I watched a fascinating programme about longevity on BBC2 the other evening. It featured societies where people tend to live much longer than the average. There was a lot of interesting stuff to come out of it, but what the researchers have found in Japan, has wider implications than for health and longevity. 

In the Okinawa islands, the population routinely expect to live ~ and be healthy ~ well into their nineties. The reasons aren’t totally clear, but it’s thought to be something to do with the traditional soya protein-based diet, and the fact that the people there tend to eat very little by western standards. 

Now here’s what’s interesting… 

The fact that the people thrive on that diet and lifestyle is down to their heredity ~ what their ancestors have experienced and endured throughout the centuries. Their bodies have geared up, and adapted, to thrive on it. If you or I were to take up the same regime, we wouldn’t necessarily get the same results though. 

This is borne out by what happens when the young Okinawa leave the islands and live in the city. When they move to a more western-based lifestyle, not only do they lose all the benefits of their heredity, but they actually fare worse than their contemporaries, who have been brought up in that environment. Their life expectancy actually falls below the average. 

They have evolved to thrive in a completely different environment. Their heredity offers no benefits in the new environment, but massive ones in their natural one. 

I’m sure this is a phenomenon which stretches way beyond the health and longevity arena. We all have skills, attributes and predispositions, and if we’re not getting the results and outcomes we want, it could because we’re applying them in the wrong environment. 

A Formula One car is awe-inspiring on a track, but wouldn’t get you out of your own street in the real world. A 50cc scooter would be totally useless on a motorway, but would get you around the centre of London better than anything else. 

Average natural abilities, applied in the right environment are far better, and more effective, than outstanding abilities applied in the wrong one. 

So are you applying your innate and acquired strengths in the right environment, or are you the proverbial fish out of water…or the Okinawan living on fast food? 

If you’ve ever felt you’ve not achieved as much as you deserve, the answer could lay here. 

 John Harrison


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