Is Intensity Bad?

After reading an Outside magazine article entitled 'The Age of Adventure', written around the subject of longevity, I question whether intensity, of any kind, is good. The article primarily discusses physical health and extending one's life expectancy. However, the end of the article touches on happiness. This was partly a plug for a new book, yet seems to round out the underlying message of "wellness" (a balance of physical and mental health).

The article was certainly written to entice readers to seek out the big picture of wellness (preferably by buying the new book). This new book seeks to conclude that "there's an inverse relationship between happiness and over-accomplishment." How well would this message go over with most non-lazy people? Although I mostly agree with it now, my initial reaction was quite the opposite.

I liken "over-accomplishment" to the physical intensity discussed in the magazine article. We seem to be ever-increasingly obsessed with intensity (physical and mental). Intensity comes in many forms and obscurities, affects us throughout many points of our lives, and is simultaneously scoffed at and praised. On one hand, I admire the hard work that is reflected by intensity. At the same time, the extreme-nature that intensity embodies seems to perpetuate towards the unproductive/diminishing returns/irrelevancy.

It goes back to the old adage "everything in moderation." Yet we go nuts for intensity. The following examples, on the surface, are a badge of accomplishment yet rarely lead to long-term fulfillment/happiness:
  • Ironman or Marathons
  • Pulling All-Nighters
  • Airline Mileage Status
Too much intensity causes burnout, which similar waking up after a bender, is not a positive habit. It seems to me that while the benefits of intensity are enjoyed in the short-term (pride; accomplishment), the detriments affect us in the long-term (bad knees; anxiety; lack of balance).


rePete said...

For the most part, I am on board with what you are saying.

However, there is something to be said where a life composed of mediocre activities will lead to a mediocre life. Some people are okay with that.

I think burnout is caused by plateauing -- lots of effort and little result. My quest is to change my goals enough to avoid burnout while continually advancing as a person. This is easier said than done.

Rossco said...

Plateauing often means one has become as good as they ever will at a certain pursuit.

But since we're obsessed with being #1, we cannot move on. We must push forward to no end, until meaning is lost. Hence, the inverse relationship between over-accomplishment and happiness.

Whatever happened to the pursuit of being a Renaissance Man/Woman?