Wednesday, May 25

Without goals: why is it so difficult to do something for pleasure? | Health & Wellness

meEndurance races would surely feel like forever, even though hellish events like Death Valley’s Badwater or the Saber Marathon might “only” last two to six days. But the planning component can last all year long, and for many, that’s where the real pleasure lies.

For athlete Luke Tyburski, the obvious way to make the planning stage as satisfying as possible was to design his own event. His 2015 Ultimate Triathlon was a 12-day one-man wooded nightmare that took him from Morocco to Monaco, with an average day seeing him run a double marathon and record 322 clicks on the bike. In his five-hour salty swim across the Strait of Gibraltar, his tongue swelled up to twice its usual size. Tyburski ended up running on crutches and was only able to ride his bike with the help of his support team.

I met Australian-born Tyburski, who is now a London-minded track and field coach, when I wrote my book, Everything Harder Than Everyone Else, about people who go to extremes. They are goal-driven people. Some, like Tyburski, grew up in competitive families. Others have a certain natural restlessness. On a modest level, I could relate to this.

Luke Tyburski during an ultra-mouse in the desert.
Luke Tyburski during an ultramarathon.

I am a pathological list maker, always managing projects to get out of a crisis or distracting myself from uncomfortable feelings. Once, to avoid depression, I set a goal to do something new every day for a year, from flying in a glider to blowing things up, and blogging about it. From day one, the sense of focus lifted my spirits, and frankly, there was no time to think too much.

But the paradox that dream catchers and thrill seekers face is that with each achievement, they extinguish the very thing that is giving meaning to their existence, in a cycle of self-destructive desire. That’s what you call a home goal.

Between races, the clinical depression that Tyburski had experienced since he was 20 years old would reappear. He would have been mentally crashed, in debt, overeating, and berating himself for times he could have tried harder. In a desperate attempt to get back to purpose, he compulsively enrolled in more ultramarathons in rapid succession, providing temporary relief. That is also familiar to me. When I finish a book, on some subject that I have come to embody for two years, I have an identity crisis and desperately search for the next big project.

We are rewarded when we aim for goals. Dopamine released when we anticipate achieving or acquiring something, motivates us toward behaviors that are necessary for survival, but researchers have found that gamers get a higher dose of dopamine of a quasi failure than of a victory. Winning and scoring is, in other words, a comparative disappointment after the thrill of the chase.

Another ultra-runner I interviewed, Charlie Engle, a crack user before he became an athlete, told me: “The best thing I ever felt about drugs was actually the acquisition of the drug … Once the binge starts, it’s all downhill from there. “Engle also designs his own epic careers these days, and sees a parallel in the purchasing of a drug and the career planning stage. .

So how do we avoid the inevitable downfall? Kieran Setiya, professor of philosophy at MIT and author of Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, clearly a man with some missions, has taken Aristotle’s initiative to propose the idea that we need both telic (taken from the Greek word telos, which means “goal”) athletic activities and activities in our lives.

Athletic activities are things that we do without fanfare, simply for pleasure, that do not have an end point. They can be enjoyed in the present and can offer more wellness-oriented growth. Singing, gardening, hiking, learning a language, playing sports just for fun – these are all athletic pursuits, as long as you don’t incorporate some kind of mission statement.

Older woman gardening at her home in Perth, Australia.
As long as you don’t suddenly start targeting personal best marks in gardening, athletic pursuits can be seen as complementary to more important goals. Photograph: SolStock / Getty Images

I looked at my life and realized that I don’t have any atelic activity. I’m also not thrilled at the idea of ​​accepting any. In her book, Setiya cautions that some need a shift in perception to see the value of athletic activities.

Tyburski tells me that he has had many conversations over the years with highly motivated people about the unfathomable idea of ​​doing things for sheer pleasure. So he tries, but finds that when he does something athletic, he eventually realizes that he is feeding off his main goal-driven quest. Give the example of the kitchen.

“I love it and can absorb myself in it, but as an athlete and coach, it is nutritious for my body, as well as helping me to feed and repair, and it helps me to establish new recipes that can be useful to pass on to my clients,” he said. Points out.

Book Cover Everything Harder Than All Others

But maybe that’s a viable solution for people who can’t bear not to “do it.” With a little vigilance in our athletic activities to make sure we don’t suddenly start targeting the personal best marks in gardening, perhaps we can see them as a gentle addition to our main hustle and bustle.

These goal-oriented people are good at alternative solutions.

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