“Hey man, can I talk to the manager?”
I overheard this at the deli around the block from MFF last week, and I was intrigued. Whenever I hear a request like this, I’m interested in the conversation that’s going to take place. As I waited for my smoothie and panini, I listened:
Two men began by telling the manager that their product was very cheap, so he wouldn’t pay very much for it; under a dollar per bottle. He could sell it for at least twice that. They went on to explain that it was those skinny bottles so the take up less room on the shelf; it will be easy to make them fit. They mentioned that their sales exchange would be very simple, because it’s a small business. Then they tagged on that there were three flavors and they were pretty good.
The interaction that I had just experienced was fascinating. Had I worked at the store, I’d have held up this sign:
Curiously, it worked! The manager had agreed for the team to come back the next day and drop off three cases of their cheap, easy to stock, easy to pay for, possibly tasty drink. I’m still amazed that it worked.
Unfortunately, we act like this all the time. When was the last time you mindlessly added an exercise to your training just to try it out? When was the last time you heard a friend complain about not getting laid after grumbling about their glutes as their greatest ass, er, attribute.
We sell to ourselves so poorly that it makes it even easier for other people to sell to us! Sounds to me like we need a good dose of Start with Why. (If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s TED talk, enjoy!)
It has always appeared to me that the happiest people are the ones that mindfully create the world that they want around them, putting intense focus in balance with the ability to step back and be aware of what they’re doing. In many ways, creativity is about engineering happiness.
As is exercise. Let’s consider the big Why of exercise selection, shall we? If the vast diversity in training goals can be categorized as health or hotness goals, those can further be described as happiness goals. If you’re looking to lose 10lbs or 100lbs, run a faster 100m sprint, deadlift 100lbs more, or lift until you’re 100, it’s health or hotness, and ultimately happiness.
If exercise helps us engineer happiness, it seems rather inappropriate to simply add things here or there just for the sake of it. Maybe it’s a set or deadlifts, or maybe it’s a repositioning drill that incorporates breathing; if you can’t tie that decision to improved happiness, then we’re missing the point.
Exercise that’s pitched as corrective because it fixes how we squat, our hurdle step test, or our pelvic neutrality doesn’t seem to go over very well outside of the training world. Exercise that’s pitched as corrective because our ability to move is directly tied to our ability to love or be upstanding citizens also doesn’t go over well. If you’re a biomechanics machine or a psychologist independently, you’ll miss the big picture.
Remember, we’re engineering happiness. When choosing exercises, ask and honestly answer two questions:
Will it make me happy now?
Will it make me happy later?
“Later” can be in 24 hours, weeks, months, or years. The ability to look at a variety of timelines can help you determine appropriateness. If we’re looking at the most appropriate exercise possible we must consider short term and long term benefits.
If something is making you miserable in the moment, cut that shit out. Take the time to choose a more personally appropriate variation, or shift your trust to someone who can better take care of you. Sure, momentary discomfort is part of the long term growth processes, but it shouldn’t be every day.
Alternatively, if something feels like the greatest exercise ever in the moment, think about how it will feel further down your timeline. If the joy and excitement of setting PR’s with your deadlifts or your marathons is absolutely overwhelming, let’s temper that with some of the reality that comes with doing the same thing over and over again without any reprieve for your body.
Exercising for health should be about both mental and physical health, and finding the appropriate balance between the two. Let’s admit to ourselves that many of the ways we seek to improve one can negatively affect the other. This shouldn’t necessarily change, as long as we recognize that sometimes the things we enjoy hurt us, and that the ultimate goal is happiness.
When it comes to selling ourselves exercise, we’re notoriously bad at focusing on our happiness. We punish ourselves with what we do, rather than focusing on the Why of improving happiness. If you’re making a decision about which exercises to include in your training program, don’t forget to consider how it makes you feel in the moment, and how you’ll feel in the long term. Exercise helps you engineer happiness, and that requires a stronger sales pitch than we’re used to.