Why We Make Bad Life Decisions

You get the idea. The next time you’re tempted to make a bad life choice, stop and think of yourself as a runner – and you’ll see why each time you act rashly will add up to that bad decision being a major one in your future.

On the first day of the Austin performance of The Telling Project, we were given a speech written expressly for the occasion and it told the audience how we will all be affected by the actions of others in the present and future:

“When you’re a runner, your job in the marathon is to beat somebody else to the finish. Your job in the movie you’ve just shot is to outdo those people. Your job in life is to not lose. Your goal in life is to live life to the fullest.”

The last part of the advice may not be the most useful, since it sounds a little cheesy. This is the same advice that motivates the running part of the Telling Project. After reading it, I did a little analysis on it, wondering what else would work for me in real life.

The answer is this: you should do whatever you think is best for you. Just remember to stop when it isn’t working for you. Keep your ears open to the advice of others and do what you think is best for you: the rest will follow.  That is what The Telling Project is all about.  The point isn’t that we need to prove to others that we’re better than we think we are. It’s that we’ve learned to do the best we can within the system we’re part of, so I’d like you to do the same.

Now we’ve established that we are runners and are doing what we think is best for us, you might wonder: why do this? What was the point in running?  Why would you want to be part of a group of people who work hard to make life better if running (or some other activity) is the best thing out there?

Let’s answer these questions by examining our runners.  As runners we are an eclectic assortment of people, each with different motivations. While some run for physical or mental health, others run to build a habit, either toward achieving something big in the next year or to help a cause become more visible. Some run to improve personal relationships or some run for a new adventure or to meet people new.

In any case, when we talk about motivation for running, what is it?  It’s a bit like a magnet: a magnet attracts more iron filings than it repells.  An iron filings magnet, for instance, would attract a lot of money, while a lot of runners will never attract a penny. What it does attract is those with similar ambitions, and what it repells are the rest.

A runner who is motivated by the goal of making their life better also attracts the desire of those who want the same in themselves.  The runners who want to improve, to increase their happiness, or simply to make a positive impact on the way others will think about them tend to attract like-minded people, many of whom share the same goals and experiences.  The runners who just want to enjoy nature tend to attract more “out of sight.”  Those of us in the habit movement often like to meet people through social media, meet their friends and family, and find connections in our communities.

I was reminded of this a little while ago as I read a book about the human potential movement in New Zealand called “Out of Sight: A Short History of Out of Mind” by Raelene Myska . At the New Zealand Institute for Contemporary Studies we teach workshops on how to run faster, how to run longer, how to run smarter, how to love again, how to grow and live longer.  One particular workshop is called “Out of Sight,” a simple exercise with a twist. The idea is to use technology in a very simple way to take a “selfie.”  The goal? To use it as motivation to increase the amount of time we spend outdoors in order to improve our health.  I asked Raelene Myska why her class uses this activity and what impact it has on the group. It turns out, it was a popular choice because it was cheap. Everyone has a few camera phones and it’s easy to take a shot. And then they move on. “We’re teaching the selfie with technology,” says Raelene. “We’re teaching, ‘Let’s move up a layer,’ to the real goal of the class.”

That’s right.  If you have one of these things, you can use it to motivate you, to get you to increase your outdoor time; to get you to run faster; or to run longer.