Okay, it’s sometime in early January and you step on the scale. And you can’t believe the number staring you straight in the face. You are ashamed and you are going to do something about it. You make what is the most common New Year’s resolution: weight loss. (By the way the next most common resolutions are quit smoking, learn something new, eat healthier, get out of debt and save money, spend more time with family, travel to new places, and be less stressed.)
You are not happy about how you have let yourself go and you are going to do something about it. You are going to eat less and exercise more because you are smart and know that your body’s weight depends on the balance of calories you consume vs calories that you burn.
So, you now set about checking different weight loss diet programs and ways to increase the amount of exercise you perform. You will probably look on the Internet for, or buy books on weight loss diets. You will purchase an exercise club membership or some kind of stationary bike or treadmill, and buy fancy looking workout clothing. We have all been through this.
Maybe, after all of the effort you’ve put in, you will achieve your goal of weight loss. Or possibly you won’t. If you do, you will experience the feeling a pride that accompanies any successfully accomplished personal venture.
If you are successful, the important thing is not so much that you have lost weight. That is just a reward, your “trophy”, so to speak. What has really happened is the improvement of a dimension of yourself, a role, one could call the “personal body mass manager”, and the sub component roles of the “personal diet manager” and the “personal exercise planner”. These are personal renaissance experiences which I believe are the essential components of any happy life.
If one is not successful in the effort to lose weight then these specific personal renaissance experiences do not occur.
Does that mean that there is nothing positive to be derived from the effort if one is not ultimately successful?
No, I think there is. Just remember, if you have ever faced welcomed weight gain, how you were feeling as you were planning to deal with the problem. As you were gathering information on a diet and planning to implement it, as you were buying your exercise clothing and fancy exercise shoes, as you scheming to change yourself into someone who could deal with this problem of unwelcome obesity. You were feeling the joy of self-transformation well before it actually could occur.
You were essentially being rewarded for trying to make an important change in your life.
This is the feeling that sustains efforts at personal change. In my book, The Pursuit of the Personal Renaissance Experience, I described how Thomas Edison had to perform literally thousands of failed experiments before he discovered the right filament material that could make his light bulb successful. His research effort was supported by this kind of positive force. Since we human beings have been, and always will be challenged, to make changes in response to environmental challenges, it is understandable from an evolutionary point of view that our attempts at self-improvement be buoyed by this feeling.