In most modern-day leadership circles, it is common to hear the advice or the suggestion to “always keep an open mind” or to always “be prepared to learn something new from everyone you interact with.” And in the medical field or health coaching world, it is no different. I have had many clients teach me new things or see certain processes or theories from an entirely different perspective. As I complete my third and final year of my Masters in Leadership at the Thayer Institute, the mindset of keeping learning and questioning on the forefront of my daily approach with clients has been burned and etched into my lexicon and habitual process of thinking, in general. As much as I love to educate others on what is possible with their own health endeavors, the thought that I need to or should be “teaching” anyone something, just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I am more interested in seeing what I can learn from others. Not so much having members of the clinic lined up for me to orate health and wellness dogma down their throats. And as difficult as it is to listen to someone preach their health and wellness approach from their soap box of hubris, it is equally or exceedingly more painful to be within earshot of someone professing their religious beliefs to a morally-deaf crowd. At least, that used to be my mindset.
You see, growing up Catholic, I never knew you had a choice regarding your religious preferences. Heck, I thought I was born into a Republican parish as well. There was no choice. You just didn’t talk about it. And after attending a Catholic school for the majority of my life, the last thing I wanted to do once I graduated high school, after having attended Catholic Mass twice per week, was spend my weekends in a pew. So, when I was approached and encouraged to trade expertise with our local pastor, I flinched.
Now, while that may sound discourteous or crude, Pastor Scott knows that it has way more to do with my closed-mindedness and arrogance way more than it does with his approach to spiritual counseling (let’s call a spade, a spade, here. Counseling is what was needed.) And, all of this is beside the fact that I have grown up having a deep, spiritual influential brother, and being married to my gorgeous, God-fearing wife, Lacie Jo, I still wasn’t convinced that I wanted to trade my time for another repetitive, biblical lecture regarding how I was not living appropriately. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Cow was I wrong. As much as I would like to convince myself that I have shown Pastor Scott a few tricks of the health and wellness trade, the man has opened my spiritual mindset in ways that I would never have imagined. And, to boot, he did it in true Mr. Miyagi fashion: Wax on; Wax off.
As direct as I can often be with clients, thinking that sometimes it is the best approach to closing the knowledge gap regarding habitual change, Pastor Scott took a completely different and indirect approach with my education. To my surprise, physical wellbeing and practicing faith have a great deal in common.
Take the ever-popular W.W. J.D. bracelets. Those are a lot like a Fitbit. They don’t actually “do” anything. They don’t change the food that you put in your mouth. They don’t burn more calories or body fat with them on as opposed to not wearing them. And they don’t exercise for you. But, they indeed make you more conscious. So, while wondering what Jesus might do in certain situations is highly efficacious in changing your thinking, you are still ultimately responsible for controlling your actions, and more appropriately for some of us, our reactions.
Very similar to your Bible. I remember this one time, while working for a Biometric monitoring company, we had to go offshore to rig up (pun intended) the maritime workers with our equipment in order to capture the data that we needed. Well, we also needed to have all the proper safety equipment to even step foot (pun) on the rig, which included steel toe boots. I, thankfully, had a pair that I used while working construction through college. They were pretty worn down, exposing some of the steel in the toe and had plenty of dust and scuffs. The funny thing is that couple of our other city slicker employees had to buy them brand new. Guess how long it took the roughnecks on that rig to gauge the saltiness of our crew…
This is similar to a faithful Christian’s Bible, isn’t it? You for sure know the difference between a Bible that has been thumbed through for a few years as opposed to the shiny, crisp book that those sanctimonious brethren amongst us like to keep under their armpit while strolling around town.
But, this article isn’t about how much more faithful or spiritual we are than one another. It is about getting out of our own way and becoming what we ought to be for ourselves, our families, and our Creator. It is about seeking out the potential that exists both physically and spiritually once we decide to whole-heartedly understand another perspective. My mental bandwidth was maxed out with health and wellness information, biohacking gadgets, and push-ups. There was no room for any "spiritual non-sense." That is what Pastor Scott did for me: he showed me how much bandwidth I was wasting on what didn’t matter. Funny, the whole time I thought I was going to get something through to him. He broke through years of spiritual disgust by simply connecting my obsession in the physical realm with what’s possible from the spiritual perspective. One Sunday, he mentioned one line that not only bridged my understanding of how many angles the spiritual and wellness worlds have in common, but he completely encapsulated the past ten years of my health experience:
“There are thermostats and then there are thermometers.”
But, what does that mean? Well, in the literal sense, thermometers simply react to the temperature of their environment. They may display or tell you the temperature in different ways, but they always react and adapt to the environment of which they are a part of. Thermostats, on the other hand, set the temperature. They control the environment. They are the ones leading the thermometers. (in a figurative sense) The thermostats know what they stand for and their environments change for the better simply due to their presence. And as we all know and have probably encountered in the past, this can apply to both the wellness and spiritual environments.
There are people who set the bar while everyone else seeks to reach it. There are those that no matter what type of sweet decadence is brought into the break room, they simply take out their leftovers from the night before and enjoy them merrily.
There are people who will witness physical or verbal abuse happening right in front of them: the thermometers step back, the thermostats step forward and do something about it.
The thermometers hit the snooze button and succumb to the holiday peer pressures of eating. The thermostats bring their own dishes and host their own parties.
The thermometers sit in the pew on Sunday then return to their faulty ways the other six days of the week. The thermostats spend the next six days wearing down their Bible pages.
Thermometers hit the gym on Tuesday so that they eat their way into Sunday afternoon. Thermostats do good for the sake of doing good… both physically and spiritually.
So, while I could now make these connections between the wellness world and the spiritual realm, in perpetuity, I will spare you the time since the rest of them are selfishly for furthering and strengthening my own spiritual journey. While I planned to congratulate Pastor Scott on his fat loss, his muscle gain, and his improved focus and cognition due to his recent nutritional and training tweaks, it wouldn’t hold a candle to the gratitude that is owed to him and the work (God’s, of course) that he is doing.
Here’s to you, Pastor Scott: A great pastor, a better friend, and the best spiritual thermostat-smith the world has yet to match. I only hope to make you a fraction as successful physically as you have made me spiritually. Thank you!