Healthy Tension and Duality

Alcatraz swim exitI like to say that you have to be two-headed in all things to be happy. Having two opposing things be equally important, and yet pulling on each other, creates balance. The tension between things is healthy.

Back in 2004, I took on my fitness after years of weight gain and desk work. I created new ways of acting and registered myself in my first triathlon. I was completely inspired by my new goal and ways of acting. But, I was also suddenly struck by how painful it was to run and how much I hated swimming, especially in cold ocean water. I was experiencing the tension between my goal and my current athletic condition. 

If I had kept my focus only on the first triathlon goal and not the training discomfort, I might have improved my fitness, accomplished the goal, and still not really have become a triathlete. You see, there are people that have completed a triathlon but would never call themselves a triathlete. There’s an important difference between doing or having something, and being something.

I had to learn to love to swim and run, to truly become a triathlete. I did overcome the pain and discomfort of the long runs and cold swims, and have gone on to complete about 30 triathlons and endurance races. I don’t hesitate to call myself a triathlete.

Vishen Lakhiani of Mind Valley says that to be happy, we need a powerful goal for the future and yet we also need to be grateful and peaceful in the present moment. I have noticed that when I coach people who are only focused on being content in the present, they seem a little loopy to others and soon become unhappy in ways that they have trouble identifying. On the other side, I notice that people who are too goal focused seem quick to anger with the people and things around them in the present. I coach each type in different ways to find their ideal tension and have skill for both the future and the present.

I’m working now on several big projects that are very challenging. When I get too frustrated and impatient with my big projects, I stop and appreciate the people and things around me right now.

Here are the questions I ask myself:

  1. What big things am I working on now for the future in my professional life, my health and fitness, my romantic relationship, my family, my communities, and for my spirituality? 
  2. What do they mean to me and why are they inspiring?
  3. What do I love and appreciate right now in all these same areas? 
  4. Who do I need to communicate these things to?

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