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If you want a lifetime of happiness, never be satisfied


By Kristen Ulmer

One of my clients admitted the first gold medal he won in the Olympics made him feel happy and satisfied for about six months. His second gold medal he was satisfied for only a few weeks.

Sounds like a bummer, actually. All that work and subsequent glory is supposed to lead to ‘happily-ever-after’ right? The bragging rights alone should carry for decades.

Yet here’s my advice: If you want a true lifetime of happiness and love for your sport: Never be satisfied.

At first, we figure happiness and satisfaction will be found externally. If I make enough money, get the cool job, find the right partner, get fit, become famous, etc. we think, then I’ll be happy. We get super motivated in this belief. I’ll work my butt off to get what I want! If I win the gold metal in the Olympics it will have been worth all this effort! If I run today then I will look and feel good.

And it works — at least a little bit. Get rich and famous, run today, win the gold medal … great stuff. Then it fades quickly. Being rich or famous doesn’t lead to happiness — everyone knows that. Why would I have thought glory or money could make me happy?

Then we hear “true happiness is found internally.” Well, of course! That’s the truth! So we mediate, do more yoga, and look within for our passions and motivations. If I can become one with my sport and not make it about medals or validation, no ‘selling out’ or ego trip, I will finally be at peace within myself. This is certainly the right path.

Ten days into a silent Vipassina meditation retreat and sure, I find peace and happiness. The solo weekend climbing trip certainly feels holy and reverent. But by Wednesday I’m back to being dissatisfied again, dammit. And we think: those hippies were full of $#@%. Two weeks after the gold medal even, which I devoted to world harmony and the love I have for mother and I’m back to angst, already.

So where is peace actually found? It’s not found externally. It’s not found internally. Aahg!

Peace, my friend, is found in the effort. Peace is found in the struggle. And the more dissatisfied I am, the more I keep moving, seeking and efforting.

I always say: you want to torture someone? Give them everything they want.  Become satisfied, and I have no purpose. No purpose, no happiness.

The best athletes, are the ones who know this. The best athletes are the ones who remain never satisfied. I am enjoying my suffering right now and it feels good. I failed and have fresh motivation to do better next time. Two gold medals are simply not good enough.  I enjoy the struggle and the journey, not the destination, because frankly, there is no destination.

Photo Credit: Miss Barabanov

About Kristen Ulmer

Kristen Ulmer has been named by Women’s Sports and Fitness Magazine as the most extreme woman athlete in North America. She is a pioneer in big mountain (extreme) skiing and was, for about a dozen years, named the best overall woman skier in the world by the media and her industry peers. She is also a popular speaker, television show host, and sports journalist.

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