A man works on an important project or simply has lots of things to do. His madam wants to go out, she wants to go on “an adventure”.
People in your life come without any guarantees. Your women do not belong to you, as well as your man. People change their minds. People leave. People are unreliable. Considering all the variables in dealing with other people, you’ve got to choose what is always constant – YOURSELF. Choosing yourself means choosing to work on yourself, your resourcefulness, skills and expertise. If in this example you are choosing simple pleasures with “your” women instead of working on what is important to you is self-sabotage.
Important: By choosing yourself at the moment, you make it possible to come back to what you put on pause (your women) at the higher level of resources.
Now, let’s imagine the opposite scenario: you put your commitments aside and chose to go out with a woman, a source of primitive pleasure. I guarantee that with time, you will have no women and no resources. In defence, you will blame your (ex) women and brag about the cruelty of this world.
Everybody heard this epic excuse: “I do it for my kids!”. What is hidden behind this phrase is the unwillingness to change your comfortable circumstances and kids are just a useful tool of your Ego. Sitting your ass off in a hated office box for 20 years, while saying that you do it for your kids is a level of a selfish liar. This is a very comfortable position, where you don’t have to do ANYTHING to change the job you hate. Just say that you do it for your kids.
People don’t belong to us. Our kiddos also don’t belong to us. They have their lives, and we have our lives.
First of all, you’ve got to invest in YOURSELF and your resourcefulness. Not in your child. By increasing your capacity to produce and provide, you create new opportunities for your kids and loved ones. You always put the mask onto yourself FIRST. Only then, you help your child. Through yourself, you are able to increase the living standard for the people who depend on you.
If you chose a partner, entered a relationship, went all in a lovey-dovey mode – that’s YOUR CHOICE! Later in time at the smallest opportunity of unpunished sex with somebody else, you choose to satisfy your own desire. You are NOT choosing your partner. Hence you don’t respect your choice. You don’t respect yourself. You are not choosing yourself. That’s how this formula works. This is the formula of self-respect, self-worthiness and self-love.
To love yourself and to choose yourself – is to draw pleasure from life through sophisticated mechanisms and methods, but not the primitive ones.
Go out, get drunk, get laid – also those are pleasures, however so primitive. Working on a hated job – is also a primitive method. Changing sex partners every year is not about love or choice, but only about getting primitive pleasures.
A pleasure from a simple, clean meal. A pleasure from keeping yourself in shape all year round. A pleasure from feeling fit and strong. Emotional connection, trust, common interests and passionate sex with one person… Producing more than you consume. Creating something that simply did not exist before. Working until the RESULT, and not from 9 to 5. Those are the complex methods – building blocks of self-love and self-respect.
In simple words: I will not respect a slug (myself), who always chooses an easy way. Simple pleasures lead to oblivion. It is very difficult to love yourself and choose yourself, however only through this path you can gain real happiness in life and determine your true purpose. A path of simple pleasures will get you fleeting joys with a truckload of pain.
Your fear of commitment and desire to “play safe” is understandable. Somebody, at some point, caused you a serious emotional trauma, broke your expectations and changed your understanding of how things work in life. Now, trying to prevent the same scenario from reoccurring, you project your past experiences into the future. You build walls and cover your heart into a bulletproof metal jacket. That is also a CHOICE.
I didn’t waste my life. My life was filled with happiness and purpose. It is not the destiny of mankind to remain unfulfilled. What would really satisfy me is not getting slim or rich but feeling good about my life.
I strive to achieve control over psychic energy and invest it in consciously chosen goals. I then will grow into a more complex being. By stretching my skills, by reaching toward higher challenges, I will become an increasingly extraordinary individual.
Flow — the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.
It is crucial for me to learn to transform my job into a flow-producing activity.
The universe was not created to answer my needs. Frustration is deeply woven into the fabric of life. And whenever some of my needs are temporarily met, I immediately start wishing for more. This chronic dissatisfaction stands in the way of contentment.
Religions, philosophies, arts, and comforts—help shield me from chaos. They help me believe that I am in control of what is happening and gives me reasons for being satisfied with my lot. These shields are effective only for a while; after a few centuries, sometimes after only a few decades, religion or belief wears out and no longer provides the spiritual sustenance it once did.
When I try to find happiness on my own, without the support of faith – I seek wealth, power, and sex. Those goals give direction to my strivings. However, I realize that the quality of life cannot be improved this way. Only direct control of the experience, the ability to derive moment-by-moment enjoyment from everything I do, can overcome the obstacles to fulfillment.
How I feel about myself, the joy I get from living, ultimately depend directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences.
For the majority of people on this earth, life goals are simple: to survive, to leave children who will in turn survive, and, if possible, to do so with a certain amount of comfort and dignity.The unwarranted sense of security sooner or later results in a rude awakening.
If I start believing that progress is inevitable and life easy, I may quickly lose courage and determination in the face of the first signs of adversity. I will realize that what I believed in was not entirely true. I will abandon faith in everything else I have learned. Anxiety and apathy arise.
Genuinely happy individuals are rare. How many people do you know who enjoy what they are doing, who are reasonably satisfied with their lot, who do not regret the past and look to the future with genuine confidence?
The shields that have worked in the past—the order that religion, patriotism, ethnic traditions, and habits instilled by social classes used to provide—are no longer effective for increasing numbers of people who feel exposed to the harsh winds of chaos.
The lack of inner order manifests itself in the subjective condition that some call ontological anxiety or existential dread. Basically, it is a fear of being, a feeling that there is no meaning to life and that existence is not worth going on with. Nothing seems to make sense. There no longer seems to be any point to the historical strivings of humankind. We are just forgotten specks drifting in the void. With each passing year, the chaos of the physical universe becomes magnified in the minds of the multitude.
As people move through life, passing from the hopeful ignorance of youth into sobering adulthood, they sooner or later face an increasingly nagging question: “Is this all there is?” Childhood can be painful, adolescence confusing, but for most people, behind it all, there is the expectation that after one grows up, things will get better. During the years of early adulthood, the future still looks promising, the hope remains that one’s goals will be realized. But inevitably the bathroom mirror shows the first white hairs, and confirms the fact that those extra pounds are not about to leave; inevitably eyesight begins to fail and mysterious pains begin to shoot through the body. Like waiters in a restaurant starting to place breakfast settings on the surrounding tables while one is still having dinner, these intimations of mortality plainly communicate the message: Your time is up, it’s time to move on. When this happens, few people are ready.
Wait a minute, this can’t be happening to me.
I haven’t even begun to live.
Where’s all that money I was supposed to have made?
Where are all the good times I was going to have?
Yet despite all these assurances, sooner or later we wake up alone, sensing that there is no way this affluent, scientific, and sophisticated world is going to provide us with happiness.
As this realization slowly sets in, different people react to it differently. Some try to ignore it and renew their efforts to acquire more of the things that were supposed to make life good—bigger cars and homes, more power on the job, a more glamorous lifestyle.
After each success, it becomes clearer that money, power, status, and possessions do not, by themselves, necessarily add one iota to the quality of life.
To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances.
Achieving control over experience requires a drastic change in attitude about what is important and what is not.
We grow up believing that what counts most in our lives is that which will occur in the future. Parents teach children that if they learn good habits now, they will be better off as adults. Teachers assure pupils that the boring classes will benefit them later when the students are going to be looking for jobs. The company vice president tells junior employees to have patience and work hard because one of these days they will be promoted to the executive ranks. At the end of the long struggle for advancement, the golden years of retirement beckon.
Realize that seeking pleasure is a reflex response built into our genes for the preservation of the species, not for the purpose of our own personal advantage. The pleasure we take in eating is an efficient way to ensure that the body will get the nourishment it needs. The pleasure of sexual intercourse is an equally practical method for the genes to program the body to reproduce and thereby to ensure the continuity of the genes. When a man is physically attracted to a woman or vice versa, he usually imagines—assuming that he thinks about it at all—that this desire is an expression of his own individual interests, a result of his own intentions. In reality, more often than not his interest is simply being manipulated by the invisible genetic code, following its own plans.
The person who cannot resist food or alcohol, or whose mind is constantly focused on sex, is not free to direct his or her psychic energy.
A person who cannot override genetic instructions when necessary is always vulnerable. Instead of deciding how to act in terms of personal goals, he has to surrender to the things that his body has been programmed (or misprogrammed) to do. One must particularly achieve control over instinctual drives to achieve healthy independence of society. For as long as we respond predictably to what feels good and what feels bad, it is easy for others to exploit our preferences for their own ends.
A thoroughly socialized person is one who desires only the rewards that others around him have agreed he should long for—rewards often grafted onto genetically programmed desires. He may encounter thousands of potentially fulfilling experiences, but he fails to notice them because they are not the things he desires. What matters is not what he has now, but what he might obtain if he does as others want him to do. Caught in the treadmill of social controls, that person keeps reaching for a prize that always dissolves in his hands.
If a person learns to enjoy and find meaning in the ongoing stream of experience, in the process of living itself, the burden of social controls automatically falls from one’s shoulders. Power returns to the person when rewards are no longer relegated to outside forces. It is no longer necessary to struggle for goals that always seem to recede into the future, to end each boring day with the hope that tomorrow, perhaps, something good will happen.
At certain times in history, cultures have taken it for granted that a person wasn’t fully human unless he or she learned to master thoughts and feelings. Among the British upper classes of the Victorian era, people were held responsible for keeping a tight rein on their emotions. Anyone who indulged in self-pity, who let instinct rather than reflection dictate actions, forfeited the right to be accepted as a member of the community.
Marcus Aurelius wrote:
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”
Consciousness has developed the ability to override its genetic instructions and to set its own independent course of action.
A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening “outside,” just by changing the contents of consciousness. We all know individuals who can transform hopeless situations into challenges to be overcome, just through the force of their personalities. This ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is the quality people most admire in others, and justly so; it is probably the most important trait not only for succeeding in life but for enjoying it as well.
The mind has enormous untapped potential that we desperately need to learn how to use.
Most people, however, adopt “sensible” goals based on the needs of their body—to live a long and healthy life, to have sex, to be well-fed and comfortable—or on the desires implanted by the social system—to be good, to work hard, to spend as much as possible, to live up to others’ expectations. But there are enough exceptions in every culture to show that goals are quite flexible. Individuals who depart from the norms—heroes, saints, sages, artists, and poets, as well as madmen and criminals—look for different things in life than most others do.
The existence of people like these shows that consciousness can be ordered in terms of different goals and intentions. Each of us has the freedom to control our subjective reality.
In any case, an individual can experience only so much. Therefore, the information we allow into consciousness becomes extremely important; it is, in fact, what determines the content and the quality of life.
The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer. And the person who can do this usually enjoys the normal course of everyday life.
European woman who is one of the best-known and powerful women in her country. A scholar of international reputation, she has at the same time built up a thriving business that employs hundreds of people and has been on the cutting edge of its field for a generation. E. travels constantly to political, business, and professional meetings, moving among her several residences around the world. If there is a concert in the town where she is staying, E. will probably be in the audience; at the first free moment, she will be at the museum or library. And while she is in a meeting, her chauffeur, instead of just standing around and waiting, will be expected to visit the local art gallery or museum; for on the way home, his employer will want to discuss what he thought of its paintings. Not one minute of E.’s life is wasted. Usually, she is writing, solving problems, reading one of the five newspapers or the earmarked sections of books on her daily schedule—or just asking questions, watching curiously what is going on, and planning her next task. Very little of her time is spent on the routine functions of life. Chatting or socializing out of mere politeness is done graciously, but avoided whenever possible. Each day, however, she devotes some time to recharging her mind, by such simple means as standing still for fifteen minutes on the lakeshore, facing the sun with eyes closed. Or she may take her hounds for a walk in the meadows on the hill outside town. E. is so much in control of her attentional processes that she can disconnect her consciousness at will and fall asleep for a refreshing nap whenever she has a moment free.
E.’s life has not been easy. Her family became impoverished after World War I, and she herself lost everything, including her freedom, during World War II. Several decades ago she had a chronic disease her doctors were sure was fatal. But she recovered everything, including her health, by disciplining her attention and refusing to diffuse it on unproductive thoughts or activities. At this point, she radiates a pure glow of energy. And despite past hardships and the intensity of her present life, she seems to relish thoroughly every minute of it.
Attention determines what will or will not appear in consciousness, and because it is also required to make any other mental events—such as remembering, thinking, feeling, and making decisions—happen there, it is useful to think of it as psychic energy. Attention is like energy in that without it no work can be done, and in doing work it is dissipated. We create ourselves by how we invest this energy. Memories, thoughts, and feelings are all shaped by how we use them. And it is an energy under our control, to do with as we please; hence, attention is our most important tool in the task of improving the quality of experience.
The outside event appears in consciousness purely as information, without necessarily having a positive or negative value attached to it. It is the self that interprets that raw information in the context of its own interests and determines whether it is harmful or not. Every piece of information we process gets evaluated for its bearing on the self. Does it threaten our goals, does it support them, or is it neutral? News of the fall of the stock market will upset the banker, but it might reinforce the sense of self of the political activist. A new piece of information will either create disorder in consciousness, by getting us all worked up to face the threat, or it will reinforce our goals, thereby freeing up psychic energy.
When a person is able to organize his or her consciousness so as to experience flow as often as possible, the quality of life is inevitably going to improve. Even the usually boring routines of work will become purposeful and enjoyable.
“It’s exhilarating to come closer and closer to self-discipline. You make your body go and everything hurts; then you look back in awe at the self, at what you’ve done, it just blows your mind. It leads to ecstasy, to self-fulfillment. If you win these battles enough, that battle against yourself, at least for a moment, it becomes easier to win the battles in the world.”
The “battle” is not really against the self, but against the entropy that brings disorder to consciousness. It is really a battle for the self; it is a struggle for establishing control over attention. The struggle does not necessarily have to be physical, as in the case of the climber. But anyone who has experienced flow knows that the deep enjoyment it provides requires an equal degree of disciplined concentration.
Following a flow experience, the organization of the self is more complex than it had been before. It is by becoming increasingly complex that the self might be said to grow. Complexity is the result of two broad psychological processes: differentiation and integration. Differentiation implies a movement toward uniqueness, toward separating oneself from others. Integration refers to its opposite: a union with other people, with ideas and entities beyond the self. A complex self is one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies.
The self becomes more differentiated as a result of flow because overcoming a challenge inevitably leaves a person feeling more capable, more skilled. As the rock climber said, “You look back in awe at the self, at what you’ve done, it just blows your mind.” After each episode of flow, a person becomes more of a unique individual, less predictable, possessed of rarer skills.
The self becomes complex as a result of experiencing flow. Paradoxically, it is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of our concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows. Flow is important both because it makes the present instant more enjoyable, and because it builds the self-confidence that allows us to develop skills and make significant contributions to humankind.
There are TWO MAIN STRATEGIES we can adopt to improve the quality of life.
Try making external conditions match our goals.
Change how we experience external conditions to make them fit our goals better.
The reality is that the quality of life does not depend directly on what others think of us or on what we own. The bottom line is, rather, how we feel about ourselves and about what happens to us. To improve life one must improve the quality of experience. This is not to say that money, physical fitness, or fame are irrelevant to happiness. They can be genuine blessings, but only if they help to make us feel better. Otherwise, they are at best neutral, at worst obstacles to a rewarding life. Research on happiness and life satisfaction suggest that in general there is a mild correlation between wealth and well-being. Instead of worrying about how to make a million dollars or how to win friends and influence people, it seems more beneficial to find out how everyday life can be made more harmonious and more satisfying, and thus achieve by a direct route what cannot be reached through the pursuit of symbolic goals.
Pleasure is a feeling of contentment that one achieves whenever information in consciousness says that expectations set by biological programs or by social conditioning have been met.
Pleasure is an important component of the quality of life, but by itself, it does not bring happiness. Sleep, rest, food, and sex provide restorative homeostatic experiences that return consciousness to order after the needs of the body intrude and cause psychic entropy to occur. But they do not produce psychological growth. They do not add complexity to the self. Pleasure helps to maintain order, but by itself cannot create a new order in consciousness.
First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing.
Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.
Third and fourth, concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback. Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.
Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.
Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over.
Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.
The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.
In many ways, competition is a quick way of developing complexity:
“He who wrestles with us,” wrote Edmund Burke, “strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”
The challenges of competition can be stimulating and enjoyable. But when beating the opponent takes precedence in the mind over performing as well as possible, enjoyment tends to disappear. Competition is enjoyable only when it is a means to perfect one’s skills; when it becomes an end in itself, it ceases to be fun.
It would be a mistake to assume that only art and leisure can provide optimal experiences. In a healthy culture, productive work and the necessary routines of everyday life are also satisfying.
The reason it is possible to achieve such complete involvement in a flow experience is that goals are usually clear, and feedback immediately.
The goals of an activity are not always as clear as those of tennis, and the feedback is often more ambiguous than the simple “I am not falling” information processed by the climber. A composer of music, for instance, may know that he wishes to write a song, or a flute concerto, but other than that, his goals are usually quite vague. And how does he know whether the notes he is writing down are “right” or “wrong”? The same situation holds true for the artist painting a picture, and for all activities that are creative or open-ended in nature. But these are all exceptions that prove the rule:
Unless a person learns to set goals and to recognize and gauge feedback in such activities, she will not enjoy them
In some creative activities, where goals are not clearly set in advance, a person must develop a strong personal sense of what she intends to do. The artist might not have a visual image of what the finished painting should look like, but when the picture has progressed to a certain point, she should know whether this is what she wanted to achieve or not. And a painter who enjoys painting must have internalized criteria for “good” or “bad” so that after each brush stroke she can say: “Yes, this works; no, this doesn’t.” Without such internal guidelines, it is impossible to experience flow. The reason why flow improves the quality of exper- ience: the clearly structured demands of the activity impose order, and exclude the interference of disorder in consciousness.
One of the most frequently mentioned dimensions of the flow experience is that, while it lasts, one is able to forget all the unpleasant aspects of life. This feature of flow is an important by-product of the fact that enjoyable activities require a complete focusing of attention on the task at hand—thus leaving no room in the mind for irrelevant information.
Enjoyable activities that produce flow have a potentially negative aspect: while they are capable of improving the quality of existence by creating order in the mind, they can become addictive, at which point the self becomes captive of a certain kind of order, and is then unwilling to cope with the ambiguities of life.
Preoccupation with the self consumes psychic energy because in everyday life we often feel threatened.
Whenever we are threatened we need to bring the image we have of ourselves back into awareness, so we can find out whether or not the threat is serious, and how we should meet it. For in- stance, if walking down the street I notice some people turning back and looking at me with grins on their faces, the normal thing to do is immediately to start worrying: “Is there something wrong? Do I look funny? Is it the way I walk, or is my face smudged?” Hundreds of times every day we are reminded of the vulnerability of our self. And every time this happens psychic energy is lost trying to restore order to consciousness.
Expand the concept of who we are. Loss of self-consciousness can lead to self-transcendence, to a feeling that the boundaries of our being have been pushed forward.
The term “autotelic” derives from two Greek words, auto meaning self, and telos meaning goal.
Autotelic activity is a self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward.
Playing the stock market in order to make money is not an autotelic experience, but playing it in order to prove one’s skill at foretelling future trends is—even though the outcome in terms of dollars and cents is exactly the same. Teaching children in order to turn them into good citizens is not autotelic, whereas teaching them because one enjoys interacting with children is. What transpires in the two situations is ostensibly identical; what differs is that when the experience is autotelic, the person is paying attention to the activity for its own sake; when it is not, the attention is focused on its consequences.
Many people feel that the time they spend at work is essentially wasted—they are alienated from it, and the psychic energy invested in the job does nothing to strengthen their self. For quite a few people free time is also wasted. Leisure provides a relaxing respite from work, but it generally consists of passively absorbing information, without using any skills or exploring new opportunities for action. As a result, life passes in a sequence of boring and anxious experiences over which a person has little control.
We should reconcile ourselves to the fact that nothing in the world is entirely positive; every power can be misused. Love may lead to cruelty, science can create destruction, technology unchecked produces pollution. An optimal experience is a form of energy, and energy can be used either to help or to destroy. Fire warms or burns; atomic energy can generate electricity or it can obliterate the world. Energy is power, but power is only a means. The goals to which it is applied can make life either richer or more painful.
Much of what we label juvenile delinquency—car theft, vandalism, rowdy behaviour in general—is motivated by the same need to have flow experiences not available in ordinary life. As long as a significant segment of society has few opportunities to encounter meaningful challenges, and few chances to develop the skills necessary to benefit from them, we must expect that violence and crime will attract those who cannot find their way to more complex autotelic experiences.
A sense that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear clues as to how well one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous.
In our studies, we found that every flow activity, whether it involved competition, chance, or any other dimension of experience, had this in common: It provided a sense of discovery, a creative feeling of transporting the person into a new reality.
Desire to enjoy ourselves again pushes us to stretch our skills, or to discover new opportunities for using them.
Cultures are defensive constructions against chaos, designed to reducethe impact of randomness on experience. They are adaptive responses, just as feathers are for birds and fur is for mammals. Cultures prescribe norms, evolving goals, build beliefs that help us tackle the challenges of existence. In so doing they must rule out many alternative goals and beliefs, and thereby limit possibilities, but this channelling of attention to a limited set of goals and means is what allows effortless action within self-created boundaries.
Although average Americans have plenty of free time and ample access to leisure activities, they do not, as a result, experience flow often. In fact, working people achieve the flow experience—deep concentration, high and balanced challenges and skills, a sense of control and satisfaction—about four times as often on their jobs, proportionately, as they do when they are watching television. One of the most ironic paradoxes of our time is this great availability of leisure that somehow fails to be translated into enjoyment.
Opportunities alone, are not enough. We also need the skills to make use of them. And we need to know how to control consciousness—a skill that most people have not learned to cultivate. Surrounded by an astounding panoply of recreational gadgets and leisure choices, most of us go on being bored and vaguely frustrated.
What is important to realize is that attentional disorders not only interfere with learning but effectively rule out the possibility of experiencing flow as well. When a person cannot control psychic energy, neither learning nor true enjoyment is possible.
A less drastic obstacle to experiencing flow is excessive self-consciousness. A person who is constantly worried about how others will perceive her, who is afraid of creating the wrong impression, or of doing something inappropriate, is also condemned to permanent exclusion from enjoyment. So are people who are excessively self-centred. A self-centred individual is usually not self-conscious, but instead evaluates every bit of information only in terms of how it relates to her desires. For such a person everything is valueless in itself. A flower is not worth a second look unless it can be used; a man or a woman who cannot advance one’s interests does not de- serve further attention.
When the now extinct natives of the Caribbean islands were put to work in the plantations of the conquering Spaniards, their lives became so painful and meaningless that they lost interest in survival, and eventually ceased reproducing. It is probable that many cultures disappeared in a similar fashion because they were no longer able to provide the experience of enjoyment.
Just as some people are born with better muscular coordination, it is possible that there are individuals with a genetic advantage in controlling consciousness. Such people might be less prone to suffer from attentional disorders, and they may experience flow more easily.
The traits that mark an autotelic personality are most clearly revealed by people who seem to enjoy situations that ordinary persons would find unbearable.
Richard Logan, who has studied the accounts of many people in difficult situations, concludes that they survived by finding ways to turn the bleak objective conditions into subjectively controllable experiences. They followed the blueprint of flow activities. First, they paid close attention to the most minute details of their environment, discovering in it hidden opportunities for action that matched what little they were capable of doing, given the circumstances. Then they set goals appropriate to their precarious situation and closely monitored progress through the feedback they received. Whenever they reached their goal, they upped the ante, setting increasingly complex challenges for themselves.
When adversity threatens to paralyze us, we need to reassert control by finding a new direction in which to invest psychic energy, a direction that lies outside the reach of external forces.
When every aspiration is frustrated, a person still must seek a meaningful goal around which to organize the self. Then, even though that person is objectively a slave, subjectively he is free.
When we are unhappy, depressed, or bored we have an easy remedy at hand: to use the body for all it is worth. Most people nowadays are aware of the importance of health and physical fitness. But the almost unlimited potential for enjoyment that the body offers often remains unexploited. Few learn to move with the grace of an acrobat, see with the fresh eye of an artist, feel the joy of an athlete who breaks his own record, taste with the subtlety of a connoisseur, or love with a skill that lifts sex into a form of art. Because these opportunities are easily within reach, the easiest step toward improving the quality of life consists in simply learning to control the body and its senses.
“A man possesses nothing certainly save a brief loan of his own body,” wrote J. B. Cabell, “yet the body of man is capable of much curious pleasure.”
The purest form of athletics, and sports in general, is to break through the limitations of what the body can accomplish.
Not so long ago, it was acceptable to be an amateur poet or essayist. Nowadays if one does not make some money (however pitifully little) out of writing, it’s considered to be a waste of time. It is taken as downright shameful for a man past twenty to indulge in versification unless he receives a check to show for it. And unless one has great talent, it is indeed useless to write hoping to achieve great profit or fame. But it is never a waste to write for intrinsic reasons. First of all, writing gives the mind a disciplined means of expression. It allows one to record events and experiences so that they can be easily recalled and relived in the future. It is a way to analyze and understand experiences, a self-communication that brings order to them. Observing, recording, and preserving the memory of both the large and small events of life is one of the oldest and most satisfying ways to bring order to consciousness.
Thomas Carlyle was not far wrong when he wrote:
“Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.”
As expected, the more time a person spent in flow during the week, the better was the overall quality of his or her reported experience. People who were more often in flow were especially likely to feel “strong,” “active,” “creative,” “concentrated,” and “motivated.” What was unexpected, however, is how frequently people reported flow situations at work, and how rarely in leisure.
Thus we have the paradoxical situation: On the job, people feel skillful and challenged, and therefore feel more happy, strong, creative, and satisfied. In their free time, people feel that there is generally not much to do and their skills are not being used, and therefore they tend to feel more sad, weak, dull, and dissatisfied. Yet they would like to work less and spend more time in leisure.
As these findings suggest, the apathy of many of the people around us is not due to their being physically or mentally exhausted. The problem seems to lie more in the modern worker’s relation to his job, with the way he perceives his goals in relation to it.
When we feel that we are investing attention in a task against our will, it is as if our psychic energy is being wasted. Instead of helping us reach our own goals, it is called upon to make someone else’s come true. The time channelled into such a task is perceived as time subtracted from the total available for our life. Many people consider their jobs as something they have to do, a burden imposed from the outside, an effort that takes life away from the ledger of their existence. So even though the momentary on-the-job experience may be positive, they tend to discount it, because it does not contribute to their own long-range goals.
The flow experience that results from the use of skills leads to growth; passive entertainment leads nowhere. Collectively we are wasting each year the equivalent of millions of years of human consciousness. The energy that could be used to focus on complex goals, to provide for enjoyable growth, is squandered on patterns of stimulation that only mimic reality. Mass leisure, mass culture, and even high culture when only attended to passively and for extrinsic reasons—such as the wish to flaunt one’s status—are parasites of the mind. They absorb psychic energy without providing substantive strength in return. They leave us more exhausted, more disheartened than we were before.
Most jobs and many leisure activities—especially those involving the passive consumption of mass media—are not designed to make us happy and strong. Their purpose is to make money for someone else. If we allow them to, they can suck out the marrow of our lives, leaving only feeble husks.
The quality of life depends on two factors: how we experience work, and our relations with other people.
There is no question that we are social animals; only in the company of other people do we feel complete.
A solitary individual under such conditions became an IDIOT, which in Greek originally meant a “private person”—someone who is unable to learn from others.
Therefore a person who learns to get along with others is going to make a tremendous change for the better in the quality of life as a whole.
The most depressing condition is not that of working or watching TV alone; the worst moods are reported when one is alone and there is nothing that needs to be done.
How one copes with solitude makes all the difference. If being alone is seen as a chance to accomplish goals that cannot be reached in the company of others, then instead of feeling lonely, a person will enjoy solitude and might be able to learn new skills in the process. On the other hand, if solitude is seen as a condition to be avoided at all costs instead of as a challenge, the person will panic and resort to distractions that cannot lead to higher levels of complexity.
If a person is unwilling to adjust personal goals when starting a relationship, then a lot of what subsequently happens in that relationship will produce disorder in the person’s consciousness, because novel patterns of interaction will conflict with old patterns of expectation.
Subjective experience is not just one of the dimensions of life, it is life itself. Material conditions are secondary: they only affect us indirectly, by way of experience.
It would be naively idealistic to claim that no matter what happens to him, a person in control of consciousness will be happy. There are certainly limits to how much pain, or hunger, or deprivation a body can endure.
Everyone has his own fate, and we should be like the lion in the proverb.
The lion, when he runs after a pack of gazelles, can only catch them one at a time. I try to be like that, and not like Westerners who go crazy working even though they cannot eat more than their daily bread…. If I am to live twenty more years, I will try to live enjoying each moment, instead of killing myself to get more…. If I am to live like a free man who does not depend on anyone, I can afford to go slowly; if I don’t earn anything today, it does not matter. It means that this happens to be my fate. The next day I may earn 100 million—or get a terminal illness. Like Jesus Christ said, What does it benefit to a man if he gains the entire world, but loses himself? I have tried first to conquer myself; I don’t care if I lose the world.
I set out on this journey like a baby bird hatching from its egg; ever since I have been walking in freedom. Every man should get to know himself and experience life in all its forms. I could have gone on sleeping soundly in my bed and found work in my town because a job was ready for me, but I decided to sleep with the poor because one must suffer to become a man.
One does not get to be a man by getting married, by having sex: to be a man means to be responsible, to know when it is time to speak, to know what has to be said, to know when one must stay silent.
The ability to take misfortune and make something good come of it is a very rare gift. Those who possess it are called “survivors,” and are said to have “resilience,” or “courage.”
Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.
If the trauma is severe enough, a person may lose the capacity to concentrate on necessary goals. If that happens, the self is no longer in control. If the impairment is very severe, consciousness becomes random, and the person “loses his mind”—the various symptoms of mental disease take over. In less severe cases the threatened self survives, but stops growing; cowering under attack, it retreats behind massive defences and vegetates in a state of continuous suspicion.
… when a person no longer sees himself in opposition to the environment, as an individual who insists that his goals, his intentions take precedence over everything else. Instead, he feels a part of whatever goes on around him and tries to do his best within the system in which he must operate.
… this sense of humility—the recognition that one’s goals may have to be subordinated to a greater entity, and that to succeed one may have to play by a different set of rules from what one would prefer—is a hallmark of strong people.
People who know how to transform stress into an enjoyable challenge spend very little time thinking about themselves. They are not expending all their energy trying to satisfy what they believe to be their needs or worrying about socially conditioned desires. Instead, their attention is alert, constantly processing information from their surroundings.
We all start with preconceived notions of what we want from life. These include the basic needs programmed by our genes to ensure survival—the need for food, comfort, sex, dominance over other beings. They also include the desires that our specific culture has inculcated in us—to be slim, rich, educated, and well-liked. If we embrace these goals and are lucky, we may replicate the ideal physical and social image for our historical time and place. But is this the best use of our psychic energy? And what if we cannot realize these ends? We will never become aware of other possibilities unless, like the painter who watches with care what is happening on the canvas, we pay attention to what is happening around us, and evaluate events on the basis of their direct impact on how we feel, rather than evaluating them exclusively in terms of preconceived notions.
A person who is healthy, rich, strong, and powerful has no greater odds of being in control of his consciousness than one who is sickly, poor, weak, and oppressed. The difference between someone who enjoys life and someone who is overwhelmed by it is a product of a combination of such external factors and the way a person has come to interpret them—that is, whether he sees challenges as threats or as opportunities for action.
The “autotelic self” is one that easily translates potential threats into enjoyable challenges, and therefore maintains its inner harmony. A person who is never bored, seldom anxious, involved with what goes on, and in flow most of the time may be said to have an autotelic self. The term literally means “a self that has self-contained goals,” and it reflects the idea that such an individual has relatively few goals that do not originate from within the self. For most people, goals are shaped directly by biological needs and social conventions, and therefore their origin is outside the self. For an autotelic person, the primary goals emerge from experience evaluated in consciousness, and therefore from the self proper. The autotelic self transforms the potentially entropic experience into flow.
1. Setting goals.
To be able to experience flow, one must have clear goals to strive for. A person with an autotelic self learns to make choices—ranging from lifelong commitments, such as getting married and settling on a vocation, to trivial decisions like what to do on the weekend or how to spend the time waiting in the dentist’s office—without much fuss and the minimum of panic. One of the basic differences between a person with an autotelic self and one without it is that the former knows that it is she who has chosen whatever goal she is pursuing. What she does is not random, nor is it the result of outside determining forces. This fact results in two seemingly opposite outcomes. On the one hand, having a feeling of ownership of her decisions, the person is more strongly dedicated to her goals. Her actions are reliable and internally controlled. On the other hand, knowing them to be her own, she can more easily modify her goals whenever the reasons for preserving them no longer make sense. In that respect, an autotelic person’s behaviour is both more consistent and more flexible.
2. Becoming immersed in the activity
After choosing a system of action, a person with an autotelic personality grows deeply involved with whatever he is doing. Whether flying a plane nonstop around the world or washing dishes after dinner, he invests attention in the task at hand. To do so successfully one must learn to balance the opportunities for action with the skills one possesses. Some people begin with unrealistic expectations, such as trying to save the world or to become millionaires before the age of twenty. When their hopes are dashed, most become despondent, and their selves wither from the loss of psychic energy expended in fruitless attempts. At the other extreme, many people stagnate because they do not trust their own potential. They choose the safety of trivial goals and arrest the growth of complexity at the lowest level available. To achieve involvement with an action system, one must find a relatively close mesh between the demands of the environment and one’s capacity to act. Involvement is greatly facilitated by the ability to concentrate. People who suffer from attentional disorders, who cannot keep their minds from wandering, always feel left out of the flow of life. They are at the mercy of whatever stray stimulus happens to flash by. To be distracted against one’s will is the surest sign that one is not in control. Yet it is amazing how little effort most people make to improve control of their attention. If reading a book seems too difficult, instead of sharpening concentration we tend to set it aside and instead turn on the television, which not only requires minimal attention, but in fact tends to diffuse what little it commands with choppy editing, commercial interruptions, and generally inane content.
3. Paying attention to what is happening
Concentration leads to involvement, which can only be maintained by constant inputs of attention. Having an autotelic self implies the ability to sustain involvement. Self- consciousness, which is the most common source of distraction, is not a problem for such a person. Instead of worrying about how he is doing, how he looks from the outside, he is wholeheartedly committed to his goals. In some cases it is the depth of involvement that pushes self-consciousness out of awareness, while sometimes it is the other way around: it is the very lack of self-consciousness that makes deep involvement possible.
4. Learning to enjoy the immediate experience
The outcome of having an autotelic self—of learning to set goals, to develop skills, to be sensitive to feedback, to know how to concentrate and get involved—is that one can enjoy life even when objective circumstances are brutish and nasty. Being in control of the mind means that literally, anything that happens can be a source of joy. Feeling a breeze on a hot day, seeing a cloud reflected on the glass facade of a high-rise, working on a business deal, watching a child play with a puppy, drinking a glass of water can all be felt as deeply satisfying experiences that enrich one’s life. To achieve this control, however, requires determination and discipline. Optimal experience is not the result of a hedonistic, lotus-eating approach to life. A relaxed, laissez-faire attitude is not a sufficient defence against chaos. As we have seen from the very beginning of this book, to be able to transform random events into the flow, one must develop skills that stretch capacities, that make one become more than what one is. Flow drives individuals to creativity and outstanding achievement. The necessity to develop increasingly refined skills to sustain enjoyment is what lies behind the evolution of culture. It motivates both individuals and cultures to change into more complex entities. The rewards of creating order in experience provide the energy that propels evolution—they pave the way for those dimly imagined descendants of ours, more complex and wise than we are, who will soon take our place. But to change all existence into a flow experience, it is not sufficient to learn merely how to control moment-by-moment states of consciousness. It is also necessary to have an overall context of goals for the events of everyday life to make sense. If a person moves from one flow activity to another without a connecting order, it will be difficult at the end of one’s life to look back on the years past and find meaning in what has happened. To create harmony in whatever one does is the last task that the flow theory presents to those who wish to attain optimal experience; it is a task that involves transforming the entirety of life into a single flow activity, with unified goals that provide a constant purpose.
If we enjoyed work and friendships and faced every challenge as an opportunity to develop new skills, we would be getting rewards out of living that is outside the realm of ordinary life.
Even the most successful career, the most rewarding family relationship eventually runs dry. Sooner or later involvement in work must be reduced. Spouses die, children grow up and move away. To approach optimal experience as closely as is humanly possible, the last step in the control of consciousness is necessary.
What this involves is turning all life into a unified flow experience. If a person sets out to achieve a difficult enough goal, from which all other goals logically follow, and if he or she invests all energy in developing skills to reach that goal, then actions and feelings will be in harmony, and the separate parts of life will fit together—and each activity will “make sense” in the present, as well as in view of the past and of the future. In such a way, it is possible to give meaning to one’s entire life.
From the point of view of an individual, it does not matter what the ultimate goal is—provided it is compelling enough to order a lifetime’s worth of psychic energy. The challenge might involve the desire to have the best beer bottle collection in the neighbourhood, the resolution to find a cure for cancer, or simply the biological imperative to have children who will survive and prosper.
As long as it provides clear objectives, clear rules for action, and a way to concentrate and become involved, any goal can serve to give meaning to a person’s life.
I have come to be quite well acquainted with several Muslim professionals—electronics engineers, pilots, businessmen, and teachers, mostly from Saudi Arabia and from the other Gulf states. In talking to them, I was struck by how relaxed most of them seemed to be even under strong pressure. “There is nothing to it,” those I asked about it told me, in different words, but with the same message: “We don’t get upset because we believe that our life is in God’s hands, and whatever He decides will be fine with us.” Such implicit faith used to be widespread in our culture as well, but it is not easy to find it now. Many of us have to discover a goal that will give meaning to life on our own, without the help of traditional faith.
Creating meaning involves bringing order to the contents of the mind by integrating one’s actions into a unified flow experience. The three senses of the word meaning noted above make it clearer how this is accomplished. People who find their lives meaningful usually have a goal that is challenging enough to take up all their energies, a goal that can give significance to their lives. We may refer to this process as achieving a purpose. To experience flow one must set goals for one’s actions: to win a game, to make friends with a person, to accomplish something in a certain way. The goal in itself is usually not important; what matters is that it focuses a person’s attention and involves it in an achievable, enjoyable activity.
What counts is not so much whether a person actually achieves what she has set out to do; rather, it matters whether the effort has been expended to reach the goal, instead of being diffused or wasted.
Someone who is in harmony no matter what he does, no matter what is happening to him, knows that his psychic energy is not being wasted on doubt, regret, guilt, and fear, but is always usefully employed. Inner congruence ultimately leads to that inner strength and serenity we admire in people who seem to have come to terms with themselves. Whoever achieves this statewill never really lack anything else. A person whose consciousness is so ordered need not fear unexpected events or even death. Every living moment will make sense, and most of it will be enjoyable.
There is a consensus among psychologists who study such subjects that people develop their concept of who they are, and of what they want to achieve in life, according to a sequence of steps.
Each man or woman starts with a need to preserve the self, to keep the body and its basic goals from disintegrating. At this point the meaning of life is simple; it is tantamount to survival, comfort, and pleasure.
When the safety of the physical self is no longer in doubt, the person may expand the horizon of his or her meaning system to embrace the values of a community—the family, the neighbourhood, a religious or ethnic group. This step leads to the greater complexity of the self, even though it usually implies conformity to conventional norms and standards.
The next step in development involves reflective individualism. The person again turns inward, finding new grounds for authority and value within the self. He or she is no longer blindly conforming but develops an autonomous conscience. At this point, the main goal in life becomes the desire for growth, improvement, the actualization of potential.
The fourth step, which builds on all the previous ones, is a final turning away from the self, back toward integration with other people and with universal values. In this final stage the extremely individualized person—like Siddhartha letting the river take control of his boat—willingly merges his interests with those of a larger whole.
First, psychic energy is invested in the needs of the organism, and psychic order is equivalent to pleasure. When this level is temporarily achieved, and the person can begin to invest attention in the goals of a community, what is meaningful corresponds to group values—religion, patriotism, and the acceptance and respect of other people provide the parameters of inner order. The next movement of the dialectic brings attention back to the self: having achieved a sense of belonging to a larger human system, the person now feels the challenge of discerning the limits of personal potential. This leads to attempts at self-actualization, to experimentation with different skills, different ideas and disciplines. At this stage enjoyment, rather than pleasure, becomes the main source of rewards. But because this phase involves becoming a seeker, the person may also encounter a midlife crisis, a career change, and an increasingly desperate straining against the limitations of individual capability. From this point on the person is ready for the last shift in the redirection of energy: having discovered what one can and, more importantly, cannot do alone, the ultimate goal merges with a system larger than the person—a cause, an idea, a transcendental entity. Not everyone moves through the stages of this spiral of ascending complexity. A few never have the opportunity to go beyond the first step. When survival demands are so insistent that a person cannot devote much attention to anything else, he or she will not have enough psychic energy left to invest in the goals of the family or of the wider community. Self-interest alone will give meaning to life. The majority of people are probably ensconced comfortably in the second stage of development, where the welfare of the family, or the company, the community, or the nation are the sources of meaning. Many fewer reach the third level of reflective individualism, and only a precious few emerge once again to forge unity with universal values. So these stages do not necessarily reflect what does happen, or what will happen; they characterize what can happen if a person is lucky and succeeds in controlling consciousness.
Goals can lead to all sorts of trouble, at which point one gets tempted to give them up and find some less demanding script by which to order one’s actions. The price one pays for changing goals whenever opposition threatens is that while one may achieve a more pleasant and comfortable life, it is likely that it will end up empty and void of meaning.
No goal can have much effect unless taken seriously. Each goal prescribes a set of consequences, and if one isn’t prepared to reckon with them, the goal becomes meaningless. The mountaineer who decides to scale a difficult peak knows that he will be exhausted and endangered for most of the climb. But if he gives up too easily, his quest will be revealed as having little value.
If goals are well-chosen, and if we have the courage to abide by them despite opposition, we shall be so focused on the actions and events around us that we won’t have the time to be unhappy. And then we shall directly feel a sense of order in the warp and the woof of life that fits every thought and emotion into a harmonious whole.
When there are too many demands, options, challenges we become anxious; when too few, we get bored.
There are things that I don’t want to do. Shit! Can’t force myself, but it needs to be done. How to find joy in those moments? How to flip the things around and enjoy it?
Where this apathy comes from? Is it physical exhaustion, meaning that I just need to rest?
If you don’t enjoy what you do. If you don’t believe in what you do. DROP IT! Or push through? I think this is where the problem is… I don’t believe that I can succeed. Otherwise I’ll be sprinting towards the office every morning at 5 am. Instead my startup start feeling as a drag…
The business idea is great – that’s not a problem. It has a lot of potential. The problem is in my head – I am running the same old “not good enough” tape in my head. I am given the opportunity to radically change my live and create something that I can be proud of, but no… Not smart enough, not good enough. F it!
I am mad at myself for that. Why others see me so much better than I see myself? One of us is wrong – me or them? What if I truly believed in my abilities to do anything? Too selfish. What if I had a bulletproof self-confidence? Foolish.
If you don’t enjoy what you do. If it feels like a drag. Drop it! No one holds you hostage and you have other options. However, if you do so, you might feel even worse – a loser. You gave up. Dammit – there is no way out. There is no fast fix to make you feel good in an instant. This is when people turn to food and alcohol.
You know what… I won’t quit just yet. I will force myself to finish this damn pitch script and I will make FUN! I don’t know how, but if I need to dress up in the lobster costume, while writing it – I will. I will finalize the website and have it published. I will enjoy it. This is my website, my presentation, and my business. Because it’s mine – I will build it the way I want. If someone asks why it’s done this way and not the other, I will simply say – Because I decided So. What am I going to lose? Nothing in this world matters, so I might as well make it a fun game. I forgot that I can play. I forgot that there are no rules. No one knows anything for certain, so I get to set my own rules.
This helps… Light it up! Fuck rules and opinions – do what you think is right. Most likely it won’t work, so why you care? Become okay with being wrong. You are not a loser, because you tried. You really tried to make it work and I have respect for your hard work.
To build something you can be proud of. To enjoy the process.
The ability to manage emotions in other people is in the essence of relationships. On the pathway to this mastery, you first need to reach a benchmark of self-control by managing your own impulses, emotions and feelings. Social emotional skills allow to inspire others, to succeed in intimate relationships, to influence and calm others down.
The ability to properly express feelings is a key social competency. Different cultures express their emotions differently:
Minimizing the emotional expression. Japanese tend to mask the feelings of distress in the presence of someone in authority.
Exaggerating the feeling. A kid complaining his mother about being teased at school would more likely exaggerate his emotions.
Substituting one feeling for another. In Asian culture, when its impolite to say no, people may give a faulty assurance instead.
Employing these strategies and knowing when it’s appropriate to do so is another skill of emotional intelligence.
Emotions are Contagious
We send emotional signals in every interaction and those signals affect people on receiving side. We pick up one another’s emotions so easily as they were a virus. There are some people whom we just like to be with. Not necessarily the person himself, but his emotional skills make them “popular”, “charming” or charismatic. People who are able to help others to manage their hard feelings are highly valued in society.
We unconsciously imitate the emotions we read in other people. Science shows that when we see a smiling or angry face, unconsciously our own facial expressions change accordingly, mimicking the perceived emotional message. This changes are evident through slight changes in facial muscles, monitored by electronic sensors, and invisible to the naked eye. Just seeing someone expressing particular emotion can initiate that mood in you, wether you realize it or not. It’s a dance, a synchrony, a transmission of emotions. The more you engaged with the partner, the more synchronized you are with his or hers mood, whether positive or negative. Powerful leaders and performers have the ability to more thousands of people in their audience this way.
The skill of interpersonal intelligence includes the following qualifications:
Organizing groups. Thisis essential skill of a good leader. Organizing and coordinating people is essential for people working as military officers, business owners, producers etc.
Negotiating solutions. People with this ability are great at preventing or resolving problems and conflicts. These people often work as diplomats, lawyers, managers, etc.
Personal connection. This skill helps to predict and recognize other people’s feelings and concerns. People with this ability get along well with everyone, they are good team players, dependable partners and good friends.
Social analysis. The ability to recognize and understand the feelings in other people make one’s good therapists, counselors, dramatists or novelists.
To make an excellent social impression, you have to be able to monitor your own emotional expressions, which should be appropriate to situation and the ways others perceive them. In a sense, you got to be an actor. People who’s social skills help them to make an excellent impression, usually see themselves differently from what they project in the minds of others.
The studies done on school kids, particularly on “popular” and not popular children have shown that unpopular kids usually push their way into a group, trying to change the rules of the game or subject too soon. Right away, they don’t hesitate to offer their opinions, or simply disagreeing with others, trying to get all the attention to themselves. As a result they’re being ignored or rejected. Popular kids, as the opposite, take time to observe the group at first, trying to understand who is who and what’s going on before engaging. They follow the rules and wait to offer suggestions or take initiative until their status get confirmed by the group.
We ride. The truck is cold, so I wait to put the heat on, until the engine warms up. Blake sits on the bottom of the passenger seat. “It might be cold up there”, I thought to myself.
I took the laptop off the passenger seat and winked at him: “Come on” – indicating that he is allowed to jump on the seat. He is happy to do so. Blake sits straight and looks through the window. I turn the hot air on and direct the air vents toward him. I have a jacket, but he doesn’t.
Blake turns his head to the left and looks right me in the eyes. Hot air swings his eyebrows – he is smiling. I smiled too. I put my hand on his head as we continued driving. What a great relationship we’ve developed. He is so much more than a dog. This is something that you can not buy for any money in the world. Me and my dog… share the life together. It is important to document these thoughts and feelings.
Things will change. He will be gone and will miss him. What a great dog! My companion.
I felt bad for all those times when I was rough with him. I am sorry Blake. I am so grateful for him. For some reason the life made me a gift. He must be my guardian angel that was assigned to protect and guide me.
“…he lives the same day again and again while retaining the memory of each iteration that he has lived before…”
He feels like every other day is just like the previous one. Life loses its colors. His energy level go low. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. He falls asleep. He forgets what’s important, he gets snappy at the people around. His life gets automatic, just like machine – he responds to the world. He starts moving in the rhythm of the crowd. He gets hypnotized and falls asleep… deeper and deeper.
NO, Stop! Wake up! Shake up! You need to break free, at any cost. Move. It’s time to change the patterns. Hypnosis holds you so strong that you barely can move or think. You need someone to wake you up, grab you over the shoulders and shake up! BOY WAKE UP!
Search for the eyes that still have that spark of life. Who’s not asleep here? ANYONE?! Silence… No-one. People around are deep asleep. They fell asleep a long time ago and it’s almost impossible to bring them back. Only a few ever felt what it’s like to be truly awake. You are in a desert.
The tension builds up. You feel uncomfortable. You feel helpless. You need to get out. NOW! There is no one to help you, and you need a plan. You will find a way to escape from this black’n’white dream. You will, you always do.
Toronto -> Cozumel, Mexico. Departure in 36 hours. Hesitation… Click -> Booked
Hey, wait. Who pressed the button? What have just happened? Why? To escape? Escape from what? Escape from life? Not to escape, rather search. Search for peace, search for growth… Less speaking, time to pack.
Do you travel solo?
“Do you travel alone?” – the Uber driver has asked.
“Yes, I always do”
“I can’t travel by myself.. I get bored. Do you ever get bored?” – He continued.
“No, I truly enjoy traveling solo. Only by being alone, you get the pure experience of travel.”
Uber driver got silent for a moment. Then he said:
“You are the most interesting customer I’ve ever met during the four years of driving people.”
“Why do you think so?” – I was surprised to hear.
“I don’t know, I just feel it. I think one of my strengths is to “read” people, to see them for what they are…” – he replied.
Checking my bike in was a breethe. A gentleman at the check in didn’t charge me extra $50 bike fee, so all I had to pay for my bike was $30 USD. He also even didn’t put the giant bike box on scales. He asked what kind of sport I am into and wished good luck. Gratitude – is a warm feeling inside.
4 Hours into the Summer
Only 4 hours of flight, but the difference in weather is dramatic. Went through the customs with no problems. It was interesting to learn that Mexican immigration officer didn’t even ask for the VISA I filled out online, and took my Canadian documents to let me in. He said that having US or Canadian VISA is enough and you don’t need to do anything else.
Upon exiting the tiny Cozumel International Airport you have two options for transportation.
Rent a car. The rates are ridiculously high – USD $55 per day for economy class vehicle.
Take a shuttle. There are two shuttle companies that offer cab services. COZY shuttle & Flex shuttle. You need to buy a ticket at the stand inside the terminal. No fixed rates and depending on where you go the price will fluctuate. I pointed at the map on my phone – 305 pesos ($21)… That did not sound right, considering that the place I was staying at was within walking distance from the airport. I turned around and went to their competitor – Flex Shuttle. I told them what I’ve been quoted for and asked if they can do better than that? Sure they did – 100 pesos less. It was challenging trying to explain my cab driver where to go. He asked for the host’s phone number, then he called the host to get directions from his cell phone. During our 1 5 minutes drive he mentioned that he works part-time for the scooter rental company and if I want to rent a bike, he will get me a good price – $20 /day… for a scooter… Okay. Got to my Airbnb safe and sound.
I was staying at Airbnb, hosted by a gentleman named Ellias. He was extremely welcoming and went above and beyond to accommodate me. Also while planning the trip I was looking for pet friendly places. No matter where you go, usually there are not too many pet-friendly places. Even if you find a good one, prepare to pay… I don’t like paying more than I should. Here is a hack: contact the host directly. Don’t worry if description of the place says no pets. Just let the host know you will be traveling with your fluff and you’re wondering if they can make an exception for you. 4/4 places I contacted agreed to take Blake on board with no extra charge.
On my first day I went on exploratory bike ride around the coast. East side of the coast has absolutely gorgeous beaches. The biggest hotels and resorts are outside of town about 20 km away. If you don’t like cycling , rental car or scooter are your only opportunities to get to downtown. Along the road I saw a lot of Jeeps and VW Bugs with convertible tops for rent. If you choose to rent a car over the bike, prepare to get lighter for several hundreds of US dollars. It’s cheaper to be fit and healthy.
A lot of scooters. Honda Dio seems to be the most popular make among wide variety of scooters.
Poverty. Comparing to the world I came from, Cozumel lives really poor. Poverty is in everything: cars, houses, clothes, grocery stores etc.
Crazy driving. There are no rules – only suggestions. The only rule is no matter what, you should never ride a scooter without a helmet. Some crazy administrative fees are associated with it.
Currency exchange. Upon entering any grocery store you will see the sign that displays current currency exchange rate. Don’t get confused as I did. It doesn’t mean you can exchange your dollars here, but instead you can pay for your groceries with dollars which will be automatically converted to pesos (using the number you saw on the sign). Also, at the checkout you will see two prices on the screen: one in USD $, another in MXN Pesos. This tells me how much Cozumel is dependent on tourism.
Grocery shopping. There are few decent size grocery stores, which are located in downtown and million convenience stores around every corner. I was hoping to see some local “fresh catch” or exotic fruits, however the produce variety is not much better than the one we have in the US or Canada. In fact it’s lesser. Prices are cheaper, but not a lot. In regards to costs of products I can compare shopping in large Mexican grocery store with shopping at economy class markets in Canada. What surprised me was a very poor selection of canned beans and legumes. It confused me as I thought Spanish people are all about beans and rice. Maybe it was only my misconception or it’s just the way it’s here, in Cozumel.
Obesity. A lot of people are overweight. Of course, I understand that the level of life here is way lower than up north, and people simply can’t afford to go the extra mile to pay and cook healthy meals. When you barely make ends meet and you work really hard to put the food on a table, healthy eating is the last thing to worry about. Unfortunately this is a reality that I also see in my home country and the rest of the world. Traditions and cultural preferences also add to the problem.
Stray dogs. A lot of homeless dogs are wandering around. Not aggressive, but who knows…
Alcoholism. Grocery stores are filled with tequila and beer. Empty bottles cover the sides of the roads. I see people drink on the streets, at the beaches, at the restaurants… Beer floats like a water. This is especially dangerous when it comes to driving… on a scooters.
No billboard signs. Not a single one.
Also this time a year seem to be not the busiest time of the year. I don’t see too many tourists in downtown. Rental car companies have their parking lots filled with empty cars. Well… better for me and others who came to visit.
Sea Walls, Beard & Haircut
Morning swim was challenging. Not sure how many kilometers I swam. felt like 2-3 km along the shore. Water temperature can not get any better and it’s really warm even early in the morning. I spent quite a bit of time working on some things and even got a chance to take a one hour nap by the pool. Later in the evening I took the scooter and headed out to the beach. Right by the Turquoise Beach Bar there is a little wooden pier where people go snorkeling.
That’s where I met a group of people from Ottawa. Three men and Kim. Older folks seemed to be really interested in my persona and I willingly accepted all the attention. One of them works remotely, as a zoo inspector. He’s making sure all the animals are being treated fairly and facilities meet all the criteria. He was pretty happy to be able to work remotely from Mexico. Indeed it’s something to strive for. Kim told me about a great place to scuba dive, called Scuba Mau Cozumel. $75 an hour, and she reassured me that it’s well worth the money. She also told me about this thing called Cozumel Seal Walls. This is a program that brings the message of ocean conservation into streets around the world. Graffiti on 20 walls around town – is what this is. There is a map, where each of them is located so you can go on a walking tour around town, collecting pictures of them. Link to the Google map. The Cozumel Sea Walls are amazing!
I chatted with these folks for about 40 minutes and they all seemed to be really open and nice people. They said they come to the pier every day at 5:30 pm to see the sunset and I should come too. I might.
Haircut at the local barber shop cost me USD $2. That’s versus $25 + tip in Canada. Three young guys work at the salon. Not older than 20 years old, I would even say 17-18… I used google translator to explain what I needed and landed in a seat. Young gentleman took great care of me and I really liked my new haircut. This was the best $2 haircut I ever gotten. Gracias!
I haven’t met too many locals who speak English. In fact, almost no-one does. Only a few young folks did. Hearing me speak English some younger folks got pretty excited. I guess it’s a good practise for them.
Overall most of the people I met so far, were nice and friendly. I haven’t felt offended or defencive. I guess, you find what you’re searching for…
The day had started with a bike ride around the island. 60+ km I enjoyed the beautiful morning sunrise. First 20 km I rode with Roberto. He works as a captain on the car ferry which takes cargo to and from the mainland – Cancun. One day he dreams to visit Canada and US, however he needs to save up some money first. He cycles just to stay in shape and thinks that Ironman racing is only for crazy people. He did not consider himself crazy, therefore he was just a spectator on those races.
” You know, there is a group riding every Tuesdays and Thursdays. “They gather at the stadium around 6:30 am and ride around the island. Those guys are pretty strong and maintain the speed of ~40 km/h for the entire duration“, he told me.
Came back home and it stoned me. The rest of the day I suffered from pretty bad episodes of anxiety and stress. Every time like a first time. It was also raining pretty bad and I got completely wet that day. At first on the bike riding home, then on the scooter in the evening. Mentally it was a hard, really hard day. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t enjoy my life… In Mexico, under the sun, but still hanging out with my old stupid friends. Glad it’s over…
Walking & Watching
Ocean swimming. Dark blue skies, really windy – high waves. Should I train at the pool today instead? No, it’s a great chance to practice swimming in less desirable conditions. While changing into my swimwear, a guy came down to the pier and closed the gates. Of course it didn’t stop me, so I went and opened the gate back again. Funny enough, while untying the gate chains, I got stabbed by a bee in my left hand. It hurt like b*tch for a while.
“It must’ve been a sign that I shouldn’t swim in these weather conditions” – I thought to myself. “Bullshit, get to work” – Ego replied.
Right from the beginning I felt like crap, floating on top of the water. 15 minutes into the swim I got stabbed again, this time right into my face. It hurt pretty bad and I got worried that my face can get swollen. I didn’t see what hit me, however it was not a jellyfish and I did not see any other living organisms around that could get mad at me.
“It was another sign! Get out of the water until you get yourself in trouble.” – I did.
Because I wasn’t able to complete the ocean swimming training, I felt that I needed to compensate for that. I went to the local pool, where I put in an extra 1 km. I also me a guy named Jovanni. He was a swimming coach, training a group of young kids. After a brief chat with him we set a meeting for the next day at 2 pm. I said that I would like him to assess my swimming technique and give me some tips to work on. We didn’t discuss the price, but he agreed.
I went for a walk in the evening. Going down the streets I noticed one interesting thing. Just for a brief second I noticed a huge flat screen TV shining through the rusted window grill. As I kept on walking through this post apocalyptic view streets, over and over I continued to discover new shades of poverty. At one point I realized: the worse living conditions – the bigger TV screens are. The ugliest houses have the most expensive TVs. The more disappointed people with their lives – the louder the music plays in their houses. The less people have within themselves – the more makeup on their faces. The less people have in their heads the shinier their cars or scooters and the brighter color clothes they wear. It sounds like a well known fact, but at that moment I realized it as clear as never before. What followed is realization that I was just like that, with gadgets, clothes, cars… you name it. In fact, I still am, just choosing different methods. The principle is exactly the same, the mechanics are the same. Ego, I suppose is in control of all this madness. People just try to numb their inner disappointment, mental pain with possessions, alcohol, stimulants, sex. They fool themselves that the things are not as bad as they seem. It could be worse they say. They are so deep asleep. I am asleep too. We all live in our imaginary little worlds that our minds created for ourselves. Those worlds have little to do with the actual reality and it made me sad. Really sad to realize that.
What do you try to compensate for? What type of anesthesia would you prefer? How long can you survive without it? How the world would look like for what it really is?
Don’t Drink Mexican Water. Hot Tub Geographical Idiot.
For the past few days I’ve been feeling discomfort in my stomach. It was getting worse and worse as the days went by. Not sure if I just ate something my body couldn’t process, climate change or some sort of bacteria. I needed to help my body to cleanse itself. I went from one pharmacy to another, searching for enemas or something like that. Nothing… Not kidding, I went to about 5-6 pharmacies on the island and none of them had anything that could help me. Finally the body said f*ck you Sasha and blew out the plug. The entire night I spent sitting on the white rock. I might’ve lost half of my body’s weight that night.
Despite or I would say thanks to my night’s adventure I woke up feeling light in my stomach. I felt relieved. It was a really windy morning and I had to fight it for about 20 km along the east side of the island. Considering the lack of sleep and gastrointestinal issues, I felt unusually strong on the bike. I think that because of carb rich breakfast (oatmeal, snack bar, pineapple) and coffee. Also I fueled my ride with two protein bars, which also helped. Haven’t met anyone new on the road and almost felt like at home, navigating throughout the island.
After lunch I went to meet with Jovani – a swimming coach I met yesterday. Got to the local pool on time – at 2 pm, however the guy never showed up. No blaming, life happens. I swam for 1 km and went back to my place. The pool is clean and warm. It is also free, however if you ever accidentally swallow a drop of water from that pool, boy you will regret you were born. Not sure what chemicals they use, but it tastes and smells absolutely disgusting. What if this water caused me severe diarrhea last night?
Spent the evening walking and riding along the beach. Chilled for an hour at the hot tub in Cozumel Hotel & Resort. In hot tub I joined a group of American people who came from Chicago. A family of four seemed as a nice people, taking about stupid things, making smart faces and looking cool.
“ Where you’re from?”, they asked
“ I’m from Toronto, Canada”, I replied
“ Is it in Montreal?”, a young guy about my age, has asked
“ No-no, I’m from Toronto”, I repeated
“ Yeah, I heard. But is it in Montreal?”, He asked me again and I realized that he was not kidding. His geographical idiotism put me into a mini-shock.
“ You seem French, this is why I’m asking if you’re from Montreal?”, he added. I had literally nothing to reply, so I just smiled.
Then his mother asked: “Is it a Russian accent?”
“ Yes, it is!”, I replied.
“ I knew it!”, the guy said and exploded my mind. Wow, I’m sorry, but what an idiot.
Came back “home” and met my host Elliot with his wife doing the laundry. We had a nice 30 minute chat about different things and planned an activity together. I learned that they go to church every Sunday and I asked if I could keep them company. Elliot said they go to Jehovah’s Witness church and took a pause. Great! I said. I have never been to Jehovah’s Witness church and would love to learn more about their religion, meet new people and see the church. 3 pm on Sunday. I also offered to take them both out for a dinner somewhere at the local restaurant. They gladly accepted the offer and Elliot said he knows a good place – their favorite bar by the beach. “From church – to the bar”, I smiled.
Mainland: Playa del Carmen
Barely lifted my head off the pillow and went straight to the local pool. It’s really windy and I don’t feel like fighting the ocean waves for an hour. I was able to cover exactly 3 km during one hour of continuous swimming. It was hard, but as usual – hard effort pays off with a burst of endorphins, when you hit the stop button on your watch. Left the pool satisfied and relieved.
Quick breakfast and headed to Cozumel Ferry Dock. $20 USD costs the ferry to the mainland. The ride takes about 45 minutes on a fancy, air conditioned two story ship. Purchased the tickets online, which saved me time and $2. Felt sick. Keep in mind that if you decide to chill on the back of the ship, you will have to sacrifice a beautiful view for poisoning yourself with exhaust fumes that come from the diesel engine.
Playa del Carmen is a popular tourist destination with a beautiful sand beaches and countless shops. I really enjoyed those two hours at the beach. I read the book and watched the people. There was an interesting guy who was sitting nearby and caught my attention. He was a really skinny guy, with long hair that was going down all the way to his hips and a long beard. He was meditating. Everyone who passed him looked at him as he was an alien, sarcastically smiled and kept on walking. He was around my age, which made him so interesting to me. I wanted to come up to him and have a chat, however he looked so chill and in piece that I didn’t want to disturb him. He opened his eyes and pulled out a huge papaya from his backpack. With his fingers, he cracked the fruit in half and began eating it with a spoon he also kept in his backpack. Papaya – is what I want!
I left the beach and walked around for a bit. Hundreds, hundreds of cafes, shops and malls stretch out along the beach. A lot of action, a lot of tourists. A really loud place, where from every corner someone yells at you to buy his merchandise. Without any concerns, people drink right on the streets. Surprisingly, despite the crowd and noise I haven’t felt uncomfortable. The rain has started and I went my way back to the pier, to go back on the island. You will need an entire day or two to cover just the beach area, without stopping at the shops or cafes. I will come back.
While walking through the city it began raining really bad, so I started to look for a place to hide. I jumped into the closest restaurant, it appeared to be the winery. What a great wine tasting experience I’ve had! Lois is the owner of the wine store, told me more about his wines than I ever known up to this point. “Off the Vine” is the name of the place, which is located on the Main Street of the Playa de Carmen. About 90 minutes I’ve been drinking different wines and listening to Louis talk. He had the answer on every single question I’ve asked. I left the place with expensive bottle of Shiraz and a load of knowledge.
There is a local gym called an EGO gym. 5 visits cost 400 pesos (~CAD $30). They’ve got some good equipment there – as good as it can get in Mexico. For some reason I’ve attracted a lot of attention, however not the kind I would like to. I caught a few weird looks on me, coming from the guys. Whatever! I love the weigh training for it’s mind cleansing effect on me. Had a good pump and a great workout. Tired.
So many police cars around the town this evening. Several marine trucks fully loaded with soldiers on the back. Guns and strobe lights. I guess there are a lot of crime issues, comes the weekend. If they freely drink during daylight hours on weekdays, I can only imagine what’s happening on the weekends. I better be careful on my bike or scooter. Don’t want to be hit by a drunk driver.
Met a mother and her young daughter at the hot tub this evening. The lady was bitching about the cold ocean and chilly weather. I have no idea what she was speaking about because both the ocean and weather could not get any better for me. They’re from Houston, Texas. Maybe that’s why.
What a great day…
Catherine from London. Alternative Lifestyle.
Cathy – an older lady, in her 50s. Damn, is she a fitness model? Nothing sexual, but I have never met anyone so good looking and fit at her age. Right after my morning run along the shore, I stripped down and jumped into the ocean to cool off. This is where I met her. She was swimming there with her mask and (!attention) – headphones. We chatted for a while.
She is also from Canada. London, Ontario is a city about three hours of driving west from Toronto. She lives what I call the 6/6 life. Six months out of the year in Canada, other six in Mexico. While in MX, she rents out her London house and has the tenants pay the rent. In Cozumel she works at the dive shop called Tres Pelicanos. She cycles, swims, dives and does yoga on a daily basis. No wonder she’s so fit! I learned later that she is not the only foreigner who keeps the 6/6 lifestyle…
In hot tub, two days ago, I witnessed a conversation between two families. They talked about an older couple whom they both met at different times. The mutual friends they met spend the winter on the Mexican island every year. My ears opened up… Three day earlier, I also met a Canadian guy who was spending the winter under the sun here. He was working full time as a zoo certification officer. I was really interested to learn how those people manage work and life with such an international lifestyle. What sacrifices did they have to make to live such life? Talking to these folks made me think…
How much do you need to be happy? Really, how much money will make you happy? Now imagine you have all this money, then what? Will you buy everything? Ok, you will buy a better car, maybe a jet, a yacht, a mention… whatever. Now what? I know for a fact that material things won’t make me happy. For so long I’ve been made to believe that I NEED that car, I NEED that latest gadget, I NEED to wear specific brand of clothing to be happy, I NEED to be accepted and validated by other people, I NEED to meet their expectations to be loved, I NEED to look this and that… HAHA! Smile, I smile right now. With a genuine smile on my face I say Fuck it! Fuck it, and fuck anyone who judge people by the car they drive, brand of clothing they wear, pictures on social media they post etc, etc,… I have wasted so much energy and time worrying what others thought of me, how many friends I’ve had or had not, who liked or didn’t like me. Gosh, how stupid I was. How deep asleep I was. Not even funny.
A lot of Mexican people want to live anywhere in the world, besides Mexico. In particular, they dream about moving to USA, Canada or Europe. The zombie-boxes they have wasted their money on, made them believe that there is a better world where everyone is happy, fit and healthy. F*uck that! People! turn off that shit-boxes and wake up! Look around. Why do you think so many Canadians and Americans make Mexico or other “third world” countries their second homes? Would anyone want to leave the paradise and move into the dirt? Of course not, however I hear more and more about people who escape their American lives and move to Cuba, Mexico, Thailand, you name it. In fact, those people are often the ones to be considered “successful” in modern world – in terms of money. They’ve had strong careers, profitable businesses, big comfortable houses and fancy cars. Now they live in Mexico, in a middle of nowhere, in one bedroom apartment homes, ride their bikes or scooters and work at the local shops. They didn’t bring their “success” with them, but left it behind as a heavy luggage to carry. Some spent decades, working their asses off just to become free. Society made their EGOs believe that they NEEDed material attributes of “successful” life to become happy. The EGO then pushed those folks to set goals, and achieve, achieve, achieve, achieve… Like hamsters in a wheel they spin their tiny legs faster and faster. They did not even have the time to slow down for a second, look around and freaking ask themselves where are they running? 90% of the goals you set for yourself at the end of year – are not your goals! How many times have I told to myself: “I don’t know, I am just tired… I am depressed. Why do I live? Why do I do what I do?” Don’t worry buddy, we’ve got your back. Want some coffee to energize or maybe another pint of beer? Wait look, a stranger on Instagram just posted a picture of his/hers recent trip to Bahamas. Look, here is another one – bought a car you can never afford. They are better than you, they are smarter, they are fitter. You need to work harder – get up and go back into the wheel! Ego. This is what the Ego is.
What made those people whom I met to wake up? At what point did they realize that it’s all fake? I want to take a pic at the world through their lenses and learn how they broke free from the ugly “successful” world. I want to hear what their favorite part about such lifestyle and will they ever go back to living 5-8 life?
Cycling Buddies: Father & Son. Cathy from Montreal. Jehovah’s Witnesses.
As always I began the day with a workout – bike ride around the island. About 10 km into the ride I got passed by a car with a young cyclist drafting on the back of it. I speed up and jumped on the tail of these folks. 10 kilometers further they stopped and I got a chance to introduce myself. Father – the driver was training his son for the triathlon, specifically – cycling. Also on the passenger seat there was a lady an a cute little dog – their mom and wife. We continued riding together and had a loooong conversation with the man. He is in Mexican military, serving off the mainland. He came to the island to enjoy his Christmas vacation and trains his 14 years old son. The son is eager to train and already achieved quite a lot as a swimmer. Where, when, with whom to ride? I got a lot of useful information from this man and enjoyed his company. I also learned about the best places to snorkel and the cheapest diving store to buy the gear. He also introduced me to his cycling buddies that we caught down the road. We exchanged phone numbers and he promised to put me in touch with a local cycling team. Arrivederci amigo! It was nice to meet you.
Later today, at the beach bar I met Catherine. Woman in her 40s, came down all the way from Montreal, Canada. It’s unbelievable how many Canadians I’ve met here so far. She decided to drop her job in Montreal and move to Mexico. In exchange to security and well paid job back at home, she was hunting for a employment here on the island. She’ve had several interviews, however none of them ended up being successful for her. She discovered that despite her education and work experience, her main asset was the fluent French. A lot of people can talk English, even more Spanish, however only so few speak fluent French. This skill is valuable to have, particularly in Mexico. A lot of tourists come from Canada, a lot of them speak French. Anyways, the job hunt was not really successful for her and it made me reevaluate my perspective on availability and demand of jobs on the island. She seemed to be a very opened and talkative person, maybe a bit too hyper for me. She mentioned that she’ve spent about a month on the island and wants to try scuba diving. Well geat, I want to Scuba too. We went to the nearby diving center and signed up for the scuba diving the next morning. Approximately 40 minutes of scuba diving will cost us $106 USD including the introduction class at the local pool.
As I learned few days ago, my new Mexican friend – Ellias was a member of Jehovah’s Witness church. I’ve never been to one and asked if I could come to the church with him. Ge seemed to be surprised to hear the interest from me. It started raining so bad, right before I had to leave for the church. No car, no umbrella, no nothing. Two choices: stay dry at home or get wet and walk under the rain to the church. If I set my mind to do something, I will surely do it. Took off my sneakers and started walking barefoot under the rain. It was a 30 minutes walk. Several times I got passed by folks on scooters, wearing some type of plastic covers against the rain. I stepped into convenience store no my way and asked if they have an umbrella. “No, Senor”. I pointed outside on a guy wearing that plastic rain cover. A lady behind the counter said no problems – 10 pesos. My money went towards purchasing a black trash bag. She said hold it here and there, pulled out the sizers and cut the holes for hands and head.
30 minutes later I made it to the church. Church service was in full blast so I tried to sneak into auditorium as quiet as possible. People almost broke their necks when they saw white Gringo, wearing black trash bag opened walked in. I felt my face set on fire and I almost burned down from shame. I set quietly and watched. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I just repeated the movements after them. They clap – I clap. They stand up – I stand up. I felt guilty, so tried to blend in, to get accepted… Old habits. Unlike me, everyone in the church were really-really nicely dressed. Looked nice, smelled nice. Different than in Orthodox churches – women did not have their heads covered. After the service has ended, I met a lot of new people. There were a lot of hand shaking, touching and smiling. People seem to be genuinely interested in my persona. With all my questions about their religion, they simply forwarded me to Jehovah’s Witnesses website and said I’ll find there all the answers. I have not felt to be pushed on with their religion of beliefs. Shortly, I felt comfortable, but it was time to leave.
Hot tub is my socialization spot. You never know whom you will meet this time. For the past several days I’ve been coming here to meet people, and there always been someone in it. Every time – different people, from different places. Tonight was not an exception and I had a different experience. Very drunk obese people occupied the tub. It was interesting to watch them interact with one another, listen to their talks. Their laughs sounded like a cry. It seemed like they were competing with one another at showing who can seem the “happiest”. Happy people don’t get drunk, happy people don’t need to prove others they are happy – it was ugly to watch. They were not welcomed and pretended I was not there. I felt slightly uncomfortable. Interestingly, I spotted the feeling of guilt arise in me. I was not like them, I was not accepted, there must be something wrong with me – I am guilty. Old demons, old habits. Normally I would initiate the conversation, however I did not feel like doing so this time. We would simply not understand each other. I just sat and watched… We walk on the same planet, however live in totally different worlds. Not good or bad, just different.
Open Water Swim. Punta Morena with Cathy. Double Date.
Clear sky in the morning made me excited. It meant that the go scuba diving today, however it did not happen. I got a text from Cathy saying that despite the clear sky, Scuba diving is canceled. Because of the strong winds coming from North the port got shut down. No Scuba today… Stand by.
My new friend suggested we go on the other side of the island – explore Punta Morena beach. She invited me to her place for a tour. What a beautiful apartment! Top floor, patio, grill, windows all around, a kitchen, a big TV, internet… all you need.
She jumped on the back of my steel goat and I opened up the throttle. It took us about 40 minutes to cover 35 km on a scooter. I got complimented for my driving skills. It was nice to hear that I am a good driver and she felt safe with me.
$25 USD to rent and umbrella and two chairs for a day. I quickly changed into my swimming clothes, or to be exact – the absence of them. Inflated my “toxic orange” swim buoy and headed towards the ocean.
“If I don’t get back, the scooter is yours. Keys are in backpack.” – I told Cathy and dove in.
Despite strong winds, waves were not as high as they were on the south side of the island – where we came from. I was not feeling particularly good, however I remained myself to be grateful for relatively still water. The water was really, really clear and every time I swam in the ocean was as I went to aquarium. Water clarity allows to see 20-30 meters deep. All kinds of fish, corals, white sand and beautiful rocks. Somewhere in the middle of the swim, 1-2 km away, I saw something unusual on the sandy bottom. A stingray was laying still, covered with sand so you can barely see him. I stopped and continued watching him. With a side view I spotted some movement on the left of the fish. $20 US dollar bill folded in half was floating on the bottom on the ocean, in the middle of nowhere. I wondered if I could get it. I unstrapped myself from the buoy and went head down 4-5 meters. I felt really strong, uncomfortable pressure on my nose and ear drums. The bill was about 6-7 meters down the bottom and I was so close to getting it, but the pressure caused so much pain in the ear drums that I worried I could really hurt myself. I attempted three-four times to dive deeper and deeper. I also tried to dive with my lungs full and empty – same deal, too much pressure. I was so close and was not going to give up so easily. I started thinking and quickly came up with a solution. I dove down with my feet first and grabbed the bill with my toes. Still hurt my ear drums, however I GOT IT! I was so freaking proud of myself that the rest 1000 meters swim was just a breathe. I realize how ridiculous it was to risk my health or even life over a stupid piece of paper, but I promise it wasn’t about the money itself. It was more of can I get it or not? Yes, I can! I always do!
I exited the water and began walking back towards the starting point. The beach I exited at was crowded and Indian lady rapidly approached me. “Are you a lifeguard?” – she asked. I smiled and said I am not, however did not hesitate to ask if she needed help. She said not, however she would appreciate lifeguard assistance at the beach, just in case. Well, I used to work as a lifeguard in my college years. Funny.
Cathy met met at the beach with a bottle of water, She seemed anxious and stressed. As I swam approximately 1 km away from the shore, she lost me out of sight and couldn’t see me any longer. Of course, she got worried and went for help. Military people were walking along the beach, so she asked for help. They spotted me with their binoculars and reassured he I was still alive. I laughed. Now all the military personnel and the beach restaurant staff knew me.
Me and Cathy snorkeled together for a bit and went back to the town. On the way back I stopped at Tequila Tour shop. I knew my buddy was working there, so I went to say hi. He was glad to see me and gave us a free tour around tequila plant. This is what he was doing for the living – Tequila Tour Guide. I learned about the history and process of tequila production. At the end of the tour, guests are offered tequila tasting session. I rejected the offer right away, as I don’t drink, however I encouraged Cathy to give it a shot, literally. She said tequila was really good.
Later same evening we went to a dinner with my tequila-buddy and his wife. We called it a “double-date”. I told him I like seafood, so he bought us the place seafood restaurant called El Coctelito. I didn’t like the place, however it didn’t matter as I went there to talk, not to eat. He and his wife are 32 year old, young and pretty.
“So, what’s the plan?” – I asked them. “The pan?” – Ellias. “Yes, the plan. What’s you plan for the life? What do strive for? What do you dream about?” – I don’t like shallow conversations. I wanted to get to know them better.
They both want to travel abroad. She wants to go to India, he wants to see the Alps. Also, he would like to open several fish pedicure spalocations on the island.
“We want to live a quiet, simple life. We want to serve our church. We want to be good people, nice to others and others be good to us.”
It was beautiful. However it was hard for me to accept such answer… Was it my Ego again?… I almost said something like “Is this all…?” Thank God I didn’t, I killed this impulse and stopped right there. This is their lives, this is what makes them happy and neither me or anyone else has the right to judge their choice. In fact, they seemed to be truly happy together and it was beautiful to watch.
I finished my cheap red wine and fish with rice. I enjoyed the company and liked the people. I wanted to show my appreciation and offered to cover the dinner. Everything has its price and I payed for the good times spent. I will probably never meet these people again, however I am sure we will keep good memories of one another.
Christmas Eve: Santa is in Town
I woke up this morning feeling absolutely horrible. Fever, ear infection, sore throat and beautiful racoon circles under the eyes. To make me feel better – tree hours bike ride on the schedule for today. I never skip workouts.
Mental masturbation lasted the entire morning. On the bike ride and even after I got back home, I couldn’t decide. Few days ago I found this cool place called Tulum and made a plan to go explore it. The place is located about 75 km from the ferry dock, so you needed some tipe of transportation to get there. I booked a rental car on the mainland and set my plans to get there after my training this morning. I would arrive to the mainland by ferry ($20), pick up the rental ($30 /day) and head towards Tulum. I would spend a day and night there and come back the next day. Drop off the car and return to the island for the Christmas Day/Evening celebration. I was not feeling well, but that wasn’t the problem. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not. Why? Where are you running? Why won’t you just slow down and take a breath? You can’t see everything in one day or week. Two different voices talked to me. One said – go, another said – don’t, you need a rest. It was interesting to observe two completely different perspectives within one mind. “Go explore. See new places. Meet new people. You are here only for so long. Don’t sit on your butt, pick up and go!”. The other side of Sasha said: “You’ve got a fever, sore throat, ear infection. You are weak and exhausted. Even if you go, you will not enjoy the trip. You need to rest. You need to train. Where are you always running? What are you running from? You will just waste the money. You already spent much more on this trip than originally planned”. Each side had legitimate points, which drove me crazy. I realized I was wasting so much of my energy on this mental masturbation, trying to decide. Travel is so selfish. You are hunting for new experiences to feed your forever hungry brain. More pictures! More action! The more places you visit, the more new ones open up. More, more, more… Me, me, me… Something’s not right. You can only take so much, until it stops satisfying you. Maybe instead of getting, you need to start giving…
All of a sudden I got an idea. More about the crazy idea and execution I wrote here:
The day was FILLED with new experiences. By the end of it I went to bed exhausted, completely drained. What a day!
Christmas Day: Santa at the Beach
Christmas in Mexico is a big deal and people party all night long. They go to church around 8 pm, then come home for a family dinner and go party from midnight till sunrise. Similar to out New Year’s celebrations. All night partying was not in my plans and I went to bed pretty early. Loud music was blasting through the night. It was a bit hard to fall asleep at first, but once I did, you can not wake me up even if you shoot from the gun next to my ear.
In the morning I went on a 10km easy run with my new Mexican buddy. It was obvious to me that he was a gay, however it did not change anything. I truly enjoyed his company and we decided to spend the day together.
Today Santa operates at the beach. We went to the beach called Punta Morena. As expected, Santa on the beach attracted a lot of attention, not only from kids, but from adults. Even the owner of the beach club came up to say hi and thank me for engaging the public. She thought it was a great idea and asked to take a photo with her. Not only the business owner, but a lot of other people wanted to take a selfie with Santo Clós. It was a lot of fun, however hot! Santa stripped down into his red speedos and dove into the ocean. Mission complete.
The rest of the day we spent driving around the island, stopping at the beautiful places and having drinks. Bar tenders offered free drinks for Mr. Claus, however too bad that Santa doesn’t drink, otherwise he could’ve gotten pretty fucked up for free. For the first time I’ve tried drinking the coconut water out of the fruit. I took a nap at the beach and soaked in as much sun as I could. It was a great day, in a great company.
Last Day: Scuba Diving
Today was my last long bike ride, before returning back to Canada. 4 hour – 108 kilometers around the island. The weather was perfect, no wind. My buddy Beto desired to join me for the ride and I did not resist. I was in an interesting state of mind that morning. My head was spinning and I felt like “out of body”. Sleep deprivation, too much caffeine and wine play ugly games with my mind. We rode in silence, only having a few brief conversations from time to time. I was not in the mood for chatting and was quite struggling on such an easy-effort ride.
Beto went home after the first 60 km and I continued solo. Completed the ride and headed straight to the SCUBA diving center, where I’ve had made a reservation.
Hungry, tired and “out of my mind” I found myself in a wetsuit and other scuba equipment, floating in the nearby hotel’s pool. Everyone at the diving center are french: instructors, owners, even the customers are all french people. They barely spoke broken english and all the training was in french. Sometimes instructor would turn over to me and attempt to translate the important things in English. 90% of the time I had no idea what they were talking about, however it didn’t really matter to me – I was too tired to get mad. In fact I was still deciding if it’s something I want to do and spend my money on… Several times I almost said f*uck it, I am too tired, but something stopped me. Realization that if I don’t do it now, I won’t have a chance to Scuba Dive for a while.
About 90 minutes training in the pool, one hour break and into the ocean.We loaded onto the boat and headed towards the “spot”. Eight people got divided into three groups, with separate diving instructor for each. A big step forward and you’re flying. Only from the second attempt I was able to begin the descent and start equalizing as we went deeper and deeper. Holly shit it was cool! I have never seen the water so clear and the fish so close. I am glad I didn’t pull the plug and went scuba diving even when not feeling like it.
Another story of alternative lifestyle in action. On a way back, on a boat I’ve had conversation with my diving instructor. He was a young man, bartender in the past. 32 years old, originally from France. I learned from him that you can travel and work as a scuba instructor. Once you went through the lengthy and expensive certification process you can find a job in some really cool places around the world. The guy truly enjoyed his lifestyle. “You won’t get rich, working as an instructor” – he said. However, the job brought enough food on his table and allowed him to travel the world. Another story, another traveler… Would I enjoy doing what he was doing…? Will such lifestyle suit me and make me happier than I am now?
Later in the evening I invited for a glass of red dry my Airbnb host and now a friend – Ellias. Before I left, I wanted to chat once again and say a proper goodbye. It was really nice of them to get me a present – photo frame “With Love from Cozumel”. We had a nice chat and went to bed. It was a nice ending of the day and I literally crashed in my bed. Exhausted again, I gave today’s day all my energy. It felt like I’ve been driving my body on overdrive for the past several days and soon something will have to give in.
Final Thoughts The Crash
Three accidents this morning. I’ve witnessed three pretty bad accident on the road at different spots in the town. I realized that despite the crazy local driving I haven’t seen a single crash or even a minor road accident. Today I’ve seen three…
The flight back wasn’t too bad. To get to Cozumel Airport I had to take a cab -> ferry -> bus. I felt exhausted and lethargic.
For the past few days I’ve been in a weir state of mind. “Out of body” – as if I would be looking at the world through the third person eyes. I feel out of reality and it makes me worried. It’s an uncomfortable feeling – the unknown.
I am exhausted. Every part of my body is tired. The battery is in red zone and I slowly shut down from the outside world. I am tired from extra attention I’ve been getting since I landed in Mexico. People look at me with the interest. An alien landed on their land. I could not escape curious eyes in the neighborhood I stayed at . Something in me attracted people’s attention and they often would just stare at me, looking from the bottom up. It’s neither good or bad, I am just tired from it.
While in Mexico, I let myself loose and broke my usual routine. Instead of usual bed time around 8-9 pm, I would often stay up till midnight or even past that. I could not force myself go to bed and I would always find something to do. Write, research on business, social media, read, plan for tomorrow etc. If I was not doing anything, I would eat. Same mechanism – trying to change my state with external stimuli. I’ve had a lot of wine, I have eaten too much sugar and fruits I would not usually eat, I have had unhealthy high doses of caffeine, I haven’t slept enough, I have eaten too much garbage, I have often overeat right before the bedtime… Why keep up the usual routine if I could simply continue living like that? No planning, no diets, no schedules, no training… Why all this? Why do I do what I do? Again and again, I question myself: Why?
Ferry to the mainland. ADO bust to Cancun airport. I am here, I am present and I am not… What is this “out of body” state of mind is about? Is it how the exhaustion feels like? Is is mental of physical? I remain in this bobble.
Plane to Toronto got broken and flight is delayed. Switch gates and wait… Even after all passengers took their seats, we still remained motionless for an hour. Something’s also wrong with this plane. Captain gave the green light and commanded flight attendants to prepare for departure. Cabin lights got dim and belt signs lighted on. Annoying beeping sound won’t stop and the guy sitting next to me got nervous. The plane slowly moved along the runway to take off. Something inside of me started to worry. What if the road accidents I saw earlier today were the sign? What is this weird state of mind I’m in, is the sign? What if the flight was delayed for a reason?… What if my plane will not land?
The plane speed up and everyone got quiet. Several seconds later we lift off and left the ground. What if today was my last day living? I felt asleep…
All of a sudden I woke up from the people screaming. The horrific scream I never heard before. People were screaming out of animal fear that strike them. The plane was streaming heading towards the ground. Do I accept my death peacefully or in agony? Do I regret of anything or being grateful?
Death would feel like a relief… My mind has finally found a piece. My body completely relaxed and soft. I am completely present and I am smiling. I am not afraid. I am grateful for a beautiful journey that my life been. Grateful for absolutely everything that have happened and did not happen to me. Not to me, but to him – to Sasha. His is the one who is going to die in a few moments. Out of body – I now watch the catastrophe unfold in front of his eyes. His eyes are wide opened, adrenaline rush is pumping in his ears. This is it, the game is over. I always knew that my presence in this world was meant to be short, however I did not know how and where it will end. This is it boy, this is your station. It’s time to make the room for the next passenger. The only thing I wished for is a chance to experience being a father. Enormous amount of love for my kids will not find the use in this world, however it will not be lost. Nothing gets lost and knowing it makes me calm.
I don’t breathe. I don’t move. I don’t resist. I just watch…
Bed and Blake
I was happy to come back to Canada. While standing in line to immigration checkpoint, one the officers came up to me and opened the gate. He said I can go and pointed towards the exit. I got really confused, however I was too tired to ask questions. I went the way he showed me and ended up at the terminal exit. Wait! Not VISA and Passport check? Why? Why me? I have no idea what happened there, however I was grateful for such a gift. From the plane, through the customs and immigration security check in 10 minutes… This is the record.
Blake was really excited to see me. I was happy to see him too, he is my buddy. People who watched him, while I was gone said few days after I left he’ve been howling at night. I felt guilty for leaving him at home, when I could’ve taken him. I never heard him howl. That night I slept so deep, as never before. I was happy to be “home”.
Why didn’t I take Blake?
Not to justify my decision, but to give you an idea of what it takes to bring your pet with you to Mexican vacation. To do so you have to jump through several hoops. The good news is that it’s possible and there are options. Some more expensive, some less, some free.
Free: Collect Required Emotional support documents and submit to the airline
Paid: Pay $210 fee to Bring Blake on the plane
I hate paying extra. To bring Blake on the plane and because I am so cheap, I had to jump through three hoops:
1. Confirmation of animal training – to be signed by the owner/trainer of the animal.
2. A letter from medical/mental healthprofessional – to include your medical professional’s license number, type of license, jurisdiction in which the license was issued, and jurisdiction of practice (which must be where you reside). Must be signed by your medical professional (e.g. psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, general practitioner).
3. Veterinary health – to be signed by the animal’s veterinarian or, in lieu of this form, a copy of the vaccination records which include vaccination dates and veterinary office information.
Called the office and found out that to bring Blake back to Canada I need only the raibie certificate. That’s all!
I was able to get all the pieces of this puzzle, however Blake stayed at home. As always, I was a tough decision whether take him or not. I’ll be training A LOT. I won’t be able to take him with me so he’ll have to sit at home. While traveling I have to carry my bike, backpack and duffle bag. Having to carry him would add me so much extra stress. However I realize these are only excuses… not sure if I did right that left him at home. He would definitely enjoy the beach.
Spartan Racing is not my specialty and often compromises my performance in triathlon, but still I do it. Why?
To spice up my life and training by doing something different and fun.
To get a sense of competition.
To get outdoors and explore new places, new cities, meet new people.
To get an extra mini-achievement under my belt, which also brings experience.
At the beginning of this year of 2019 one of the goals I set was to obtain Trifecta Medal.
What is Trifecta?
It’s a special medal that comes in three pieces. A member of the Spartan Trifecta Tribe has to finish three Spartan races distances, a 3 mile Sprint, an 8 mile Super, and the 13 mile Beast in a calendar year, anywhere in the world.
By this point I have completed the first two distances and even managed to come in first in my division at the 13 km Super. The Beast is what stands in between me and Trifecta. My last opportunity this year to do this race is on September 1st, in my home province of Ontario.
I didn’t skip on this opportunity and Trifecta is mine!
Below is the picture of howit look like. It’s a combination of three magnetic pieces that combined make up the medal:
Triathlon is my main area of focus. Specifically the Ironman 70.3 races. I dedicate all my time, money and effort to getting better at swimming, cycling and running. Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid, New York is my next endeavor and it’s coming up in a week, on September 8th. 6 days separate one race from another. For the past couple of months I’ve been training my bumm off for this race and I really want to do great.
I signed up for the Spartan a few months ago, but the closer to the race I got, the more hesitant to do it I became.
21 km with 30 obstacles?… Are you kidding me? There is no way you will have enough time to recover after Spartan “Beast” and perform well in Iron. Cancel the freaking Spartan Race and focus on your main goal Sasha!
Reasonable Sasha spoke
… but I will not push too hard. I will just do it for fun. It will be a good cross training…
I didn’t push too hard on the beginning and was running at about 70% of my max. I passed a lot of people at this point and felt pretty good mentally. Until I caught up with two men on the course… I am alway down for a healthy competition.
200 lb of lean muscle were pushing ground away and in instant something flipped in me. I got a taste of competition, my ego got challenged. The other Sasha woken up and took over. I was chasing these guys for about 5 km and when I passed them, I never let them pass me.
I wanted to touch a bit on nutritional side of the race and express my opinion on something I see a lot, especially at OCR Races. Fueling (eating during exercise) is extremely important in sport of triathlon and I learned a lot from my own experience.
You don’t need that backpack. I see so many people wrapping their bodies around with all kinds of backpacks, hydration packs etc… You don’t need it! Take off this extra weight, unload all that cookies your mom cooked for you and other crap you set yourself to eat on the course. Running the race does not give you permission to eat all that crappy foods guilt-free. You don’t need it!
DROP THAT COOKIE!
There are usually enough hydration stations along the courses. I’ve been racing in such hot climates as South Texas, Arizona, California and yes, you might want to bring your own hydration, but c’mon we’re in Canada. It’s okay to get thirsty, you won’t die. There is also no need to stuff yourself with your protein bars, trail mixes and other simple sugars. They won’t make you faster! Trust me.
You should’ve been paying attention to your nutrition and more importantly hydrations days and days before the race. On a day of the race it’s already too late. Even the night before is too late. Haveone Shot Energy Gel 10 minutes before the start and another somewhere halfway through. And yes, I am speaking about longer distances only, such as Super (13 km) and Beast (21 km). There is absolutely no need to munch of your favorite cookies during such short races as sprint, or even Super on my opinion.
DO THE WORK FIRST EAT AFTER
My nutrition strategy was simple:
A big carb-dominant breakfast, with no fiber and proteins (1.5 hours before). I prefer rice, potatoes or some fruits. And of course a COFFEE! Butbe careful to not overdo the caffeine, otherwise you might learn where adrenaline is coming off, on the race course =)
One Cliff gel somewhere at the midpoint during the race.
First my age group and second overall.
I have no idea how that happened, but I’ll take it. I am really proud of myself and grateful for my body that allow this to happen. Remembering where I’ve been two years ago physically and now proves once again that EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
You, my friend, reading this post should never doubt your abilities. If you don’t believe in yourself, then no one will.
After you done coming up with excuses and feeling sorry for yourself, pick yourself up and do the work! Don’t think of the future, focus just on what’s in front of you. One day at the time! Small steps.
This is how I did it, and you can. I am no better than that thousand people behind. I have the same body, made from bones, blood and a bit of poop. The only difference is that I am persistent. I put in the work day after day, that’s it. I know what I want, and you should too.
Win the race and win your life. The skills you acquire in training and racing essentially impact all aspects of your life and the lives of others.
Get to the podium. Stand on top and take it all without guilt. You deserved it with your hard work!, sweat and tears! When the ceremony is done and you filled your cup, step back down and help others. Give back! Share your energy, knowledge and experience.
Fueling: 700 Calories (116C/18F/31P) Cliff Energy Shot Cliff Bar “ONE” Protein bar (zero sugar) – don’t like it. Medium Banana
Workout was hard. Barely held 200W. 1 hr into the ride had to lower power down to 180W as I found it really hard to continue holding same output. Really challenging workout. Glad to be done… sore and exhausted.
It can not continue like this What can I change? Where was the mistake made? At this point I believe it’s fair to say that
my preparation for IronMan 70.3 Marbella has failed
For the past month I was constantly failing on my bike workouts. Such failures pushed my confidence to the lowest point it ever been. I feel insecure and begin developing negative associations with cycling. Before I was excited to see a bike workout on my schedule, now I am not looking forward to it. I approach the bike with fear of physical and emotional pain caused by self judgment and mental fatigue. It’s not a plato, it’s degradation. There is something very wrong either with my Training Program or Recovery (Nutrition, Sleep, Health) or all together. I keep on hitting the wall over and over again. I slowly kill my passion for sport and self-confidence. I reached a peak of performance 3-4 weeks ago and now it’s falling down a cliff.
Why do I train so much? Where is the FUN? How are you feeling, how are you performing? Does the training data reflect that? Is there is a correlation between objective and subjective measures?
My hobby has become my second job. Every workout had to be perfectly executed. Pass or Fail. I approached every big workout was with anxiety and worries. Pass or fail, win or loose.
“Analysis paralysis“. I got drawn into obsessing over daily workout metrics. Never look at individual session to measure the level of your improvement. Stop seeking for validation of performance improvement from each daily session. Great performances does not require perfect training! No one has perfect training!