Sustainable Joy Healthy goals and consistent work BY: Troy Murphy |July 2016
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We want happiness; we want joy. These wants are natural; with a reality based approach, we can increase joys. I suppose most should enjoy life a little more. We tend to get stuck, ruminating on difficulties and focusing on unfulfilled dreams. We contemplate the pleasures of having more but neglect the work required, focusing on the end but avoiding the treacherous paths to get there. We need some adjustments through better planning and courageous work.
Goals are necessary to achieve healthy change. Goals motivate, pushing to new heights. While improvements bring joys, The achievement alone is not enough. When we properly focus on the work, living life—working, growing changing—brings joys. We can’t expect much happiness from trudging through painful paths to achieve some fabulous reward. Most rewards quickly fade, leaving us in the same state of being. We enjoy more satisfaction from the contemplation and the work than from the final achievement. The final achievement is the crescendo often followed by a steady waning of the positive feelings. We become accustom to the new height, no longer delighted by our gain.
Perhaps J.K. Rowling was addressing this when she wrote, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
I spent several years training clients at a local gym—my hobby job. I discovered many have incredibly high goals: I want to run a marathon; I want to lose one hundred pounds; I want six-pack abs. These are laudable goals, achievable by most; but require intense and consistent work. I noticed the needed work often was not considered when making the goal. Attention was focused on accomplishment, sparking joyful thoughts of how grand life would be one-hundred pounds lighter. I’m in Vegas this week for a class. Last night on the plane, my mind wandered to winning a jackpot. The thought expanded to how I would spend the money, cut back on overtime, and enjoy a more financially secure life. The thoughts were quite pleasurable. As of today, I haven’t yet entered a casino. The dream, while pleasurable, was unrealistic.
If a passing positive feeling is what we seek--dream away, the mission is accomplished. But if we desire to achieve that dream, we must move into reality. If we want the joys of greater health through weight loss, we must jump on the treadmill and skip a few desserts. As far as my financial security, the jackpot is fanciful, chasing riches on a gaming table is futile, and reality (statistics promise) is I will lose much more than I will win. The goal of financial security is not misguided; just the plan to pursue security at a blackjack table is.
"But if we desire to achieve that dream, we must move into reality."
Usually in the early moments of contemplation, we fail to consider the difficulties that lie in the path ahead, obstacles will disrupt plans and discourage attainment. These thoughts are not as pleasant; we often avoid them. We simply visualize the glorious attainment, bask in the dream; I will be rich; I will be thin. But our visualizations lack details, conveniently skipping essential requirements. We see the benefit without the costs. Losing a hundred pounds isn’t accomplished without sweat—lots of it. We shed the fat with thousands of hours of work, and months of forgoing favorite foods. When the difficulties are ignored, reality surprises expectations, neurons fire in unexpected displeasure. When the Asics hit the treadmill, our lungs burn and muscles ache, the goal loses its sparkle. These goals are abandoned.
Some goals are unrealistic, we desire what we can’t obtain. Burning precious energy, working towards dead-end dreams. A necessary step towards goal achievement is some skepticism, exposing the preposterousness and recognizing potential.
The crystal ball is blurry. We can’t see change through from beginning to end. We must march forward, learning along the path. Unseen setbacks, misguided choices, and confrontations with personal limits can discourage and overwhelming. We must be prepared to face the unknown. We only gain intimate knowledge of all that is entailed in change when we begin. Until then, our dreams are just guessing what it takes and what it will be like.
We never are blessed with perfect visions of the future—life is too unpredictable. But we can get closer. When vision is completely askew, reality dampens the enjoyment of the process of change. The path, remember, is a source of more sustainable joy. As we stumble down the path, we gain insights. We encounter problems we didn’t imagine—no matter how detailed the initial vision. Unplanned setbacks and obstacles are inevitable. After thoughtful preparation, we tie up those running shoes, hop on the treadmill, and enjoy a healthy run.