Limitless Illusion

I learnt from my own experience that humans in general suck at imagining the consequences of today’s actions on a future version of us. This ability to peer into the future is affected by many factors like our biological wiring or our state of mind. Someone who is influenced by alcohol does not fear the hangover or gamblers in a rush put food money at the bottom of the priority list.

I suspect this dilemma of choosing immediate gratification versus long-term reward hunted us from the dawn of the human race. In school, I learnt a poem about a careless dragonfly enjoying itself singing and dancing while an ant was working his insectoid butt off the whole summer. Slavic culture is full of odd examples like this. Spoiler alert – the dragonfly did not have a good Siberian winter and the doomsday prepper ant was not willing to share its stash of food. Typical.

Gambling and drinking are negative examples but we can be equally bad at detecting when something that is good for us passes the threshold of becoming bad.  This includes overestimating our body’s ability to recover from healthy activities. When we had a kick-ass workout at the gym, we expect nothing less the next day. Though rolling out from bed in the morning proves that this thinking was not grounded in any version of reality whatsoever. The same goes for peak performance days at work. When I am on fire in my mind this will go on forever! Come Thursday the steam is escaping the cooling engine of corporate success.

The old but paradoxically young me used to beat himself up trying to figure out the source of my laziness. These days I may have a nap or go for a walk instead. The engine can patiently wait for my batteries to recharge. Since bodies aren’t great at speaking in simple language I had to learn to heed the signals that I am heading to burnout. Then wrestle the puffed chest ego to do what was right – take a break. It is ok to lose a battle but win the war. Thinking long-term just like whiskey was an acquired taste.

It took a while to realise that seeing life as a glass half full on a regular basis can only be done in a healthy, well-looked-after body. What does healthy mean in my version of reality? Giving it the exercise load it was designed for – lift things, move frequently. Eat what we evolved to rely on for energy with occasional indulgence and regular supplementation. Sufficiently rested by taking breaks between stressors. 

Annoyingly unlike T-800 stepping off a conveyor belt, we are not shipped into the world with identical configuration. What works for world athletes and youtube personalities will probably not work for you. Experimentation works magic but can be frustrating before you hit the right diet and eating patterns.

Of course, what worked for me 20 years ago does work at all today when it comes to training or eating. There is less room for growth but the indefinite potential for optimisation. I was introduced to the concept of expansion and contraction in my coaching studies. The idea goes that during the period of growth and learning objects and organisms expand which is followed by contraction. In the latter phase, an organism removes inefficiencies and focuses on learning. Alan Watts, another of my favourite teachers believed that the tidal waves are the sound of a cyclical universe. This cycle is observed in financial and property markets, organisational growth and how we go through life. 

The ability to plan for the future no matter what it is – maintaining a healthy body or investing in stocks needs to factor in your changing priorities as you go through life. Reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent email two thoughts came to mind. Firstly thank god for the updated spell checker otherwise I would never get his name right. Secondly, even at the age of 75, he is adjusting his fitness goals for future needs. Ignoring the future focus and living for today’s victory may be tempting but the idea of limitless capacity exists only in Sci-fi movies. If you need proof check out a documentary titled “The King” which tells the story of competitive bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman. He gave his all to victory but had to pay the price. Even Mr Olympia needs their rest.

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