Setting Up a Satisfying Season
by Mimi Winsberg, M.D.
In this month of New Year’s resolutions, conversations turn towards the question: “So, what’s in store for this season?” A new year is a clean slate, full of promise, ready to be inscribed with training blocks, events, and we hope, new personal records.
In considering how to mark up that slate so that it will deliver your most satisfying season, I’d like to explore some principles behind the psychology of satisfaction. I hope that reflecting on these ideas will help with the approach to your season plan.
Principal #1: Happiness is Absorption
Finding flow in your athletic journey may actually involve letting go of outcome. This seems counter-intuitive, but by removing stress about outcome, it will free you to focus and fully commit to the process. Develop a passion for training, become absorbed in the process and satisfaction will follow.
(For more on 'flow' in sport, see my "Grace Under Pressure" column from this past fall.)
Principle #2: Completion is Key
Principle #3: The Goldilocks Principle
A race finished under difficult conditions will ultimately be a more prized feather in our cap. Experiences we call “epic,” “an adventure,” or “the real deal” are the ones we will tell stories about for years to come. Most of us secretly know that the definition of adventure is “misery recollected in comfort,” but a completed adventure is still oh-so satisfying.
Finding the right challenges is like Goldilocks finding the right bowl of porridge. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
Principle #4: The Status-Quo Bias
We also underestimate our ability to adapt to change, and undervalue the satisfaction that change will bring. Look for your own status-quo bias. How many years in a row have you trained the same way, or registered for the same events? Are there changes you’ve thought about but have been hesitant to make? Have the courage to try something new in 2011.