9.5 Weeks to Competition: Happiness, stop looking for it.

Happiness-Hands1What does it mean to be happy?  Is it landing a job, marrying a person that you’re madly in love with, or maybe reaching some ideal body shape that we have in our minds.  At times, happiness seems to be reserved for those who can afford it.  We live in a society in which happiness is an illusion, we purchase and consume things to make us momentarily happy, but realize that we will be found wanting in the next best thing.   Many times we take on a new challenge in life because we seek this sense of fulfilment and happiness.  I’m constantly reminded that we need to be joyful, not proud, in the moment we’re living in and not strive to be happy with what’s to come in the future.  Joy leads to the willingness to seek new challenges with a gusto and passion to increase our resident state of happiness.  It’s not the decisions in life that lead to happiness, it’s the ability to appreciate the things we have that ultimately make us happy.

I didn’t start bodybuilding because dissatisfied with my body, nor was I looking for something more in life, and it definitely wasn’t because I was bored. I knew that either the decision to compete or not compete really made little to no difference in my overall happiness in life.  The journey in the past few months, however, has opened my eyes to new experiences and opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I’m assured that if I kept on going without the competition I’d have other experiences and opportunities too that would be different but I don’t dwell on it.  Bodybuilding has become an important part of my life and my identity but it’s not all of me nor will it replace meaningful relationships, community and a passion to make a difference in this world.  This pursuit simply adds more colour to all of these components and increases the level of joy experienced even if, at times, it seems to restrict some of the things I want to do.  One of the biggest contentions that I was battling in my mind when I was trying to make the decision to compete wasn’t how hard the preparation would be but how much it would affect relationships and how others viewed me.  This sport, much like any other, consumes free time and restricts what I can do when I’m hanging out with people.  People may view this as extreme and this was the breaking point for me.  I had these visions of people either abandoning me if I decided to compete or supporting me all the way, initially it seemed like a black and white situation.  I made the decision to compete and it has added so many more quality relationships and a deeper understanding of myself than I would have had before.

I ran across this lecture from Dan Gilbert on the Surprising Science of Happiness that struck a chord with me.  The basic premise of the lecture is that when making choices, our minds believe will make the difference between being happy or absolute misery but the prolonged outcome is that we would still be satisfied with either choice.  Our minds have something called an “Impact Bias” it’s when our minds run through situations and improperly over-rates the difference between the outcomes of a decision.  The brain formulates a right or wrong judgement in when deciding which choice to make.  In most cases, the choice of most outcomes will always lead to the same measure of satisfaction but our minds fool us into thinking that there is a good decision and a bad one.

Gilbert points out that our minds have the ability to synthesize happiness from most situations we just need to stop looking for the “right” decision, make one, and we’ll eventually find satisfaction.  Misery happens when we dwell in disparity.  It’s the would have, should have, could have mentality that screws us up and makes us unhappy and unable to appreciate what we have.  We are wired for joy in the experience of life.  We should chose paths with purpose but don’t dwell too much on what the outcome might bring.  We have a psychological immune system that is able to create happiness but ultimately we need to use it or we lose this ability to create it in various situations.  We need to staunch our fears in order to become free.

Check out the video here:

What decisions are you holding off on because of the impact bias?

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About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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