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The Longevity Framework
A simple framework for generating disproportionate results.
Introduction to The Framework
Other than actors and athletes, who design their lifestyles to achieve very specific goals, most people don’t know why they make health-conscious decisions other than for the lackluster reason that it's what they should do. If you visit any gym and ask its occupants why they are there, 99% of the answers you’ll hear will be encompassed by two overarching and vague statements that have to do with fat loss or muscle gain.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these goals, in fact, both are very important. However, they fail to capture the essence of what all humans desire more than anything else, which is to live a higher quality life for a longer period of time.
True, losing fat and building muscle will help you live longer and better. But, if those are the only two modalities you consider while aiming to live a healthier and longer life, you’ll miss the forest for the trees. By stepping back and expanding our scope beyond these two short-sighted goals, a framework for creating a lifestyle geared towards longevity emerges.
Mental & Emotional Health
The five levers outlined in this framework will serve as the basis for rewiring our thought processes and actions towards living a longer and higher quality life. They will act as a guide in thinking about the actions we can take, or not take, to increase the probability that we will live both longer and healthier. This leads to an extremely important distinction to make, which is the difference between healthspan and lifespan.
Healthspan is the quality of our health while we’re alive whereas lifespan is the total number of years in which we’re alive. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather live for an additional five years in which I’m walking, playing with my future grandkids, and otherwise able-bodied rather than living for an additional ten years in which I’m being pushed around in a wheelchair, losing my mind to dementia or unable to make decisions for myself, in other words, unable to live independently, due to physical or mental impairments.
If I end up in a situation that resembles the latter, take me up a mountain, let me enjoy one last look over the horizon, and then cock a shotgun to the back of my head and pull the trigger. Please. This is your written permission.
So when the word “longevity” is used from here on out, think about healthspan and lifespan. We want to live for longer in a healthy state and then decline and die rapidly with as little pain and suffering as possible for ourselves and our loved ones.
The Five Levers
I think of levers as the tools we have at our disposal that we can decide to utilize or ignore. In all domains of our lives, we can tilt the odds of success in our favour by distinguishing the key components to success, educating ourselves on them, and then taking the actions that will yield our desired results.
In the case of designing a lifestyle that is geared towards longevity, there are five key levers, along with their respective sub-levers, that are crucial to success.
Time Restricted Feeding (TRF)
Dietary Restriction (DR)
Caloric Restriction (CR)
Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Stability, Flexibility & Mobility
Mental & Emotional Health
Distress tolerance & Emotional resilience
Mindfulness & Stillness
Fulfillment & Happiness
A Note on Order
The five levers are ordered based on the sequence in which I recommend you approach them. There are two benefits that come from tackling longevity in this order. You will increase the likelihood of successful habit adoption and, through leveraging the Pareto distribution, you will see disproportionately strong results for the relatively minimal time and energy invested.
Forming new habits or breaking old ones is difficult, there are even entire books written on the subject. Although I won’t dive into habit psychology yet, the ordering of these levers is based on the idea that habits should be formed by starting in small, relatively easy places. This will allow us to build the momentum that is required to break deeply ingrained negative habits to make room for positive ones that are more challenging to develop.
Developing new habits with this incremental approach is much more likely to yield positive, long-term results as opposed to going haywire and deciding to adopt the lifestyle of a Navy SEAL which will almost certainly lead to failure and disappointment.
Understandably, everyone has different needs which will dictate the levers you place your focus on first and the unique approach that you will take to tackle them. Wherever you’re starting, I strongly encourage you to focus on one area at a time to prevent overwhelm and minimize failure. The reason I advise caution in trying to develop more than one habit at once is that it may not only result in failure but will likely come back to haunt you.
Trying to completely overhaul your lifestyle will leave you overwhelmed and defaulting back to old habits. To make matters worse, you may develop a new mental roadblock causing you to hesitate in coming back to these positive habits because of your initial negative experience. Perform a self-analysis to determine your current habits in these five domains, start small and move down the ladder sequentially once you feel confident in your newly developed habits.
The Pareto distribution, commonly referred to as the 80/20 Principle, states that 80% of the outcomes stem from 20% of the causes. In practice, the ratio is often skewed even higher, ranging anywhere from 90/10, 95/5, or 99/1. This principle has many practical applications:
Business: 80% of sales come from the top 20% of salespeople.
Agriculture: 80% of fruit harvested comes from 20% of plants.
Wealth: 99% of wealth belongs to 1% of people.
Science: 80% of discoveries come from 20% of countries and within those countries 1% of scientists.
Applied to longevity, the first three levers (sleep, nutrition, and exercise) will generate at least 90% of our desired outcomes, if not more. Therefore, to maximize our results for invested time the first three levers should be where we first place our focus. Breaking this down even further, focusing on particular aspects of sub-levers within sleep, nutrition and exercise will generate a disproportionate amount of our results within those domains. To practice the principle I’m preaching, future posts will be released in sequence of where the majority of your focus should be placed in order to maximize results for invested time.
Additionally, taking positive action in one domain will naturally spill over into the others. If you start to develop healthy sleep habits, for example, you will have more energy and be more cognizant of your decisions throughout the day resulting in healthier diet choices. If you’re sleeping well and eating healthy, you’ll not only feel like you have the energy to exercise but will also feel motivated to continue making good choices through the momentum you’ve built!
To summarize, approaching these levers in the order in which they’re listed will greatly contribute to successful habit adoption by starting small and building massive momentum and, by leveraging the 80/20 Principle, will yield disproportionate results for the time invested.
Onwards & Upwards
The aim of this framework is to help structure our thinking toward making health-conscious decisions that are geared towards longevity. By stepping back and looking at the full picture of our health, not just fat and muscle composition, we can explore the tools which will help us to live longer and feel more healthy, vital, and full of energy on a day-to-day basis. Our overarching goal of developing habits that tend to each lever on a daily basis will take diligence and hard work. On top of this already challenging aim, we’re bombarded on a daily basis with messaging telling us to be perfect. At the end of the day, we’re shooting for overall well-being and it's up to you to understand your current needs and find your unique pathway, along these levers, that will help you get there. Take it in stride. Be accountable and disciplined, but not harsh on yourself. Live a life that makes you proud, joyous, and excited and, with guided action, the rest will fall into place.
Future posts will dive into different aspects of these levers and provide you with actionable practices along with some basic supporting science or simple explanations, so you don’t just know what to do but also why you’re doing it. I encourage you to only read what you find useful or practical, based on your current habits and prior knowledge, and skip the rest.
Next week we’ll cover Lever #1: Sleep, its four sub-levers, and simple practices for better sleep.
My goal is to help you live a longer and healthier life, so feel free to hit reply or connect with me on Twitter to let me know how I’m doing.