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Sticks versus Carrots

Posted On November 1, 2016 @ 12:00 am By: Kellie Cowles

The way I see it, when it comes to physical fitness, people are motivated by either sticks or carrots.  Sticks are all the negative things that chase behind you threatening what can happen by not taking care of yourself, things like morbid obesity, heart disease and diabetes.  They are also the things you can lose by not staying ahead of the aging curve, things like the ability to climb stairs, use bath tubs, pick up little children, or plant your own gardens.  Being driven by sticks can be very motivating and highly effective, at least until living a life of fear becomes so normal that you just roll over and accept it… or until you pass through the fear and move on to life affirming motivators…  what I call carrots.

Carrots are all the wonderful “privileges” that are only open to people of reasonable health and fitness.  On one end of the spectrum they can be as simple and heartening as teaching grand children to ride bicycles and volunteering to plant trees, or at the other end of the spectrum they can be competing in formal events like masters weightlifting or running half marathons.  Somewhere in the middle is the average persons sweet spot…. the one that opens the door of choice and the world of adventures.

From climbing to the top of a Tikal ruin in the rainforest of Guatemala:


Photo courtesy of


or kayaking the Fox River in New Zealand:


Photo courtesy of

to snorkeling at Xel-Ha Park in Quintana Roo:


Photo courtesy of

While adventures like these are far from extreme, they do still require a base level of fitness that has to be built and maintained.  Without that base, all you get are tour buses, NatGeo and the pictures of someone else’s super cool vacation.

I’ve been on both sides… for many years I smoked and lived on venti mocha’s while running from the stick of lung cancer (which killed my mother) and diabetes (which killed her sister). The fear was eventually motivating enough to choose life and health and I made some necessary habit changes.  Over time something completely unexpected happened… with the increasing physical ability started to come opportunities to the world of carrots…  Whitewater rafting, hiking, canyoneering, competitions and milestones. 

Thus are the simple beginnings of a whole new life.  It doesn’t matter what stick motivates you in the beginning, as long as it gets you started…  And remember that on the other side of all the fear, doubt and effort are your carrots… you get to choose them, you get to work for them and best of all… you get to eat your fill of them!  


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