When you think of people who are obsessively focused on achieving great accomplishments, it is easy to conger up an image of a relentless, almost joyless regimen of drills or exercises all dedicated to that one objective. When you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his 10-12 hour training days to pursue the Mr. Universe title, all while attending night school, it might be difficult to view his days as ‘joyful.’
To the contrary, I heard him say in an interview that he always smiled when he trained. He said that he enjoyed every set and rep. He enjoyed the process. It brought him closer to the goals he set for himself.
That contrary view, I learned was true with all the folks I interviewed. It seems the syllogism would go something like this… (1) to excel at something is to have a purpose; (2) to have a purpose is to be focused on that purpose, which eliminates distractions; (3) the absence of distractions allows one to see and enjoy the simple pleasures of the universe!
Whether it be hearing birds sing during an early morning run, the sounds of a bubbling brook, or relaxing with a nice cappuccino with their partner, each of the achievers that I interviewed spoke of the simple joys of their life.
Daniel Martin Eckhart, the author and screenwriter, told me, ‘I stroll, I take time, I listen, I observe the little things. No tools, no tricks – just being mindful, and I can do that at my best when I breathe deeply and fully experience the now.’
Adam Kreek, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Famer, told me he is also an avid journalist. And rather than journaling electronically, he resorts to the old fashion way of journaling by actually writing. ‘Just five minutes of writing in my journal each day’ he told me, ‘puts me in touch with so many simple things in life. I focus on little things such as, what am I grateful for. And that, alone, opens up a universe of the simplest pleasures.’
Simon Whitfield, the Olympic Triathlon champion, also described how the practice of journaling and reflecting on what he’s grateful for brings out thoughts of the simple pleasures of life. He said the practice of meditation, provides the same sensation.
I must say I was mildly surprised at how those I spoke to talked about the idea of enjoying the little things. I guess I assumed that super achievers were super-focused on their objectives and didn’t have time for the ‘little things.’ Surprisingly, it was quite the opposite. It is the simple pleasures of life that keep them balanced and maintain their perspective.
If someone is spending eight, ten, twelve hours a day training, it is those simple pleasures that remind them why!