I'm nearly half-way through writing my first book, which has the working title Reality Check: The (untold and unsexy) truth about accomplishing anything.
The chapter I'm sharing today touches on what I call Structured Intensity, a set of rules and habits that allow you to dedicate yourself to the core areas of your life with a high level of focus and intensity.
Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!
If you enjoyed this article clap, clap, clap👏👏👏 Share this with your friends. Let them know about the book!!!
More than an optimization problem, life is a complex feedback system with an enormous number of inputs, a smaller number of outputs, and a great deal of transformation in between the two. On top of which you can decide to optimize.
Those inputs start to accumulate early in our lives. School systems around the world are orchestrated such that we consume a ton of knowledge that ends up regurgitated in a series of tests and exams. We consume media and trivia facts so that we can show other people that we know a lot of things, and that the width of the Golden Gate Bridge is 90 ft with 10 ft reserved for the sidewalk.
Once transformation is out of the picture, we unconsciously start drawing a direct line between input and output, with very little room for introspection. Those inputs almost never have the chance to become much richer outputs, our own output.
In some ways, this tends to remove us from being connected with who we are, what we do and who we want to be. Imagine, if during our formative years, when we’re developing our skills, we were not made aware of the importance of processing that knowledge. If you remove transformation from the equation, you’re just a passive vessel.
The opposite of this, to me, is the intensity and dedication people can put into parts of their lives such as their favorite sports teams. Ask any sports fan something about their teams and they’ll come back to you with something way more richer than facts. They start with facts, but then almost inevitably they’ll get into this elaborated eulogy about certain player or players. They’ll share predictions, expectations and their wildest dreams for the upcoming seasons.
This is intensity. It’s passion, dedication. It is the infinite loop of input, transformation and output. Imagine applying that same passion, sense of belonging and intensity to the core areas of your life.
I started applying structured intensity to the handful of things that take the center stage in my life: personal development, my work, my well-being and the well-being of those around me. I call it structured intensity because, even though it is all about being as intense as you can in the activities you choose, it also takes into account your well-being. It’s about knowing when and how to stop. For instance, I apply structured intensity to my job and side projects, being highly focused on them, my performance and path towards incremental growth. But I know that both mental and physical rest are extremely important. So, even though 100% of me is entirely focused during those activities, blocking any external distractions as much as possible, I remind myself that good eating habits and appropriate rest times have to be respected in order to sustain that intensity.
The same goes with my approach to running.
You know why I run? It’s because it can be an intense activity. I can go out for a relaxing stroll around my neighbourhood, but that doesn’t bring me as much adrenaline. The mental game of pushing myself, running another half mile, running another mile. Especially when I’m slightly tired, when I’m making excuses not to run faster or not to run at all. That’s another way I channel intensity.
Even though I see myself as calm person, there’s an inherent need for adrenaline, to push myself. This is not rooted in a restless need to prove myself anything, though. It stems for an urge to constantly challenge myself in order to grow. Looking for that sliver of discomfort in novelty, just to see how far I can go within the limits of what’s healthy and productive.
It’s also because running is my ultimate reality check! Whenever I feel like a hotshot, with everything figured out, super successful and accomplished I put my running sneakers on and beat the heck of myself. It’s that sunset run that hurts more than usual, the one when I’m not focused enough, the one where my thoughts are so all over the place that I end up running at a slower pace. The days I force myself to go for a run and have to stop after 10 minutes, because of acute pain or I’m just exhausted. Those are the moments when reality kicks in, when I realize I haven’t been sleeping properly, eating properly or disconnecting as much as I should.
There are multiple techniques that can allow you to implement and sustain that intensity. I find it that have a clear set of habits and rules, facilitate and enhance the intensity in your life’s core activities.