Abs Don't Make You Happy
(This is a repost from December 2019)
WARNING : Abs Don't Make You Happy
When I was younger, I was pretty overweight. Food was an escape and a distraction for me, and there was a lot I tried to escape and distract myself from. Eventually I got fed up (literally) and decided to pursue fitness and change my body.
14 years later, I have the body that I wanted when I was that overweight, insecure kid - the abs, the big round shoulders, etc that I was trying to emulate from the fitness models I saw on the internet and in magazines. This physique, I imagined, would be the key to confidence and a much happier life.
But what a shock to realize that having abs doesn't make you a more compassionate or patient person, that being able to squat 400+ lbs isn't going to lighten the load of your past shadows, that broad shoulders and big arms doesn't help you build authentic, vulnerable relationships, and that having a strict diet all the time doesn't make you cool whatsoever.
What I did gain from my pursuits of strength and conditioning were a powerful work ethic and deep connection to discipline. I formed relationships with a community of amazing, intelligent, and inspiring people committed to self improvement. I created a new paradigm around food and eating in an ethical and self loving way. And perhaps most importantly, I was brought to Yoga and its philosophy which has radically changed my spiritual life and perspective on life as a whole.
Oh yeah, and I have a career as a strength coach, but ya know...
Most of our goals and ambitions, upon closer inspection, don't often come from a place of authentic interest - rather, they spring from a place of conditioned insecurity and a feeling of lack within ourselves.
This is why I'm skeptical of the "Live your Dreams" paradigm - whose dreams are you chasing? Where did those dreams come from? If it resembles anything remotely close to the copy in a Facebook ad then you're probably not on the right track.
I have the body I used to dream of, but feel less identified with my physical form than I ever have in my life. I enjoy my body, and appreciate what I can do with it - but I don't think it's the whole of who I am.
Money, superficial fitness goals, fashion, sex, cars, the idealization of travel are perennially trendy, default options to have as pre-programmed goals. They don't represent a person's unique interests or talents. Money, for example, is a means that is mistaken for an end in itself. Unless you're living a life you thoroughly enjoy, money is just going to be funding your delusional future projection of happiness, which is going to look like working for more and more money.
What I've found makes ME most happy is not when I make a huge sale, after I've hit my goal body fat percentage, or got a lot of attention on social media. Yeah, there's a rush and enjoyment of all those things, but they aren't the foundation of my lasting joy. Those things fade very quickly - it's like trying to build a house out of crumbling wet sand.
To me, this is how happiness has become my default :
- Value connection and relationships. Consider the joy of other people you love more than you think of your own personal gain. Give gifts, make calls, host dinners, get together and do nothing. Love - real, authentic love - adds more to your life than anything else ever could.
- On the other side, never EVER hold another person to the expectation that they should, or even can make you happy. That's not their job.
- Take care of yourself first. While your relationships are a top priority, your cup needs to be full before you can pour yourself into others. Make fitness a ritual of self love, spend time outside, consume positive media content (stop listening to sad songs when you're sad!), go to therapy, Meditate, cook for yourself, don't skimp on your self maintenance.
- Slow down. Replace as many compulsive behaviors you can with acts of deliberation and consciousness. Stop wasting your time on cheap, mindless stimulation like endless memes and scarfing down handfuls of food you barely chewed and tasted. Feel the warmth and softness of the hands you're holding, smell the soft fragrance of pine needles on the crisp winter air, taste the nuances of your foods and experience all its textures. Become sensitive to life and actually experience it. This alone is radically life changing - because now you're a part of life.
- Develop a spiritual practice, whatever your denomination or inclination. Even if you're so disinterested in spirituality that you'll only practice meditating "because this one peer reviewed medical study demonstrated that participants lowered blood pressure and cortisol markers". Have time in your life for self discovery and the exploration of your own consciousness.
- Do things you actually enjoy doing, not things that you think you should enjoy doing. It took me forever to realize that I don't want to be a Rockstar, I just love playing music. I don't need to have a million followers, I just love to write and share my perspectives. I don't need my canvases hanging in a gallery or sold for thousands of dollars to feel the bliss of painting in a flow state.
- Be sincere, but don't take yourself so f'ing seriously.
There's a lot more to the ephemeral big picture of "happiness", but on my journey, those are some of the biggest bang-for-your-buck ingredients that I've added to my personal recipe.
Abs not required 💪🏻