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I am in awe of our striving, our mammoth, continuous efforts to “get it right.” To be a seeker, in our case of better health, is a good thing. After all, at the very least, it gets us out of bed in the morning and draws us to one another. But sometimes our seeking borders on the addictive, which is rarely satisfying and engenders a bottomless, ever-increasing well of discontent. When this happens, we cross the line from healthy inquiry to obsessive result-seeking.

“You are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. –Anna Quindlen”

I have no doubt that this emanates from our noble desire to live consciously and responsibly. In Ornish Lifestyle Medicine, we are all working on how to live a healthier life. What we must be gently vigilant of is when we might cross over the line from progress to pathology.

Symptoms of Over-striving

Ask yourself this: Is fear or trust currently in charge and guiding my choices? When trust is in the driver’s seat, we move toward our wellness: we ask, we gather info, we join, we adjust, and we feel better. When fear is at the wheel, we tend to shove and poke and prod our health mercilessly, focus narrowly, become more constricted, worried, and isolated. Mostly, we don’t feel better. We feel worse. It’s the difference between the hope of growing forward and the misery of constantly fixing our perceived brokenness.

The Meaning of “Full Custody”

It’s imperative to take responsibility for our health. The way to avoid this over striving, and the resulting loneliness, stress, and fear, is to assume “full custody” of our lives. Author Anna Quindlen has written: “You are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Not just your life at a desk or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul. My best advice? Get a life—a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work.”

This is lively advice because it is ordaining us to expand our vision rather than over strive. There is a difference. It’s between trusting the bigness of our being , our soul custody and kvetching or angsting about what we fear we lack and what we haven’t yet learned. Loving ourselves and others in this way is a very big job. It’s our life’s work, and we’re up to it. We don’t have to hunt it down. Love is what we are made of.

As you change your life and improve your health, can you recognize the difference between over striving and taking full custody?


Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

Better Health Begins With You...

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