank: I’ve never liked them much. They seem rather odd to me. And the people doing them seem miserable.

Therein lies, I believe, the misguided appeal of cleanses. Here in the States, especially here in New England, we live with a large Puritan hangover. We love pain. We pride ourselves in our ability to bear a wicked Nor’easter. Not only do we love pain, but we grant it a holiness capable of bringing great tidings. That is, suffer well and you’ll be rewarded. Deny yourself the evil pleasures of the world and you will be rewarded by none other than the gods.

So this is how we take care of ourselves. We identify the bad guys, we steel ourselves with willpower, and we cast them out of our lives (for three or four days). People do this with foods (and even more scary with food overall) and with other villains like television watching and Internet meandering.

Sure, eating certain things, especially food-like packaged goods (a.k.a. processed foods, food products) is detrimental to our well-being. I hardly ever watch television. And I’ll never waste hours in front of my computer when there are all these beautiful beaches and art galleries and, um, people, all around me. So don’t get me wrong, there are behaviors that are best avoided by those like us seeking to thrive. It’s the avoidance, not the behaviors, that I’m making a case against.

Avoidance doesn’t work. And it feels lousy. In mountain biking, when you’re riding down a rocky trail and wanting to stay on your bike, it takes real focus. But what do you focus on? One option is to focus on the rocks. You might say to yourself, “Don’t hit the rocks, don’t hit the rocks, don’t hit the rocks.” I can tell you, this sucks. It’s tension-filled and no fun at all. And, it doesn’t work. When all you’re thinking about is the rocks, what do you think happens a lot? You ride right into the rocks! How could you not? It’s all you’re thinking about. The other approach is to focus on where you want to go, in this case to the clearings between the rocks. You might say to yourself, “Ride through the clearings,” and focus your mind firmly on the clearings where you can continue to ride smoothly. This is much more enjoyable and much more effective.

When you cleanse, it’s a weekend or week or month of, “Don’t eat gluten, don’t eat gluten, don’t eat gluten.” No fun at all, and equally as ineffective as trying to avoid the rocks when mountain biking. You won’t fall off your bike, but you’re destined for a few bread benders at your local bakery. What would be the eating-well equivalent of focusing on the clearings in mountain biking? It could be many things. One simple approach could be to focus on eating lots of local vegetables, fruit, and fish, along with other whole, natural, real food. In this anti-cleanse, you focus on eating these nourishing types of foods and real food overall. The beauty here is that when you do this you will eat less, maybe even no gluten (and/or something else you’re wishing to avoid), but that was not your focus at all. You didn’t have to steel yourself against an enemy. You see, being well is not about denying ourselves the “bad things” and fighting against them, it’s about relishing in and enjoying the amazing treats of life including real food. It’s about nourishing ourselves.

Photo 117--Smiling Woman

And so, ladies and gentleman, you have what I’m calling, wait for it: the nourish. I just invented it today, so I know, it’s still a bit clunky, but I think it may catch on. I may even win over a few of my Puritan neighbors. When you do a nourish, you spend a few days nourishing yourself, not denying yourself. You identify the various behaviors (to include, but not limited to eating-well behaviors) that you know will boost your wellness and help you thrive and then you get to the business, or better yet, play, of nourishing yourself.

Here’s what I’m going to do the next few days for my nourish:

  1. I’m going to pick vegetables from my friend’s garden (she’s away for a few weeks) and my own garden and make meals from those vegetables.
  2. I’m going to watch a movie at a really cool outdoor venue with my friend.
  3. I’m going to do some fun marketing work for my business and collaborate with three of my friends to get their feedback.
  4. I’m going to walk around a local mountain with three of my friends.
  5. I’m going to drink water throughout the day each day.
  6. I’m going to sleep nine hours each night.
  7. I’m going to take photos of all the beautiful stuff I see both in nature and in the city.

How does a nourish sound to you? Better than a cleanse, right? If so, make up your own nourish to do for the next few days. Then lather, rinse, and repeat. That’s good living. That’s thriving.


What’s Your Body For?

“Uncle Jason, Uncle Jason,” Julia and Jack squeeked through the phone they hijacked from my Dad. “We got fish!” proclaimed Julia. “Mine’s Abbie. Jack, what’s your fish’s name again?” “Miles!” shouts Jack.

I’m sweating from head-to-toe, spending a glorious afternoon picking blueberries. Not sweating like doing a workout, just that light sweat from every pore you get on a sultry August day. I move slowly, staying as cool as I can, enjoying the perfectly simple task. Then it gets a bit dark overhead. And darker. And darker. We all look at each other playfully, without words agreeing that we’re definitely staying out here in the rain.

I’m standing in water a little over my ankles at the base of a waterfall. I’m holding hands with my friends and we’re saying the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World. The cold water runs over my feet and legs as I stand with my eyes closed and feel the presence of the natural world all around me and the presence of my friends right there with me.

Photo 116--Woman Enjoying the Rain

These are a few ways I’ve been using my body recently—to connect with the world around me. Can you see that when you stop to consider it? Our bodies are how we connect to the world around us. And this is why I care for my body. Because it’s the vehicle through which I access the world around me, which I love to do. It’s how I look others in the eye, it’s how I walk through the woods or along Maine’s rocky coast, it’s how I savor a meal with a friend, it’s how I listen to music and sing and dance along, it’s how I converse with my clients, it’s how I enjoy a great yoga class. It’s no less than how I access life. So I care for it well.

With this in mind, I offer you two questions: What’s your body for? And how might you care for it today?

How might you care for your body lovingly? Like you might care for a child in your care? Not berating yourself. No slave-driving yourself. Not denying yourself. Not bad-talking yourself. These shame-based ways and workout-till-you-puke and extreme-dieting approaches they propagate don’t serve anyone. Ask yourself what your body is for and how you might care for it today. I’m certain you’ll find some satisfying answers unique to you that you just might be excited to act on. I can help with the details of how to care for yourself, but it’s best if the main ideas come from you. They’re in there. Go see what you find.


Watching the Olympics Is Voyeurism

I’ve watched a grand total of about 30 minutes of the Olympics. That’s on purpose. And while I may not be watching the Olympics, I hear people all day commenting on what they’re seeing on their flat-screen televisions and reading online, so I get the overall gist of the experience.

Photo 115--Watching Sports

“Did you see that volleyball player? Holy cow! And she’s so humble and such a team player.”

“Those swimmers are just amazing! Their dedication to put in all those hours in the pool to get to the Olympics is really something.”

“That’s so sad what happened to the gymnast who broke his leg! How horrifying! I really feel for him. He worked his whole life for this.”

“Can you believe that soccer team was down by a goal with 15 minutes to play and they came back to win? That took so much guts!”

In the time I haven’t been watching the Olympics, I’ve been spending a lot of time with some truly spectacular people. That’s on purpose too.

I know a man who about a year ago experienced a very difficult break-up of a long-term partnership. I’ve seen him in some hard places. I’ve also seen him embrace the healing and transformation he needed to do. I’ve seen him embark on a self-prescribed graduate-level course in self-love and relationship. I’ve seen this man become a truly amazing friend to several people. He’s consciously crafting his ability to give and receive love and he’s doing a great job of it. I’m cheering for him!

I know a woman who day in and day out is raising an adopted son with all of her heart. Several years ago, she traveled a long way from home and effectively said, “Come with me. I’ll take care of you.” She’s made a family for him. She’s raising him. She’s preparing him for a thriving adulthood. He’s growing up well, already stretching the boundaries and looking for his independence. She’s raising this son all by herself by the way. I’m cheering for her!

I know a man who has seen unthinkable things in war and has suffered a great deal as a result. Now I see this man thriving as a leader of his community, giving love to so many people every day. When the medical system didn’t have all the solutions he needed to help him heal after war, he took it upon himself to heal himself through spirituality and great living. He’s doing an amazing job of that while helping so many others to be their best selves through both his work and his relationships. I’m cheering for him!

I’m so nourished by my relationships with these people. They live each day with great courage and persistence. They are truly, fully, alive. It’s in my relationships with them, and not with Olympic athletes I’ll never meet, that I choose to place my admiration and compassion. Watching the Olympics is voyeurism. It’s misplaced living. It’s watching people live with emotion. For all of us, there are people to cheer for right in front of us. People living with emotion every day. These are the people I think we should all be cheering for in our lives. Are we giving our friends our all? How about our kids, our neighbors, our colleagues? Trust me, I feel for that gymnast who broke his leg too, but I bet there are people a lot closer to all of us who could use our support through healing an injury or overcoming a disease or through other challenges. People we can look in the eyes. People we can hug. This is where the real living is.

In our culture, people often talk about how sports are a great metaphor for life. They speak of how we can all learn from the teamwork and communication of a water-polo team, the focus of a pole-vaulter, the persistence of a cyclist. I propose a reverse model. What if field-hockey players watched film of couples working together to create a loving family for themselves and their children as a model of teamwork and communication and applied it to how they played their sport? What if archers watched film of a teacher or surgeon practicing their craft day in and day out and used it as a model of focus? What if runners watched film of everyday people overcoming major disease and used it as a model of persistence?

To really thrive, we must live the life right in front of us with the people here with us. There’s simply so much rich opportunity in doing so.