Training is a vital part of any successful endeavour. Whether it’s a craft, a trade, or a sport, without training you won’t develop the necessary skills to become the best you can be.
The same is true of life. Every day you spend on the planet is time spent training to become what you are becoming. The question is, do you know what you’re training for?
An olympic swimmer must focus on specific areas if they want to succeed. This helps them become the strongest and fastest version of who they can possibly be. Likewise, we can intentionally focus on particular areas of training in order to reflect more of how we want our lives to look. The question for us to consider is, what are we training for?
If we don’t know our answer then our training takes us in directions we don’t necessarily want to go.
(Not) The Fastest Kid in the Room
When I was a kid I was one of the fastest short distance runners in my primary school. I loved running 100 metres, especially when I could leave people in my wake. One day a teacher delivered me some exciting and terrifying news. They entered me into a county-wide competition. I would be racing the fastest kids from schools all across Warwickshire.
There I was, on the starting line for the 100m heat. A proper race, against strangers. I looked across the line and realised I was going to have to run the race of my life. These guys looked serious. Better built, longer legs, and I could tell they really wanted to win.
As it turned out they could use starting blocks too. And as I attempted to avoid total humiliation in last place I realised that I wasn’t quite as fast as I thought.
Lessons About Training
I learned some important things that day. Not least that training matters if you actually want to achieve something specific. I had never intentionally trained to run before, I had always just sort of done it. It was fun. I was naturally good within my own little bubble. This seemed to be enough. But it meant that when I came up against a real challenge I was not prepared for it. I felt completely overwhelmed and isolated.
It also taught me that when it came to it and I faced the challenge, I didn’t actually want to dedicate myself to training for that particular pursuit. I’m not driven by that desire to be better, stronger, and faster than everyone else. I’m wired for other types of training.
Life IS Training
You spend your life training, whether you’re are aware of it or not. You have trained your brain to think in certain ways in response to certain situations and ideas. You’ve developed patterns of thought that lead to certain habits and behaviours.
The training you are dedicated to is reflected in certain ways. An obvious example of this might be that your body reflects the physical training you’ve engaged in.
Epictetus suggested that a life spent pursuing wisdom and virtue will be reflected, “just like the shoulders of gymnasts display their diet and training, and the craft of artisans show in what they’ve learned.”
It is not what we say, but how we appear to others, that the world knows our beliefs and values. And this is where our training becomes important. In order to enjoy a life of meaning, it’s no use just to talk about how things should be, but you must actually live it. And in order to do that it’s pretty important to be aware of “three areas in which the person who would be wise and good must be trained” (Epictetus).
Not About Being Best, But Enjoying the Possibilities
Training in this sense isn’t about preparing for competition. It’s not about being the best, or better than other people. It’s about training in order to be what you want to be.
A musician trains, not to be better than everyone else (an almost certainly unattainable and breakdown inducing goal). But training to play their instrument at the best level they are capable of is its own gift. Deliberate training always carries its own intrinsic reward because it brings you closer to what you want to be.
It will become evident why this is such an important thing for introverts and highly sensitive people to take seriously throughout the episode.
The 3 Areas of Training:
- Desire (Accepting What is True)
- Action (Mastering Impulses to Act and Not Act in Accordance With Your Community)
- Assent (Being Aware of Your Judgements)
These are three pillars of Stoic philosophy, and carry great wisdom when it comes to thriving as introverts and highly sensitive people. When you are pulled around by your emotions, or feel like bad people make the world intolerable, then this is a good place to start. It is a great way to take control of how you respond to your experiences, to other people, and to what the world seems to be like right now. It places you back in the driving seat so that no external situation, outside of your influence, can control you.