Since I promised some thoughts on this platform, I thought I’d share a take-away from a book I just finished: The Passion Paradox by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. They’re the guys who wrote Peak Performance which I know some in this group have read. This one is about how Passion can be both a blessing and a curse and how we can work towards keeping our passions healthy.
What I found interesting was when they were explaining how we evolved as a species to be drawn to the pursuit of goals. Our brains release dopamine when we are working towards a goal. We do not get a great dose of feel good chemicals when we achieve a goal though. Only in the pursuit. We evolved this way because probably those humans whose brains were wired the opposite way sat and were happy with their one achievement for the rest of their lives and then starved to death and never passed on their genes. Only those who were never satisfied and kept pursuing the next thing kept achieving things like getting food, building tools and shelters, etc… Since our brains are wired to release dopamine when we’re pursuing goals, we keep working towards things because it feels good. (An interesting aside: some of us have lower dopamine sensitivity than others – for example, people with ADD or ADHD. These people have to do MORE to get the same feeling of satisfaction. These types of people tend to be the ones who pursue things to extremes. They are just looking for the same good feelings as everyone else, but they need to do MORE to get it. )
But whether we pursue things to extremes or not, it’s helpful to know that we are only “programmed” to feel happy while in pursuit. That is not to say we shouldn’t value our goals – obviously all the amazing feats we’ve accomplished as a species are because of this brain setting. And reaching new levels of physical fitness and performance are amazing things! But we need to remember that the goals themselves won’t bring us happiness. This is a hard one to get your head around but it’s true. Lottery winners never become happier. And shaving a few minutes off your PB won’t actually make you a happier person either. (I struggle with fully believing this as well. Surely I’d be happier if I kept getting faster? Apparently not though. Even Olympic gold medalists look around afterwards and say … what’s next? And if they have nothing can easily fall in to purposelessness and depression).
So keep this in mind while pursuing your running goals this spring. If you’re not finding any joy or purpose in the pursuit, maybe you need to try a different approach (there are many – ask me!) But the point is, whether you reach your time/place goal or not, the feeling of achievement or disappointment will be fleeting. And whether you make your goal or not, you will likely start your training process all over again within a week or two, and THAT is what will bring you joy. Sorry – it’s just how we’re wired!
For tomorrow’s pursuit, back to Lakeshore.
2 x 1 mile w 2 min rest
3 min rest
2 x 800 w 90 sec rest
3 min rest
2 x 400 w 90 sec rest
This is a bit longer because it’s cold out so we can’t start out fast. Really ease into those miles – tempo or half marathon pace. Then we’ll work our way down.
See ya in the a.m.!