It’s Your Health, You Decide

Most of us give over the decisions about our health to someone else. Decisions about what we should eat, what exercise we should do, and how we should respond to getting sick. Essentially, what to put in our bodies, how to move our bodies, and how to fix our bodies when they are not working right. It is a lot to understand, and there are experts who have studied all of this, so we should just do what they say. Right?

Maybe. Partially. As famed physician and author Atul Gawande asks in his book Being Mortal, why are we asking technicians to decide moral questions for us? While they are very highly trained technicians, medical professionals can help us get to the state we want for our bodies, but that requires that somebody decide what that desired state is, and Dr. Gawande suggests that we are the ones to decide that for ourselves.

What are we supposed to decide for ourselves and where might we depend on experts? Easy. If we understand that we are assessing 4 different things. 3 of these are ours to decide, for ourselves. Experts can help guide us with 1 of them. We need to know (1) our actual state, how we are actually doing, (2) our desired state, what we want our health to look like, (3) the gap–the difference–between the actual and desired states, and (4) what to do to close the gap. We have to understand our actual health, in comparison with the health we actually want for ourselves, and what we can do to move towards the health we choose.

There are infinite suggestions about the life you should lead. Most of us don’t follow most of these suggestions. Someone out there tells us not to, but some people like to eat meat or carbs, walk on busy streets or late at night, eat from street vendors or in local dives, smoke, complain, jump out of airplanes and off of cliffs, swim with sharks, drink sweet soda drinks or alcohol, or sit on the couch all day. These are all things that some expert says is bad for us. And, lots of us like to do some of these things. That might be what leads to a life well lived. The problem then might not be what we choose to do or how we choose to live our lives, rather in what we do about what happens along the way.

To know what to do, to maintain our health or strengthen it, we need to know the standard of health we want, where we are right now, and what we can do to close the gap between the two. Information from technology and experts can support us in understanding what our desired state of health looks like and how to measure it (e.g., pulse rate, muscle strength, clean thoughts, no headaches), how to assess our current level of health with similar measures, and what we can do to alter our current state. If you want to be able to have stronger legs, these different forms of exercise might work for you, depending on what you like to do. Swimming, walking, lifting weights, squats. Here are the measures, the possible actions, and now you can assess and decide. It’s your choice–what you want, where you are, and what you can do to get where you want. If this is what you want to do (see the long list above), these are the consequences that you live with, and what you can do to ameliorate the impacts.

To be able to make this shift in mindset, from leaving it to others to decide to deciding for yourself, it is helpful to clarify how you think about your health. To you, what is your “original state” and what is “normal”? Let’s look at this question for your physical health and then your mental and social health.


There exist 2 very different perspectives on your physical health. Where you start from will greatly determine what you do and what you achieve. One perspective is that you start with your “original state.” The other perspective is that you start from a “normal state.”

Your original state. The body you were given is a miracle. While it has been studied forever, we still have very little understanding of how it does what it does. It is born, with you in it. It grows. For half of us, it makes babies and milk for babies. For the other half, it makes seeds for babies. It grows older. It grows stronger. It fights diseases and fixes wounds. It dies. That’s a lot. In your original state, you have a very high functioning physical state, doing a huge amount in every single instant, over a whole lifetime, and this is normal. Lower than this is pathological. For some reason, in this whole universe of infinite energy, we exist as Homo lumens, as natural beings. Our body is created, grows, strengthens, and procreates, without our conscious awareness or design. And, our awareness and design influence what we do with this energy-flowing structure-energy-field we are given. It is a very complex system that is made to work at a high level of performance (efficiency and effectiveness, leveraging small inputs into sustainable, resilient outputs for all systems, in all parts of the body, at all times). This is our given state, a state that our lack of understanding and awareness “normally” degrades. This is our “original state.”

Your normal state. From a “normal state” view of the world, we look at what is normal for people, what the standard distribution of people do. From this perspective, low levels of health are fine. Higher is nicer. We expect people to be in poor health, because that is what we find, normally. We make conscious choices and accept unconscious conditions that work against our body instead of with it. Just think of the obesity epidemic, chronic disease years-of-life lost, and the high levels of malnutrition we accept around the globe. With a world of water and plants, we allow vast amounts of people to die from dehydration and malnutrition. With easily-scalable high technology, we allow many people to die early from easily avoidable conditions (dirty air, dirty water, contaminated food, communicable disease). After all, this low state of health is what we see in lots of people, so it is “normal.” Better than normal is nice. This is our “normal state.”


We see the same for your mental and social health. The World Health Organization suggests that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. As with our physical health, the same two perspectives apply to our mental and social health—and “original state“ and a “normal state“ view. Which do you choose? Your original, given state or what is normal amongst others? Your “original,” given state of intense creativity, passion, and will to engage in creating a future to which you give your love, in your own, unique ways, every day? Or your “normal state” of being disengaged and apathetic about what actually happens?

You decide and you assess. Here are a few quick, easy tools for measuring your own state of health, using instruments my colleagues and I have developed and tested over the past two decades in over 125 countries. All of these well-tested, validated measures are available for free online—I provide the link to them. You can use them as you wish for yourself. If you would like help in understanding or applying these tools to your own health, feel free to contact me.

The “You Choose” Plan.

  1. You choose your standard of physical, mental, and social health
  2. You asses your actual levels
  3. You determine the gap
  4. You choose the actions to take

Experts and expert tools can help you assess these, and they can help you setup a continuous monitoring scorecard system, to bring you greater resilience for when things happen. It is a choice. Your choice.

It’s Perfect. Whose Perfection?

Your perfection. It turns out that when each of us says something is perfect, we might mean completely different things.

Perfect. From the Latin perfectus “completed, excellent, accomplished, exquisite,” from per “completely” + combining form of facere “to make, to do.” To make complete. Complete what? That depends on how you define the “what” that you are completing.

From an ecosynomic perspective, we observe three levels of perceived reality (nouns, verbs, possibility). Depending on the levels of perceived reality you are working with, you will define perfection differently.

  • Noun-only Reality. When you consider only the observable facts right in front of you right now–the nouns you have–perfection means that what is already known and already here is complete. You know what completeness looks like, because it is given to you in the book. Whatever book contains the received wisdom you prefer. You can assess, from that received wisdom, the current state of something, whether it is complete or not, whether it is perfect or not. If it is, you are right.
  • Verb-and-noun Reality. When you consider what is observable right now, as well as the ebb and flow of inputs and outputs over time, perfection is measured against the standard of the living nature of the thing, of the stability of the net dynamics of its state over time. You set this standard based on what you have learned from received wisdom, as well as from what is happening in the context you are in right now. If it is on the right course, you are correct.
  • Possibility-and-verb-and-noun Reality. When you consider what is observable right now, the ebb and flow, and the potential you can access, your standard for perfection is in your capacity to close the gap between your actual state and the state that you are here to see realized, the desired level that aligns your efforts with your deeper purpose. You set this standard based on received wisdom and what you are learning and in the potential you can see, accessing all of the creativity you can perceive. If it is aligning with purpose, you are in service.

Perfection. Making complete. It all depends on the standard you are perfecting towards. It all depends on how you define your reality. On the dimensions of reality you choose to include. Perfect.

What Is Tangible?

We usually say that some things are tangible, and others are intangible. This means that some are touchable, and others are not touchable. Literally, we can perceive them through our senses, or we cannot. Maybe that is not so useful.

Maybe it is more useful to think of two kinds of tangible—outerTangible (oT) and innerTangible (iT). Things that we sense through our outward-oriented senses are outerTangible. Things that we sense through our inward-oriented senses are innerTangible. My biological senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing gather information about what is happening in the biophysical realms of reality. My body takes that information and transforms it into a form my body can use to do something. That is the outerTangible world.

My body also processes a lot of information that my body is perceiving about my inner state. How am I feeling about my physical state? What do I think and feel about the thoughts, feelings, and intentions I am experiencing? How do I want to respond to the affect I am experiencing from another person, independent or consonant with their words and actions? Do I love this possibility, hate it, or am I indifferent to it? Do I find this scenery to be beautiful? All of these perception signals are also real and quite touchable. I can literally feel them. They are innerTangibles. My body takes that information and transforms it into a form my body can use to do something.

Both the outerTangible and the innerTangible affect me. They are real stimuli to which I respond. Thinking of them as tangible or intangible leads me to think that one is more real than the other, which does not help much. Some of the things that most impact my life and the decisions I make are things like love, hope, and trust. InnerTangibles. Just as real as the outerTangibles. Both critical to perceiving what is happening in my life.

Are We A System Or A Network? A Hat Tip to Russell Ackoff, Again

Almost everything these days is a network (5B Google hits). Or a system (10B Google hits). Are systems and networks the same thing? Are they very different?

A very brief side trip into definitions and etymology might answer this for us, definitively. Network is defined by OED as “a group or system of interconnected people or things.” Network comes from the Proto-Germanic *natjo, perhaps originally “something knotted,” from PIE root *ned– “to bind, tie” and *werka– “work,” from PIE *werg– “to do.” So, from the Proto-Germanic for bound-together work or interconnected people or things. System is defined by OED as “a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole.”  System comes from the Greek systema “organized whole, a whole compounded of parts,” from syn– “together,” from PIE root *sta– “to stand, make or be firm.” So, from the Greek for interconnected parts. OED seems to partially define a network as a system and a network as a system. So, the definitions and etymology do not seem to clarify much.

Then, there is Russell Ackoff. For me it is always worth it to go back to Russell Ackoff, especially for clarity around seemingly complex themes. In his 2010 book Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management, Ackoff distinguishes networks from systems, clarifying their distinct power and purpose.

A system is a whole that is defined by its function in a larger system of which it is a part. (An automobile, for example, is defined for its role in the transportation system: a university by its role in the educational system.) It has at least two essential parts–parts without which it could not perform its defining function. For example, an automobile cannot function without a motor, fuel, pump, or battery. A person cannot function without a brain, lungs, and a heart. The essential parts have five essential characteristics: (1) Each can affect the behavior or properties of the whole; (2) The way an essential part affects the whole depends on what at least one other part is doing. The effects of the parts are interdependent; (3) Every two essential parts are connected, directly or indirectly; (4) Subsets of essential parts (subsystems) also can affect the properties or behavior of the whole, and the way they affect the whole depends on at least one other subsystem; (5) There is a direct or indirect connection between every pair of subsystems. It follows that a system is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts. Its properties and behavior derive from the interactions of its parts, not their actions considered separately.

A network is a whole whose function is to enable communication between its parts. In a well-designed network, there is a connection between every possible pair of parts. But in a network, unlike a system, there are no essential parts. If any part is removed, there are alternative ways to connect the parts affected.

The parts of a system many form a network, but not every network is a system. The so-called “telephone system” is not a system but a network. It has no essential parts. However, a telephone company is a system. If a collection of parts is neither a system nor a network, it is an aggregation, like a crowd or inventory of parts. For example, consider the wired telephone network. If the connection between Philadelphia and New York is broken, one can still reach New York from Philadelphia by going through any number of cities: for example, Trenton, New Brunswick, and Newark. But, if an essential part of a system–for example, the motor from an automobile–is broken the automobile cannot perform its function.

Ackoff, R. L. (2010). Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management. Devon, UK, Triarchy Press, pp. 119-120.

Thank you, once again, Russell Ackoff for this clarity. A system is a set of interrelated parts, where the contribution of each is essential to the purpose and behavior of the whole. A network is a set of interrelated parts, providing robust communication among its parts. An aggregation is a pile of parts. Clear. So, are you a system, a network, or an aggregation?

We’ve Been to the Moon, Now It’s Time for an Earthshot

We have gone to the moon: now we need to take care of our earth.  This is where we live, and this is what we are made of, earth and its life forces, our biology. An earthshot is to say YES! to a future we love, here on this earth, amongst all of us that inhabit it.

The prophet of abundance-based technology and bold steps towards a far-better world, Peter Diamandis, invites us to take on a “moonshot mindset,” invoking the power of John F. Kennedy’s 1962 moon speech. Again, we need to do it, we have not done it yet, and we can. This “means applying 10X thinking (or 1,000%) to all of your efforts and challenges.” As Kennedy saw, you have the resources, you have the knowledge, you have the will, and you have the need, the love for that future. Now you need to put it all together, probably in new ways.

My colleagues and I have found that many “positive deviants” have already figured out part of the “how,” how to put it all together, and these positive deviants are everywhere, across the planet, even in your own backyard. We are now putting these pieces together into an abundance-based approach, based on the emerging science of abundanceecosynomics.

The herenow we face requires an earthshot—we need to do it, we have not done it yet, and we can, together, each bringing our best contributions.

All Rules Come with Standards and Principles You Didn’t Set—With Principles-based Choosing, You Set All Three

As I described in an earlier post, one way to be more resilient is to shift from thinking about rules to standards and principles.  John Rawls, a moral and political philosopher, highlighted in his book, A Theory of Justice, the differences amongst the terms rules, standards, and principles.

Rules are straight lines, asking yes/no questions, looking for triggering conditions that something is changing, seeking predictability and certainty.  Ex ante, the thinking is that this rule should and will provide this stability.  Put it in place, and let it work.

Standards are balancing feedback systems, with a gap between a stated goal and the actual state driving action that changes the actual state, like a thermostat.  This system looks for balancing factors in a set of relevant considerations and options, providing a range of choices.  Ex post, this thinking asks whether this standard maintained the behavior within a desired range.

Principles are systems to be considered, providing guardrails for the feedback loops (standards) to include, and how the choices made in actions might be interpreted.  In reflection, this thinking asks whether the system of standards and rules under consideration increases resilience of the desired impact.

Rules tell you what actions to take to close the gap. For example, for your physical health, eat this many calories, with this mix of proteins, grains, vegetables, and fruit. Or do this much exercise a day. For your mental health, read this, think about this, stop thinking about this, or talk to this person. For your emotional health, have these friends, and engage in this way. Each of these guides for how to act are rules. Rules often come with implicit standards of what healthy looks like, based on a principle of standards, rules, and who should be setting them.

Simply put, every rule comes with standards and principles, whether you agreed to them or not. With a principles-based start to your choices, you set all three. You decide who decides, towards what purpose, with what standard, what feedback process, what rules, and what actions. You choose.

Everything Stems from Your Purpose

Everything is energy, and every thing requires energy. Einstein showed that matter–a thing–equals energy. A lot of it. E=mc2. Or m=E/c2.

When we value something, we want to connect to it. The word we use, value, comes from the Latin valere for be strong, be worth. Connecting to this value gives us purpose. Purpose comes from the Latin pro– “forth” and the Old French poser “to put, place”, meaning to connect to energy, to plug into the source of our energy. Our purpose, what we value.

Not plugging in is saying no to the energy, yes to disengagement, no to human creativity, and no to love. If the energy is there, and if what we value is there, and if connecting to the energy of what we value is there, there for us to engage and transform, then why would we not do that? That seems like a massive waste.

Purpose-driven leadership focuses leaders on understanding the power and the dynamics of purpose, engaging it, and transforming the energy of it into something that others value. When people connect to a deeper shared purpose, they are able to achieve far more together than not. According to XPRIZE founder, Peter Diamandis, a purpose-driven mindset deeply energizes you, focusing your thinking and awareness, always looking for new insights and relationships that can enhance your ability to achieve your purpose. McKinsey research shows that aligning the company’s purpose with the purpose of its people leads to much better results: higher engagement, higher loyalty, and a net-positive impact for their stakeholders.

So, if we are energy, and if we need energy to replenish our energy, then we need to connect to energy. That energy is everywhere, and the way we connect to it is through purpose. While this might seem obvious, many people still do not do it. This means that you know what your purpose is, and you connect to it continuously. This engages the energy and guides what is done with it. The evidence is there, and you know this from your own experience. Connecting to it, to your purpose, your Yes!, is a choice. Your choice.

Flourishing at Work

According to a recent Gallup study, “Only 15% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are engaged at work.” 85% are not! How did this happen?

What can we do about it? My colleague Tyler VanderWeele, professor and Director of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, shares his recent research on flourishing at work in a January 27, 2021 post in Psychology Today. “Most people want to be engaged at work. The time passes more quickly, and the activities seem more fun. But engaged and satisfied employees are also good for business: they are more productive, less likely to leave the company, and less likely to waste time on the job. Engagement can have a major impact on costs, revenues, and profit.”

The mainstream is starting to pay attention to this. In a December 2020 HBR podcast, Christina Maslach, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley talks about “why burnout happens and how bosses can help. In November 202, the VisualCapitalist provided an infographic of “15 Warning Signs to Identify a Toxic Work Environment Before Taking a Job.” It is no longer rocket science or “that soft stuff.” The numbers are huge, and the costs are very real.

We need to realize that, as human beings, we are each uniquely constituted and contextualized, and therefore we are each uniquely engaged or disengaged. This means that to address engagement–flourishing at work–we need to inquire into each person’s context. We need to ask, listen, and try something, together. While this might seem expensive to do for each person, Tyler’s study showed that the costs of not doing so are far greater. Once we see that the costs of scarcity are far, far greater than the costs of abundance, the investment in Yes!, then we will start to make progress, creating thriving, regenerative organizations and communities. These authors are paving the way.

Your Full-lumens Diet

Your daily ritual. You are a calorie burner, and you are a creative being. You burn calories and lumens, the creative energy. For both your calorie and lumens burning, which are outflows, you need nourishment or inflows. Choosing what you put into your body is also known as a diet. While many think a lot about what calories they put in their body, it is healthy to also think about what lumens they put in their body.

Simply, what mineral elements do you take in to form your physical body? Do you know what the actual ingredients are and whether your body processes them well? It is easy to find out. Eat it and see what your body tells you.

What intentions do you let in to nurture your volitional energy of choice? Do you set those or does someone else use your intentions, your drive to do things? To find out, ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Did you choose this consciously? Did someone else? What would you choose? Do these choices align with your Big YES? Try, and see what happens.

Your relationships with others, what you feel in them, and how you support them nurture your social energy field. Witnessing how you feel in these relationships is completely within your power. Are these relationships and how you perceive and react within them nourishing you or taxing you? You can tell by seeing whether you feel better or worse for being in them.

The ideas that you accept into your thoughts, consciously and unconsciously, directly nourish how you perceive what the world is and how it works. Are you choosing what enters your thoughts, or are you accepting someone else’s conditioning? You are exposed to massive amounts of information all day long. Are you choosing what you allow in? And, just because you are exposed to it, does not mean that you have to accept it. Do these thoughts align with your values, with what you know to be true from your own experience? You can choose the thoughts you use to align your perception of what is happening in your context with your values and your deeper contribution.

These are four basic elements of your full-body diet. The minerals, intentions, feelings, and thoughts that directly nourish your body. You put junk in, and you feel junky. You put in elements that strengthen you, you are stronger. It is easy to tell with each of these four elements. Simply try, and pay attention to what your body tells you. Then adjust. It is your choice.

The Science of Abundance: 4 90-min talks (3 in Spanish and 1 in English)

Together we can take on huge challenges. I am grateful to my colleague Adrian Joyce for joining me in this 88-minute session with the Centro de Liderazgo y Tecnología UPM in Madrid. With our co-host Isabel Ortiz, we shared what we are learning at the Institute for Strategic Clarity ( about the “science of abundance” and cohosting societal collaboration. We specifically explored Adrian’s work with the Renovate Europe Campaign.

You can see the recording of this session and 3 others, exploring this “ciencia de la abundancia,” on the Centro de Liderazgo y Tecnología UPM YouTube channel [].