Dr. Dan Seigel, the author of Mindsight and many other books on mental wellness, has an analogy of going down a river and avoiding crashing into either bank — on one side, you have rigidity, and on the other side, you have chaos.
The key is to keep it moving as much down a middle path as possible.
Dr. Marsha Lineham created Dialectical Behavioral Therapy specifically around this principle, with skills to practice what she calls Wise Mind and what Dr. Seigel calls the Whole-Mind. When we can be in our Wise Mind or Whole-Mind, we can appreciate two parts, or dialectics, of a whole in an integrated way – the emotional and the rational perspectives of an event. We move from our initial perception, which may be more rational or emotional and limited in its appreciation of the whole of the situation, to an integrated awareness of the situation. This gives us the chance to respond with the highest level of insight possible and get the best results.
In DBT, there are mindfulness skills, distress tolerance skills, emotional regulation skills, and interpersonal relation skills. These skills help us find a middle path between too much rigidity and too much chaos as we move towards our goals.
When it comes to fitness and wellness, too much rigidity or chaos when it comes to any of the five pillars (Physical, Mental, Nutritional, Sleep and Communal) will take us off course. Becoming too rigid with metrics, planning, restrictions, or goals is just as dysfunctional as being inconsistent and poorly disciplined in our choices. We want to find the middle path and keep it flowing.
An example we often use would be scheduling your workouts and sticking with the plan even if you had a poor night’s sleep. There is no perfect answer; we want to listen to our body and be willing to adapt, as we avoid an “all or nothing” dialectic. Do our best, surrender the rest. Intentionally moving towards our goal.
Remember, life always has three qualities: functionality, sustainability, and adaptability – seeking the middle path will ensure we stay on point with all three.
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