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Delivering Happiness: The True Job of a Coach
“On the most rudimentary level happiness is dependent upon on ourselves and our own personal happiness should be the goal of every human life.” – Aristotle
An astute journalist once described me as an entrepreneur who was part personal trainer, part philosopher, and part drill sergeant. Initially, it was the philosopher part that gave me pause, considering I’ve never really thought of myself as the philosophical type.
After all, philosophy is a broad term, encompassing many things. In a literal sense, philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems. I suppose that’s the appealing part of philosophy to me – problem solving. I’m a card-carrying member of the hard-headed guys club, so I must solve problems. It’s in my DNA. In fact, it’s this particular skill-set that has helped me the most as a strength and conditioning coach. At the end of the day, I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to provide elegant and insightful solutions to my clients.
The Human Condition
I’m fortunate to work with a varied and interesting client base. They all have different goals and aspirations, yet they also exhibit commonalities in their search for health, fitness, and happiness. As a coach, the first two variables are fairly easy to deliver. It’s the third component – happiness – that I’ve struggled with delivering in the past.
I now recognize that part of my responsibility as a coach is to help my clients try to find happiness. Back in the day, I use to think the subject was a bit too personal. But, as more and more of my clients approach me and discuss their personal problems the more I realize that many simply don’t have the tools to cultivate their own happiness.
This is where the idea of manufacturing happiness comes into play. Not unlike health and fitness, true happiness can be achieved though deliberate action, hard work, and effort. Obviously, as a weightlifting-philosopher this concept resonates with me. After all, happiness is one of the most general problems all humans struggle with and clearly a more structured approach is beneficial. But, before I propose a cult-like, twelve-step approach, let’s ask the fundamental question: what is happiness?
What Is Happiness?
According to Merriam-Webster, happiness is a state of well-being and contentment, a pleasurable or satisfying experience. With that said, it should be clear that the world we live in today is historically unique. First world countries such as ours have never been so technologically advanced and prosperous.
Yet, a strange paradox exists. Humanity appears to be increasingly unhappy. In the United States alone the rate of antidepressant use among teens and adults increased by almost 400% between 1988 to 1994 and 2005 to 2008.1 This begs the obvious question, why?
I think there is a litany of reasons, many of which result in people living a mundane and sedentary life devoid of adventure. Today I’d like to focus on a different demographic, people who are physically fit, yet are unhappy with their lives. Let look at a few tips on how to get more out of life.
This is where the idea of manufacturing happiness comes into play. Not unlike prosperity, true happiness needs to be cultivated though hard work and effort. For example, most people train with a purpose. They set written goals and meticulously track their training and outcomes in log books. These people are often relentlessly driven, sometimes to a fault, in their pursuit of fitness. Yet, in their personal lives, they fall prey to antiquated ideas such as bad luck, fate, and karma.
The solution lies in control. Specifically, taking control of your own life by using the same methods outlined above. Start by setting life goals outside the gym and then write them down. Go ahead and create a three-month goal, six-month goal, one-year goal, and a five-year goal. Then seek an expert who can guide you and offer a plan to help you reach your goals (just like training).
It’s interesting how clients tenaciously self-educate and hire a professional when it comes to fitness while turning a blind eye to other areas of their lives. If you’re having personal problems, seek help from a professional. Find a competent accountant, lawyer, therapist, doctor, or counselor and hold him or her accountable, just like you would a coach. If he or she isn’t offering you a well thought out solution with an actionable plan, the result will not be forthcoming.
Follow Your Hero’s Journey
The journey of life has both ups and downs, but life’s experiences often follow a pattern, known as a monomyth. Joseph Campbell‘s is credited with bringing the idea of the monomyth to the populace. If you’ve never heard of the monomyth, it’s simply a hero’s journey (ex: Star Wars is a monomyth). The nice thing about the monomyth is that it is patterned. This pattern can be used to help us better recognize and interpret the events in our lives.
The monomyth always begins with a call to action. This happens regularly in people’s lives. The “call” isn’t always literal, yet it often challenges the mundane and socially acceptable aspect of our lives. For example, recently I was approached to work with a client who has a severe traumatic brain injury. I had little experience in this area and I was extremely busy, so I initially refused to answer the call to action. But, upon further reflection and recognition I agreed to give it a try.
The journey and subsequent challenges that ensued exposed me to new educational resources and training methodologies. Throughout the process I was challenged and rewarded while working with this new demographic. The overall experience ended up being extremely rewarding, yet it would have never happened had I not answered the initial call to action.
I think this simple step, recognizing and answering appropriate calls to action, can help most people live happier lives. It’s natural for human beings to adhere to the status quo, but once in a while it helps to challenge yourself. In the end I think you’ll live a fuller life.
Use Your Fitness
This builds upon the idea of embracing adventure. In the simplest sense, get outside of the gym. I have clients that religiously train five days a week, for years on end. They’ve become incredibly strong, powerful, and fit athletes. Yet, they never express these attributes outside of the gym. They fail to challenge themselves in the natural world.
I’m not talking about participating in a mud run where everyone gets a medal. I’m talking about truly challenging yourself. For example, I have a client who recently climbed Mt. Rainier. For him this was a real test. He lives in Florida and training low to climb high wasn’t easy. In the end, he accomplished what he set out to do, while most of his guided group did not. When he committed to this event, he gave his training real purpose that culminated in creating a lifetime memory.
This is a classic example of manufacturing happiness through training. It’s important to not get lost in reps and schemes. We need to think about how our training in the gym can lead to grand experiences outside. Possessing a high level of fitness provides us with an ability that many do not have and it’s important that we don’t waste it.
Go out and find challenges worthy of you. Use your hard earned gains to accomplish great things that will reinforce your chosen lifestyle. Sometimes, saying yes is the first step.