We’ve all seen the instagram post, the ad, the infomercial promising you the “life hack” of the next “feel better quick” scheme. The reality is, if there was one of them that worked, EVERYBODY would be doing it! Yes, some work for some people, but the reason none work for all is that there is no “feel better now and forever” scheme. The reason is because life is full of curves, peaks and valleys, lemons, you name it, life is full of it! It’s so easy to get lost in the valleys and forget about the peaks. What’s worse, it’s so easy to GIVE UP both on the peaks because “you’ve made it” and in the valleys because “what’s the point?”
Don’t get me wrong, I understand this is “easy preaching, hard living”, but that’s exactly the point! It is hard living! What’s harder living is if your expectations don’t match reality. The only expectations we should have is to do our best every day to get just a little bit better. Sure, we will strive to get a lot better every day, but unchecked, that can lead to burn out and what we call the “boom bust cycle”.
Realistically, we will always be chasing to be better with our spirituality, relationship, sleep, stress management, nutrition, exercise and movement (see “6 Pillars of Health” blog for more on this), finances, our looks, etc. You name it, we will likely never be pleased with it! We will have seasons where some of these areas are better than others, where we’re failing in all areas, and where we’re doing pretty well in most areas. The reality is, we will fail and fall. We will fail and fall a lot. The key is that we build ourselves up again. The more we build all aspects of life, the more we can afford to fall and the less time it takes to rebuild, and our rebuild results in an even more “successful” self!
The key is not perfection, but growth, to get a little bit better everyday; we must understand we will be worse on some days, but over time, our average will be better. Think of the process more like the average slope demonstrating improvement with lots of peaks and valleys. If you look at most aspects of life, you see this truth demonstrated. Once you understand this, it’s easier to tolerate the valleys, accept you will stress a little bit, but use that stress to fuel you to keep fighting to get better every day. That will make your valleys less deep and raise you to higher peaks faster!
What about the stock market the last 100 years? Anybody remember the early 1990s? Financial life was good! Then 2008 happened. The world was coming to an end! Oh, until we climbed back out and flourished again! Great depression? Same thing. You get the point. DISCLAIMER: I know some peoples’ lives were changed for the worse from these events and they were not able to recover, but on average, we recover!
This is also a well understood concept in the art community. This graph does an excellent job demonstrating the ups and downs of actual skill and perceived skill and that they don’t always coincide. Ever frustrated with the roller coaster we all go through of feeling like you’re on top of the world in life, and a few weeks later you feel a little down in the dumps? This can be in part to our perception and reality not lining up. However, notice, that with continued time and practice, you do improve!
This concept applies to rehabilitation and recovery from injury as well as trying to improve with performance training just like it applies to most other areas in life. We picture this beautiful linear “better every day” improvement, but the reality is we have some good days and some bad days. Over time, however, the good days are more frequent and better and the bad days are less frequent and less bad. Ultimately, we improve!
Finally, this has even been mathematically proven by individuals much better with numbers than myself! Just look at the power of tiny gains!
So, that’s the Life Hack, there is NO Life Hack! All you can do is get up every day, control what you can control (and there’s a lot in life that’s out of your control!) and get a little better every day! No, you won’t actually get better every day, you will be worse some days, but over time, you will have improved quite a bit! So, get out there, own the Life Hack and get a little better every day!
– Dr. Dane Happeny, PT, DPT, OCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist