I just have to get through this week of work… When school gets out for the summer… After graduation… Once I get a new job… When the kids are out of the house… If I get rid of this little bit of belly fat… When the scale hits that magic number… Once I hit 10 percent body fat… After I get my first muscle-up, run my first marathon, etc… Yep, that’s when. That’s when it’s gonna happen. The planets will align and I will FINALLY be happy…
We live in a world where we are CONSTANTLY ‘ON’. Moving from one thing to the next at warp speed, many times not even knowing or understanding what or why we’re doing something. It’s just going through the motions that society tells us we need to go through to reach certain standards and bench marks. We spend so much time focusing on things that are supposed to make us successful and ‘happy’. I see it every day in the clients that I work with, in my friends, my family, and yes – I too am guilty as charged – we’re all looking for, waiting for, that perfect time when we seemingly have all of the pieces in place and life is nothing but sunshine and roses. Now, let’s veer off to the left here. Think about little kids – their smiles, their carefree attitudes, their GENUINE happiness. How do they do that? They’re not worried about their hammy little legs, their chubby cheeks or little belly. They couldn’t care less if they can string 50 pull-ups in a row or if their deadlift is a certain weight. I mean really, have you seen them crawl and walk? Seriously, getting from the coffee table to Dad’s arms is a downright accomplishment – to hell with a marathon. Give the little whipper-snappers an empty box and it’s like you’ve created a state of euphoria. So, when does it happen? When do we stop loving and living life and start chasing the ‘dangling the carrot’? When did we lose that spark, that GENUINE, deep down joy? Is it still in there and why do we try so hard to achieve something that’s a gift to us every day? That leads us to the million dollar question – “Why is it so easy to forget how to be happy?”
Every day I get emails from people wanting to lean out, get ripped, put on 20 pounds of muscle, make it to the games, win triathlons and/or marathons, etc. Many times these individuals are unhappy with their progress or lack thereof. We’ve become a society that runs on instant gratification – we want what we want and we want it NOW! We live in a constant state of fear – what if I have this little bit of belly fat next year, what if my ‘skinny pants’ still look painted on next month? What if I can’t do a muscle-up by the time next year’s Open rolls around? We’re afraid and we’re always either running from or to something that is supposedly going to push us into a state of euphoric happiness. But wait a minute… What happens when we actually get to that ‘happy place’? Then what? I know, you’re all like, duh Amy – we’ll be happy… But will you really? I think it’s time for a story (if you don’t’ feel the same way, deal with it – because you’re getting one and you WILL like it…). In my past I was a distance and trail runner and to be honest, I wasn’t too bad at it… (No, I am not bragging. I’m trying to make a point here, just stick with me.) I won a 27.3 mile, 5,000 foot vertical gain and loss trail run, a marathon, several ½ marathons, a handful of 5 and 10K’s and placed in the top 3 in a lot of other races. When I started running, it was fun – something I did to relax and think (I started running in high school – I wrote lots of papers in my head while I ran…) My goal was always to be ‘good’ and win a race. Yep, win A, as in one, race. That’s all it was going to take to make me ‘happy’. Well, that happened my freshman year of high school when I won my first 10K, and guess what? Well, slap me silly and call me Bertha, but I wasn’t happy! Now, I wanted to win more races and there was pressure to perform. When I started running competitively after college it got worse. The better I did, the more I felt I had to run to ‘stay good’. It got to a point where my training was hurting me – injuries, illness, depression… I remember talking to my friend Laura about it. I was telling her how I was scared to quit running because if I did I wouldn’t be good at it anymore (my running ability was NOT an inborn gift – I got lapped running the ½ mile (2 lap race) in the 8th grade and you can stop laughing any time. I assure you, it was not funny…) – I had to work HARD to be good). Laura, (a straight-shooter, much like myself) looked at me and said “so what”, “sure, you won these races and have these trophies – great – but, so what?” Wham! Talk about a reality check. She was right. Trophies, medals, and race wins didn’t make me a better person, or a better friend, and in the end it was hurting me badly. AND – get this little epiphany, a day, week, month, year after the races – NO ONE REMEMBERS or CARES how well you did or what your time was.
Okay, back to the point (yes, there is one – it’s VERY dull, but it’s still a point). We all spend so much time thinking about, worrying about the little things – weight, body composition, how our pants fit, performance, etc. – and we stop actually living and enjoying what’s happening NOW. We want to be in control and we want what everyone else seems to have – the perfect body, job, family, home, life, etc. So, what do we do? We try anything and everything to achieve what will seemingly bring us happiness. Come hell or high water we’re in it until the end – be it intermittent fasting, three a day workouts, carb-backloading, ketogenisis, you name it – we’ll try it because ultimately it’s going to lead to that one thing that will FINALLY make us ‘happy’. We stop trusting our bodies, we stop listening to our minds – instead we do what we see everyone else doing because they’re ‘happy’. Unfortunately the chase for happy is never-ending the ‘dangling carrot’ just keeps moving and we keep chasing it.
It’s time that we all take a (REALLY BIG) step back and remember that happiness can be ours right NOW. I’m not saying that having goals and working toward health is a bad thing – on the contrary – I encourage everyone to do so. What I do want you to do is really figure out if your goals are really going to make you healthy and happy or if they’re just leading you on another wild goose chase? How important are those last 5 pounds, that magic body fat percentage, that 600 pound deadlift, or that sub 2:30 marathon time? Is that stuff really going to make you ‘happy’? Being healthy is a huge part of being happy, but when trying to ‘chase happy’ leads to obsession, fear and harm; healthy is the last thing you’re going to be. And I’d venture to guess that your family and your friends aren’t going to up and disown you if you weigh 140 pounds instead of 135. They aren’t going to love you more when you get that muscle up or finish that marathon. Right now you’ve likely got a whole lot of people that think the sun shines out of your kiester. So, smile, laugh and take a lesson from the kiddos. Stop trying to find happiness in a clothing size, body fat percentage, workout feat or scale number. Just let it happen. Happy is a state of mind – what are you waiting for?
**Disclaimer** I know this may have been a bit touchy-feely and some of you might be a little twitchy now – but “Don’t Worry. Be Happy!” I’ll be back in full Fun-Hating force very soon. But for now – deal with it and SMILE!**