When you’ve been training a long time you may realise you’re at the limits of what you can achieve. Or perhaps you’re at the limits of what you can achieve with your available resources.
How can you be happy knowing that?
There is a constant battle between progress and contentment, a battle between comfort and growth. And it goes far beyond what you can achieve with training and nutrition. That’s why I will write more generally here, even though the same principles apply.
How to accept yourself
“Jettison the judgement and you are saved.”
Acceptance is about knowing who you are right now, examining your life without judgement. You must reach into the deepest, darkest parts of your soul, the places where you hide the pain, the fear, and all the things you hate about yourself. When you confront these things they will lose their power over you.
Most of us go through life accepting who we are passively. We assume that our personality is fixed. We believe we are a certain type of person because that’s who we’ve always been.
Actively accepting yourself is about recognising and choosing who you want to be, not who you think you are. You see what you have the power to change and what you do not. You must learn to separate what you are from your environment, and from the things that happen to you.
There was a time where I hated everything about myself. I was isolated: no friends, and no life outside of my own mind. I let my body waste away. And when I was in the depths of my depression I thought there was no escape for me.
I was miserable, desperate, but that wasn’t enough.
I needed to take action.
I saw clearly the things that were holding me back, the weaknesses, and the limitations. Then I saw that I could change them if I worked hard enough. And I had support from my family that enabled me to do it.
“The directing mind is that which wakes itself, adapts itself, makes itself of whatever nature it wishes, and makes all that happens to appear in the way it wants.”
You have a directing mind: use it.
Create your inner fortress and govern it by your own rules.
When people tell you that you should be happy with who you are, don’t believe them. You don’t have to be happy with the way you are, but you do have to understand it before you can change it.
Decide who you are and who you want to be first, and only then be happy with your choices.
Because how can you be truly happy with choices that you didn’t make, or rewards you didn’t earn?
Being happy all the time isn’t the solution to your problems.
Don’t search for happiness in all that you do. Don’t strive for mindless positivity. Search for truth instead.
“Flourishing is different from happiness and it doesn’t always feel good. Behavior that might not immediately make us happy – scrubbing a sick person’s bathroom or diving into a freezing lake to save a drowning dog – ultimately enriches us and the world. Many of our most painful experiences – unrequited love, loss of a beloved relative, professional failure – clarify our values, sharpen our determination and deepen our compassion.”
Continuing to grow
Growth only comes through struggle, through stress and discomfort, and expanding your boundaries.
Being comfortable with who you are must be a dynamic, evolving state.
Comfort is about accepting more from life, but not demanding more to be happy.
That means as you accept the boundaries of what you can do right now, you also learn to expand them.
Example. You have social anxiety, you are uncomfortable meeting new people. Either you can never meet anyone, or you make an effort to expose yourself more and face the discomfort.
“An individual human existence should be like a river – small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.”
And to continue growing you must know what enough means to you: enough money, enough free time, enough friends…
When you play chess you must know when to exchange and sacrifice pieces, to give them up temporarily for a stronger position.
That applies to your life too.
Maintaining a physique, a business, or a relationship still requires effort. Maybe not as much effort as it took to build, but you must work to stay where you are.
That means you may need to relax and let go of something, believing that you can get it back again. And you must trust yourself to do that.
Don’t try to hold on to everything at once. That isn’t balance, it’s greed.
(Or perhaps it’s fear.)
Example. When you’re growing a business you may not have the time to train the way you used to. Your diet may suffer. But you haven’t lost the ability to focus and use your experience to build your physique back up when the time is right.
When you go through times where you’re not happy with progress in one area, when you know you could improve, look at what else is going on: are you progressing in other areas?
Where do I go from here?
Start by looking inwards. Examine your life and choose who you want to be before you accept who you are right now. Don’t rely on inertia to carry you through life. Decide if the person you were at school, at university, or at work is who you really want to be.
Think about what enough means to you. Pick a specific area in your life where you’re not satisfied and think about what you really need to make you happy. Don’t seek perfection.
Expand your boundaries over time. Acquire a new skill, a new interest, or work on an area where you feel limited. Feel free to let go of something you’ve mastered if you need to.