The Race for Joy

Considering happiness like a marathon training goal

I listened to a really interesting podcast on my walk to soccer this weekend, and one concept really stuck with me. It was the Rich Roll podcast with guest Jonathan Fields who talked about people searching for their purpose, meaningful work, and the elusive “be happy all the time” state.

It’s true, in this world of instant gratification, Instagram influencers living their best life on a beach somewhere, and people turning their side hustles into full-blown careers by just “following their passion”, it’s easy to over-analyze every minute of your life and wonder why you don’t feel like you can wear that badge of honour stating “I’m super happy!” on your shirt sleeve 24/7. That was a run-on sentence.

But maybe we’re not looking in the right place. Jonathan Fields used the analogy of training for a marathon or an endurance race, something I’m quite familiar with. He said that elite athletes can’t always be in top shape and in their fittest form - that would never be sustainable, and would ultimately lead to injury, burnout, and poor results.

Instead, athletes work their way up to their peak levels, training throughout the season to build endurance and speed and strength and maybe only feel their absolute best for a few weeks out of the year just in time for their races. Being happy, or maybe truly ecstatic, should be thought about similarly. No, you shouldn’t be miserable most of the time, only to feel that spark of happiness every once in a while, but there can be a spectrum, and spending our energy worried that we aren’t feeling 11/10 at every moment of every day seems like a colossal waste. Further, perhaps we tend to confuse quantity of happiness with quality (this is my thinking).

For instance, my generation is basically told you need to love your job. While I think there’s abundant opportunity to achieve this, particularly considering what the Internet offers in terms of access to any company in the world and a creative outlet for any passionate entrepreneur, maybe it’s okay if your job is just meh, or, okay. If it means you find immense joy in that morning cup of coffee you sip while grinding at work, or you can’t wipe the smile off your face when you see your kid at the end of a long day, who’s to say you’re not happy?

Maybe if we can live our days on a happiness spectrum like we manage our marathon training, we can magnify the things, thoughts, feelings and interactions that make us truly happy, while minimizing and still accepting the ones that are just…. okay.

Thanks for reading,

Mike

P.S. As always when I start typing without much thought, it can spiral and I inevitably receive messages of “are you okay” from friends, family, and readers. I both appreciate these messages, and can assure you I am. :)