Nineteenth century psychologist Claude Bernard remarked ‘Those who do not know the torment of the unknown cannot have the joy of discovery”. He was referring to scientists never knowing at the outset of an experiment – often lasting many years – whether they would ever reach an answer. But it was the very fear of failure that heightened the exhilaration of triumph. Similarly, having to overcome obstacles to achieve goals makes success all the sweeter. Experiencing pain makes us all the more appreciative of moments of joy. And getting healthy after years of exhaustion or diabetes feels like coming truly alive. Even if a scientist doesn’t achieve the results they were looking for, they learn an enormous amount along the way. Setting health goals can be a similar experience.
Changing long established habits to become fitter and healthier can often feel like a struggle. It may take a lot of juggling to rearrange schedules so we can commit to daily exercise, shop for fresh produce and cook healthy meals. It may entail difficult conversations with family members to communicate the need for change. Yet it’s the very effort you put into becoming healthy that makes the process and the result all the more rewarding. Not only will you notice you have extra energy, sharper thinking, better sleep and fewer colds, the fact that you made it happen through your determined efforts will give you even more zest and vitality than you imagined. It will give you the confidence and self mastery to continue pursuing even bigger dreams.
Eighteen months ago I was on an evening flight from Hobart to Sydney when storms struck and we were forced to land at Tullamarine airport. Everyone had to disembark and spend the night in Melbourne. Fortunately there are two large hotels a short walk from the airport so I made my way to the first hotel and asked for a room. It was completely booked out. No problem, I walked to the next hotel. Also completely booked out. How strange, I thought. I knew that a few flights had been diverted to Melbourne but I hadn’t thought there were enough passengers to fill two large hotels. So I rang the next closest hotel and received the same dispatch. Thirteen hotels later I finally heard the news that a major convention was being hosted in Melbourne and every hotel in the city was booked out. By the time I was back at the domestic airport it was completely deserted so I made my way to the international area to see if I could find a makeshift bed. I settled under a bench on the floor of Nando’s chicken (which was closed for the night) with my handbag as pillow and my luggage as a privacy screen.
It was the most noisy, clamorous, cold, uncomfortable, cramped and disruptive night I have ever experienced – even worse than a night in the emergency department of a hospital ;-). I emerged with a throbbing headache, stiff neck, painful back and fuzzy brain. The rest of the day was a blur but one thing stands out very clearly in my memory. The following night I had the best ever sleep. I had never appreciated what a comfortable, snug, soothing bed I slept in. I have never forgotten my night at Nando’s and I’ve enjoyed my own bed all the more ever since.
To paraphrase Claude Bernard ‘Those who do not know the torment of a cold, hard, echoey floor, do not fully appreciate the joy of a warm, snug bed.”