I'm writing this as the minutes count down before I hop on my road bike and race a pal for a quick 18 mile ride.
I wish this was a lifting contest...
Longer endurance isn't really my forte, but I love the challenge.
The entire ride is a struggle. Lactic acid builds up from the start. You kinda want to take it easy in parts, but you don't, you won't, partially because it's a race against a pal, but even if I'm going by myself taking it easy isn't an option, and it has to do with happiness...
Largely because what lies at the end...
...Achievement because of struggle.
You feel better about yourself on the days when you pushed through pain even if you had a slower time, than you do when you were faster, but took it a bit easy.
There's something powerful about this that non-men in the arena won't want to hear.
We can talk about endorphins, delayed gratification, dopamine, health markers, all of that stuff as it pertains to working out and happiness. And it's all important.
But one of the most valuable aspects of working out is the struggle.
Our lives can be easy these days, and humans naturally welcome this ease. We want to store energy, preserve it. But ease doesn't create happiness, no matter how much we think it may.
Making millions and retiring to some beach isn't a recipe for happiness.
Even getting something without truly earning it won't bring happiness in the same way that it would if it were truly earned (liposuction vs earning your weight loss, for example, or lottery win vs building a business).
This struggle that we so dearly want to avoid is precisely what we need to lean into.
Happiness happens with struggle, not because of the avoidance of it. And if we're being real, why are we supplementing? Why are we trying to improve our health or performance?
On some level, it's because we want to be happier, more fulfilled, more proud of who we are.
Which is why meaningful struggle, both of the physical and non-physical variety, has to be something we pursue, lean into, go through, not avoid.
So, my friend, my fellow man in the arena...
Embrace hardship, failure, the unsatisfaction with where you are in life, the gap between you and your goals, and commit to moving out of it and loving that process (we all struggle with this stuff, you're not on an island).
Look for solutions, but lean into the struggles that we, as men, face. Don't hide from them, wish they didn't exist, or look for a way out of them.
Dig deep. Keep working. Find a way to struggle with a smile on your face.
To end, some quotes from Viktor Frankl, to add some weight to this article, some clarity (if you haven't read, Man's Search for Meaning, please do):
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
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