Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Tortoise and the Hare. . .and the Slug

Getting to our desired destination is important so it seems like the faster we run to get there the better.  But the issue is we burn out.  We burn out because we don’t have the capacity to continue at such a break-neck speed.  We swing to the other side of the balance and are forced to walk slower than we have strength or we're unable to continue at all.  We see this kind of story played out in the "Tortoise and the Hare."  But what we don't see played out is what happens to THE SLUG (Alma 37:41-43).  On our Goal Achievement Journey we can run faster than we have the capacity to run but we can also walk slower than we have the capacity to walk (#Slug).

Slowing things down is usually a wise thing to do.  But slowing them down too much actually causes us to forget we’re even on a journey to obtain a goal.  We lose hope.  The desired destination seems so far away.  This is when we usually begin to entertain ourselves with distractions while we’re waiting for our ship to come in.  And strangely enough that’s when we swing to the other side of the balance; if we don’t work at the level of our capacity we will eventually be forced to run faster than we have strength (Mosiah 4:27).  Eventually, every effort will feel like it's over the top.

In our goal achievement journey we’re required to make sacrifices in order to obtain what we want.  For example, if we want to increase the muscle mass in our body (#Hypertrophy), we need to actually sacrifice the energy in our body to fuel muscle movement.  

When we engage in this type of process continuously, the body adapts.  It increases the size of muscle fibers.  It also develops the capillary beds around those fibers in order to more efficiently provide nutrients for and take away waste products from those areas that are in highest need.  These adaptions increase the muscle’s capacity to lift heavy weights over time.

If we try to lift too much weight too soon, we damage muscle fibers instead of giving the body time to develop a stronger capacity.  The torn muscle fibers send us to the other side of the balance:  we won’t be able to lift much weight at all until they are repaired.  Thus we are progressing less efficiently on our journey.  We may even be forced to slow down so much during this healing process that we give up on our goals.

If we don’t lift enough weight or are not continuous enough with our process the body will not recognize that any reinforcement is necessary.  So we don’t achieve our goal.  But the issue with not increasing or at least maintaining strength is that life’s journey tends to become increasingly difficult over time.  If we don’t use our muscles enough they will actually atrophy—the muscle fibers decrease in size.  Thus what may have been an easy physical exertion for us when we were younger becomes way too hard for us when we get older.  And that’s when we end up tearing the muscle fibers and having to deal with forced inactivity while the body repairs with ever greater frequency.  Can you see where this is going?  More atrophy occurs during those forced periods of inactivity and then more muscle fiber tears and so on.  And how does one get out of such a black hole once it has started? (Proverbs 21:25)

Listen:  "Live Like That" by Sidewalk Prophets

Yo-Yo Goal Achievement Journeys
The same laws apply when I’m trying to obtain greater fitness through diet control.  Eating less Calories than I normally do is a sacrifice.  It means I need to eat foods higher in nutrients and lower in the substances that increase the intensity of taste (sugar, salt, refined grains, trans-fats, etc.).  If I restrain myself too much too soon my body rebels against me.  It’s used to getting all that extra easy-uptake energy and for me to suddenly take it all away causes an uprising in my metabolic cells.  They start shouting at me pretty loud because they’re not getting the glucose and ATP they have been used to getting for so long.  They can’t complete their tasks.  Neither have they had enough time to prioritize the enforced downsize so some of the systems that have a high metabolic need are as deprived as the systems with a low metabolic need.  They haven’t developed the capacity to convert adipose tissue into glucose at the rate that is now expected of them.  All this makes me feel extremely bad to the point that I don’t want to do anything, especially spend the required time to prepare healthy foods.  Usually I can deal with this kind of rebellion for a time without yielding.  I sacrifice feeling good and take the time to prepare the healthy foods anyway.  But if I go beyond my threshold to sacrifice like this (enter Holiday season), I eventually hit the wall and pendulum swing back to eating more than I was before. 

Numbing Ourselves
We all know what happens when we eat more Calories than we need.  We get fat.  But do we all know about what happens to our sense of taste when we don’t try to control what we eat?  If we get out of the habit of sacrificing within our zone, our ability to control what we eat will atrophy.  Sacrifice actually keeps our taste buds satisfied.  If we indulge them, they become numb.  We don’t feel the pleasure from eating anymore.  Thus the sacrifice of more taste than we otherwise would have needed to sacrifice is forced upon us.  Many of us recognize these warning signs and stop!  We return to sacrificing taste at a higher level within our zone.  But many of us resolve the conflict by going with the natural flow:  we eat foods increasingly higher in taste and lower in nutrients just so we can TASTE something.

The Law of Balance
These laws apply to ANY Goal Achievement Journey.  When we try to take that journey too quickly, change too much (not staying steadfast enough!), sacrifice too much, move too much weight all at once, we end up crashing, giving up, losing it before we get there.  When we take the journey too slowly, don’t take the responsibility of changing enough (staying steadfast in areas we actually need to change!), sacrifice too little, move too little weight over an extended period of time, we end up going no where, thinking nothing will ever happen, falling into despair or becoming VERY SUSCEPTIBLE to distractions.  And then we never get there.  Blah.

The key is to find the balance within our zone.  We each have a sacrifice/resting threshold that creates that zone.  This threshold allows us to change ourselves or to change something else.  It allows us to achieve what we do not presently have.  It allows us to progress.  In short, it allows us to achieve our goals.  We can push ourselves to some degree into our NW Threshold to increase our sacrifice.  When we do we can expect to experience a degree of stress and fear mixed with our energy and excitement.  We can also slow down a bit into our NE Threshold in order to heal.  When we do we can expect to experience a degree of boredom and depression mixed with our sense of peace and comfort.  The smaller the arc of our pendulum swing within our sacrifice and resting threshold the less fear and depression will be mixed with our energy and peace.  This Northern Threshold Balance is where we experience Joy in our journey.  Our motivation is continuous.  We’re excited for each new step.  We’re grateful for every mile marker we have passed.  We don’t want our journey to end.  In fact, we want to keep doing this forever.  It’s awesome!

But when we go too far to the NW, we experience too much fear.  We start looking for a way out of our Goal Achievement Journey.  We don’t want to continue.  We can’t wait until it ends.  There’s no Joy in the journey anymore.  We just want it all to be over with.  If we don’t get there soon, we will quit.
When we go too far to the NE, we experience too much depression.  We are easily satisfied with distractions.  We have very little desire to even set goals.  We can’t imagine that any goal, upon achievement, will return anything worth the effort.  We just want what’s easy to obtain right now.  We are not motivated to begin any kind of journey.  We’ll just stay right here by the side of the road eating high-taste/low-nutrient food and watching TV. 

Listen:  "Love of Another Kind" by Amy Grant

I challenge you to identify when you're passed your NW Threshold, when you're passed your NE Threshold, and when you're within your Growth Threshold on your personal Goal Achievement Journey.