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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus help over 20 million people live meaningful lives with less through their website, books, podcast, and documentary. The Minimalists have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Forbes, TIME, ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, CBC, and NPR.

Health Is a Vehicle, Not a Destination

We often have a misguided, binary view of personal health. Case in point: a reader took umbrage with a “sign” in our recent essay, 11 Signs You Might Be Broke. She didn’t like what we had written about health, stating,

“I’m normally a huge fan [of The Minimalists,] but this article really annoyed me just because … [it] came across quite judgmental of sick people. … The article might have been better if they’d stuck to ten points.”

But, dear reader, health is the most important aspect of the whole article! Without health we have nothing. Although of course “health” is a continuum—it is different for each of us. Personal health is, by definition, personal.

The statement in the article—”Unhealthy equals depression”—does not suggest that we should compare our personal health with everyone else’s (in fact, comparison in general is pernicious and should be avoided when possible), and it certainly is not a judgment of anyone who’s sick. Rather, we all want to be in the best possible health given our unique circumstances.

For example, I broke my back while playing basketball in the eighth grade, 20 years ago, and I still have a broken vertebra today, which, besides being terribly painful, significantly limits my range of motion compared to, say, a gymnast or an athlete or just your average 33-year-old guy. Hell, I can hardly tie my shoes at times.

However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t strive to be as healthy as I can be given my constraints. In this sense, health is perspectival, and so if we want to be happy, then we all must strive to be the healthiest versions of ourselves—broken bones, sickness, warts and all. In fact, the Internet is filled with shining examples of people with diseases, disabilities, and broken backs who are able to live meaningful lives because they live as healthily as they can according to their individual situations.

It’s also worth noting that when Ryan and I talk about health, we’re not talking about vanity muscles or improved statistics or competing with others. Those are end results—destinations. But health is not a destination; it is a vehicle.

So, OK, maybe I’ll never make it to the NBA with my bad back (not to mention my mediocre ball-handling skills), but that doesn’t mean I should feel defeated, broke, broken. No, it means I must take care of the vehicle I have, providing it with regular tune-ups (daily stretching, regular exercise, and occasional chiropractor visits, as well as a good diet, adequate sleep, and daily meditation), which will help me better enjoy the journey ahead.

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