8/2/15

Purpose and Pleasure



Purpose and Pleasure are the two points on the pendulum of happiness.  Remember that both exist and each has its own time and place on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  This reminder allows you to work your butt off, either professionally or with training, and not think "I'm working my life away," and it also allows you to unwind, do nothing, maybe even engage in some debauchery without thinking, "I need to get my act together."  Do both.  "Keeping the balance" doesn't mean trying to have purpose and pleasure at all times throughout a day, week or month (that's impossible).  You have to let that pendulum swing to both sides and stay there for extended periods of time.  However you choose to define "extended" is up to you...hourly, daily, weekly, etc.  Just be sure that pendulum swings back the other way at some point!  

The same is true for healthy interpersonal relationships.  Meaning, a relationship of any sort, whether it’s with siblings, coworkers, lovers or close friends, is rarely going to have a 50-50 split of responsibility, effort and energy.  Sometimes you’ll be carrying 80% of the load and other times the other people in your life will be carrying more than half the share.  What’s important is that at the end of the year there’s a mutually perceived balance in the aspects of the relationship that matter most.  As long as you know this in advance, then you’re better able to surf the ebb and flow of the different waves that enter the relationship.  Once again, we’re reminded that “knowledge is power” and “foresight is more powerful than hindsight”.  So, “keeping the balance” among any facets of your life should not involve constantly trying to ensure an equal share/split among those facets at all times, because to do so is what drives many people bonkers.  Let the ebb and flow happen.  

As it relates to training, this is why I love the periodization model of training theory (chapter 2 of my book) because it allows for this ebb and flow to occur over a period of many weeks, months or even the entire year.  We don’t need to, nor should we, try to focus on all elements of training in one week or one season.  Otherwise, overtraining and mental burnout are inevitable.  This is the main service I offer with DCRC: The mental approach to training and racing, as in knowing when to prioritize certain types of training and workouts and when to back off in favor of other activities.  All the while, periodization is geared to keeping you injury free, happy and reaching a peak level of fitness in the fall, which is racing season (running season).  You can’t be all things, all the time in relation to your training.  The body can’t handle it and/or you’ll mentally burn out.

I read a fascinating research article a few months ago about the experience of a midlife crisis.  Why it happens, who it happens to, how intense it becomes, and how long it lasts (if at all).  It was a very good empirical review of the topic.  Regret is often what rests at the base of a midlife crisis (if someone is to have one), and it’s found that those with less regret tend to fly right past any such crisis, and that makes logical sense to me.  So, to come full circle in talking about purpose and pleasure, make sure you’re not living with any regrets.  Avoid feeling regretful or guilty when highly engaged in either purpose or pleasure.

Additionally, don’t dwell on past mistakes or past negativity.  Learn from those experiences if/when you recall them, but don’t dwell…there’s a big difference between those two different ways of recalling the past.  Similarly, don’t get caught up on not having accomplished something that was once a goal.  If you still think you can achieve it, then sure, “never give up on your hopes and dreams.”  But if another reality quite simply states (objectively) that you can’t achieve it or get it back, then that’s a bit harder to move past, but you must move past it.  I always thought I’d compete in the Olympic Games, but so much for that.  At least I have 8 more lives to try again.  There’s lots of clich├ęs and sappy songs about how to "move on,” and I can dig it.  

Allow yourself a pleasurable life and don’t feel guilty about it.  Being selfish is very highly correlated with happiness, but the key there is to change the definition of the word "selfish."  As long as you’re not harming others or detracting from their happiness to gain your own, then this display of selfishness may actually be needed for your own happiness.  Otherwise, how often are you needlessly depriving yourself of pleasure and happiness!?  Keep the pendulum on both ends of the spectrum at various points.  As a coach, I don’t want a healthy, active lifestyle to detract from your purpose or your pleasure; rather, my aim is for your training to contribute a little bit to your purpose and your pleasure.

Train hard!

Mike