Eliz Greene

Please excuse me – I need to rant.

September often brings the roll-out of new workplace wellness efforts.  Believe me, I am all for creating an environment to support healthy employees.  Today a reader sent this picture:

You don't have to be better than everybody else. You just have to be better than you have ever been.
You don’t have to be better than everybody else.
You just have to be better than you have ever been.

Are You Kidding?

The goal of wellness message should be to encourage healthy behavior.  This one made the reader angry.  Me too!

Better than I’ve ever been?  All it motivates me to do is scream, “Screw it! (or something more Erica Napoletano – esque) Why should I even try?”

Is this a reasonable goal for most people?

Really, who writes this stuff?

I can only imagine someone in their twenties with the possibility of “better than ever” ahead.

I remember my twenties, and even early 30s. As a professional dancer and choreographer, I was in pretty darned good shape.

In my late 30’s and early 40’s (after pregnancy and my heart attack) I ran recreational triathlons.  Lots of personal bests there.

Today, as I approach 50, I am reminded every morning by each creak and groan of the price my body paid dancing and why those triathlons are no longer an option.

Screw you “Better than I’ve ever been”!

Thanks for reminding me that those years are behind me. Rather than motivating me, you make me want to go back to bed! (As an aside, I think this messaging is morale deflating as well considering how many employers are asking workers to do more with less.)

How often do you see wellness messaging that makes you want to give up?

Every day I receive email press releases for products people would like me to cover on my blog.  You may notice that doesn’t happen very often.  Most of these products, diet plans, or exercise programs promise a magic bullet or involve something most people can’t fit into their already busy lives.

  • How many of us can afford the special berry only grown on the sunny side of a distant mountain? No? So why should we try?
  • How many of us can carve out two hours per day to get sweaty?  No? So why should we try?
  • How many of us can afford a personal trainer, chef, guru, or coach?  No? So why should we try?

We are all born with a unique instrument – our body.  If there was a one-size-fits-all solution, we would all be doing it.  The real key is to find equilibrium for you body and find ways to stay there.  Figuring out what you need to eat (or not eat), how much to move, and how to manage stress in ways that fit your daily life is the answer.

  • Maybe biking to work will work for you, but if not – find a different way.
  • Maybe it’s not about some restrictive diet – maybe it is about not having a cookie at lunch EVERY day.  (Or not having a cookie FOR lunch)

My wellness message is a question:

What did you do for YOU today?

Small things. Every day. Simple.

Ranting complete.

I feel better now.

It’s your turn.  Please share in a comment below wellness messaging you see – does it motivate you or make you want to give up?  I’d love to see what is out there and hear your reactions.  Thanks!

Women’s Wellness Speaker Eliz Greene works with busy people to improve heart health, so they can live longer, feel better, and stress less.

She is a heart attack survivor and the author of the Busy Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Heart as well as 3 other books on wellness. She writes one of the top 50 health and wellness blogs and is a sought-after women’s wellness & stress management keynote speaker. Eliz was recently named one of the Top Ten Online Influencers on Stress and is the Heart Disease Expert on Answers.com


About Eliz Greene

Eliz Greene survived a heart attack at age 35 while seven months pregnant with twins. Her down-to-earth strategies to manage stress and improve heart health and reduce stress are used by thousands of busy people all over the world. She is a motivational wellness speaker, author, and job stress researcher. Visit elizgreene.com to book Eliz for your next event.

18 Responses to “Are You Kidding? A Rant About Wellness Messaging”

    • Exactly Barbara, We do it anyway – and celebrate we can! I just don’t like to be made to feel that it isn’t enough!

  • Those kinds of platitudes and empty words just infuriate me! And yet…I see them posted all over workplaces and all over social media. I was on a wellness committee at my former workplace – we had lots of motivational platitudes like this posted in our workout area and I found them irritating and trite. I threatened to resign from the wellness committee when they started talking about removing all the candy bars from the vending machines. Really? Is that really the solution? Punish people? Tell them what they can and cannot have? I found it completely DEmotivating. I am human. I am middle aged. I want to remain healthy and BALANCED in all areas of my life. Balance means having the freedom to eat a candy bar every now and then. The kind of thinking you highlight here simply turns most people off. I am so grateful for folks like you with a realistic and balanced approach to wellness from a real-life perspective.

  • No Pain, No Gain – This was my mantra as a high school and college basketball player and I too had a triathlon career. Loved all of those experiences and wouldn’t trade them, for the most part. The part I would trade is my current knee, ankle and shoulder pain.

    Both my pain and my gain are different today!

    I am more about fat, but fit today!

    • Oh – don’t get me started on that one!! My joints certainly wish I would have paid a little more attention to the pain signals they were sending me way back when….

  • This is an awesome rant, Eliz! Our culture is too focused on ultra-competition and on demanding perfection. Your message really resonates and it’s the only way to a saner, healthier, and happy existence. Thank you!

  • Liz, Bob and I completely disagree more with this rant. Neither of us reads into the wellness poster as being un-motivating nor “reminds us of our youth.” I look at my own personal past and think about when I was 20, smoked too much, drank too much and stayed out too late, ate two burrito supremes, no onion and EXTRA sour cream from Taco Bell – today at 44, with the knowledge that I have I make daily green smoothies with Kale and Blueberries, we eat vegetables with every meal – prepared in healthy ways – not canned; lean proteins and practice yoga for self-centering – do we believe we are better than we were – you betcha.

    Do you think that Diane Nyad who is currently 64 and swam from Cuba to Florida is better than the young Diane Nyad of 28 who first tried and failed? We do and I bet she does too.

    We believe that wellness is more than only physical activity – wellness is about making better decisions regarding physical activity, diet, sleep, personal relationships and getting rid of old bad habits – does this make us better than any one else? No, but it makes us better than we ever were.

    Bob and Kelly

    • Hey Kelly and Bob! Great to hear from you and to hear you are doing so well! It is also wonderful to have different opinions in the comments too. I think however, you prove my point. You and Bob aren’t the intended audience for the sign. You are already doing the best you can for yourselves every day and yes, you sure as heck should be proud of yourselves!

      The sign is intended to motivate people who aren’t. It is fantastic that you have found ways to make you feel better than ever, but better than ever isn’t a realistic goal for everyone. I celebrate that fact I was able to get out for a 45 minute walk with Clay tonight and neither one of us is in too much pain.

      You are right – wellness isn’t just about exercise. It is a combination of healthy habits to be sure. My point is that even if your personal best isn’t possible anymore, you should still work to be the best you can be. Today. Every day… and feel good about it.

      Thanks for your comment and, again – great to hear you are both well.

  • Some people just don’t know what they’re talking about. I see a lot of these motivational signs on social sharing sites. It leaves me indifferent. In most likelihood I have gone through more gains and pains than folks posting those messages. I listen to my body and my heart.

  • I cannot agree with Kelly and Bob more. But also I believe the difference in how various people view the message below directly relates to their mental health.

    “You don’t have to be better than everybody else.
    You just have to be better than you have ever been”.

    I would view this statement’s purpose was to simply get us to stop comparing ourselves to others. It is not a goal, it is about changing our frame of mind. If a general wellness message makes us upset, I think we really need to look at what is causing the anger inside us. We have to stop comparing ourselves to those who are younger, or even ourselves at a younger age, putting others down to prove a point. Work with what you have; any health issues or struggles you have been through, use them to fuel your motivation.

    Completely agree when you say “it is about the small things” you do every day that can make a difference in your own health! We often think we have to for an example go to the gym every day for an hour, when in fact even 15 minutes per day of elevated heart rate could contribute to our overall health in different ways.

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