THE BLOG
05/19/2014 04:39 pm ET Updated Jul 19, 2014

What Does Today Owe Tomorrow?

A recent New York Times headline about sustainability asked this question: "What Does Tomorrow Owe Today?"

The article continued in a more provocative devil's advocate tone to ask "What have future generations done for us?"

It's an age-old ethical question: Do we take care of the Earth for future inhabitants because it's the right thing to do?

It's also an economical debate: Do we spend the hard-earned dollars in our own pocket trying to make Earth "better" -- whatever that means -- for future generations? And if we do, is this a worthwhile investment? And like I always do, I found striking similarities between fitness and sustainability.

The controversy about our planet's future condition is a macrocosm of the debate we each face every morning when we wake up in our own body: Do I work out today so that I can live a longer life -- a thousand years from now? And so I can have a healthier, "better" life? Whatever that means.

Scientists have struggled for years to predict what might happen to the earth, physically, if we keep pouring toxins into the atmosphere. Other scientists have also more confidently been able to predict what will happen to our bodies if we keep pouring delicious toxins into our arteries that clog them, like trans fats and junk food.

Both types of research, on a climatic level and on a bodily level, suggest that the future benefits of making changes today outweigh the price. In other words, it's worth the effort. As Nike likes to say, "Just Do It."

There is nothing the EPA or a gym or a doctor can do to return something that is truly gone forever, but today is an opportunity to make good choices and to do what we can right now to make our tomorrow more worthwhile.

Jeff Bezo, founder of Amazon, called this type of living regret minimization. He was able to make the decision to walk away from his steady job on Wall Street to start Amazon.com using this strategy.

Project yourself out to the end of your life. Imagine you're at the end looking back and ask yourself, "Which choice minimizes the amount of regret I have? Once you find that option, take it." In other words, take the option you'll regret least even if you fail.

What does today owe tomorrow? Nothing. But if we give today our best effort, then tomorrow will reap the benefits. This applies not only to fitness but also to our life.