Small Choices. Big Changes
In his new book, Tom Rath guides readers to focus on and improve three of life’s ingredients: eating, moving and sleeping.
Tom Rath was 16 when he was diagnosed with von Hippel-Lindau disease, a rare genetic disorder that shuts off a powerful tumor-suppressing gene—so cancerous growths are likely to develop throughout the body.
Since then, Rath has battled cancer in his kidneys, adrenal glands, spine, brain and other organs, but he was, and is, determined to stay ahead of the disease. He knew he couldn’t prevent cancer from occurring, but he knew there were steps he could take to have the best chance at living a long and rewarding life.
Rath spent most of his career working for Gallup’s workplace consultancy business; he has become an expert on how organizations and the people in them can reach their potential, and through his work, he found that poor health is one of the biggest business challenges today.
With his personal health experience and business knowledge, the researcher and author wrote Eat Move Sleep. His basic premise: people “do not ‘inherit’ longevity. Instead, the sum of habits determines lifespan.”
“I hope people see how they can make some small adjustments to live better days and longer lives,” Rath says.
“Think about every bite you take as either being a net gain or a net loss,” he says. “If I grab lunch at noon and decided to get a cheeseburger and french fries, I need to realize as I make that choice I might have a high fat hangover and not have as much energy to get work done or take my kids to the park.”
He says we can make better decisions by thinking about those little things every time we order a drink or a meal.
“It’s not really about exercise. Exercise is the wrong goal,” he says. “If I sit on my rear-end for eight hours every day, exercise does not counteract the sitting. We have a responsibility to engineer activity back into our work.”
We have engineered convenience into our lives. His advice: to step back and move a little activity back in, with examples like taking breaks from the desk and parking a little further from the store entrance.
“It’s important to think about a good night’s sleep as more of an investment and not an expense,” he says.
Rath had previously lived by the conventional wisdom of a hardworking, farmer work ethic. “Five hours of sleep and getting work done was a badge of honor.”
But now he believes that’s not a helpful way to look at things. “There’s some research that says if you get a good night’s sleep, that’s what helps your brain encode and retain all the things you learn the day before.”
More work gets done with a solid night’s sleep.
When good daily choices outweigh poor ones, a better life is in order. “Our lives are the sum of those little decisions we make every day. Make them count,” says Tom Rath.