The Nature of Struggle

Two weeks ago Ben wrote about his trip to Vegas to play in the annual soccer tournament. At the end of that piece he surmised that if he had to make the choice today, he would choose not to play next year. That it was hard on his body and just wasn’t fun anymore.

Last year, I went with Ben to the tournament. We had been working together for about six months at that point and one of our major focal points, prior to that trip, was how to play in a three-day competitive event, have fun and limit the negative repercussions associated with playing a tournament. So, I was curious on how things would go.

As a consummate team player and a highly competitive person, Ben seems to bring lots of stress and intensity to the pitch. He knows what the right play is and expects himself to make that play. He’s harder on himself than his teammates, but can get frustrated when this eclectic group of guys fails to play as a team. When we combine that with the stress of playing a minimum of three very intense games in two days, it’s potentially a recipe for disaster physically and energetically for any aging athlete.

In the year between the Vegas trip I went on and this one, Ben had made great strides in controlling the physical and energetic stressors while, increasing his level of fun when playing soccer. Before this trip, we talked about strategies to maximize fun and limit the physical and energetic stress of the Vegas event.

My conclusion after talking with Ben is that it went as well as it possibly could have. He did everything he could to limit the stress. He took care of his body and maintained his sleep schedule. He ate as well as a person can in Vegas, and yet if he had to make the choice today, he would not play in the tournament next year.

Now, I’m not judging my good friend Ben. Until a couple of years ago, I would do the same thing, except my game was racquetball. I would travel to these four-day tournaments and play as many as three matches a day. The stress would be high, I wouldn’t eat well, and I would be wrecked physically and energetically for up to a week after. No matter how accomplished I was in my energy and meditation practice, I couldn’t control the costs associated with playing these tournaments.

So why do we do it? Why do we go out and put our bodies on the line to play a game? Why do we put ourselves in these stressful situations knowing in advance what the potential costs can be?

The short answer is usually because we tell ourselves it’s fun! What Ben and I have both learned is that when you break it down and examine the reality of the experience, it really isn’t. It’s all cost with very little actual benefit.

Over the next few weeks, Ben and I will continue to look at the nature of struggle.

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