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Parkour’s Hedonic Treadmill

The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.

When we think about Parkour we mainly think about how to reach the goals we set for ourselves. We don’t think about is the influence others can have on us and how we view ourselves thru our own training style and accomplishments.

The reason I mention the hedonic adaptation is because in Parkour we rarely become complacent with ourselves. We are always pushing for the next big goal or challenge we see, even if it is just outside our reach we still work toward it until we can firmly grasp it. However, it is only recently I have discovered that we can fall into the trap of always feeling like we “suck” and we need to progress at a much faster rate to achieve satisfaction with ourselves and our training.

I think it’s quite normal after being in the game for 2+ years to feel like we need to constantly progress. After all, the first two years is usually the prime time we “learn the tech” and start actually feeling like we’re getting better compared to when we started. That feeling is normal and it applies to all humans, no matter what it is, we suffer from this trait of adaptation and complacency when it comes to new experiences. When we look at parkour, a sport/discipline that constantly introduces us to fear and doubt within ourselves, we are dealing with overcoming challenges daily. When we overcome challenges we previously couldn’t it is such a euphoric feeling, its one of the reasons I think we all love parkour so much. We feel so accomplished and we feel like we broke down the door that was holding us back but this feeling is short lived. It may last for the rest of the day or the next 5 minutes after a successful jump but regardless how long the feeling last, eventually we are looking for that feeling again.

We want the feel of accomplishment because it’s how we judge where we are as an athlete and as a person. We want to know we can keep achieving great things and reaping those rewards and feelings from it. Although one of the hardest things about being in this community is that there is almost no way you can avoid falling into the trap of comparing your training and accolades to that of someone else you feel is “better” and I use that term loosely. There have been times in my own training where I’ve felt like I wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t training as hard as I should be because I wasn’t progressing as fast I used to. Its only now I’ve learned that my progression is slower for two reasons. 1) I am older and now coach parkour as a job/career. Because of this I am more careful with my body as not to approach a challenge without taking careful steps to secure my safety. This is normal because as a coach, if I get hurt I can’t work and that means no money, plus it also means negative feelings will start taking over because training is also my therapy and being injured only adds to the pessimistic attitude I can exhibit if I don’t train enough. 2) As my training continues the challenges I am looking at have gotten increasingly harder. I am not doing the same kind of jumps I was when I started, which in turn means that I am getting better even if I don’t complete the jump, it is just harder to feel that sense of accomplishment when the task or goal is not achieved, only attempted. These two factors were lost on me before, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t hit the jumps that others were, especially when I had a harder time conquering the same jumps others made look so easy. Factor in the fact that most of the time these practitioners were much younger then me and I started to feel almost obsolete like I wasn’t good enough anymore.

It took almost a year and a half but I came to the conclusion I was becoming complacent in my training and my overall behavior towards life. I was comparing instead of investing in myself. I realized the reason I became upset was because I was trying to emulate what I saw others do and because of that the adaptation to my progression led me to become almost depressed and lower self worth. I was so used to the daily grind of going out and leading our weekly sessions that I didn’t realize how I made the transition from playing the game to teaching the game. I got used to having Parkour be my life for so long I almost lost that feeling of accomplishment even after smashing certain challenges.

It was only after a recent trip to Pinnacle Parkours Philadelphia gym that I rekindled that feeling and truly became okay with my style and where I was at in the world of the Parkour community. I realized that it was okay to not be the best; it was okay to compare myself but not judge myself on only my athletic ability. It was almost as this new feeling hit me and I felt alive again, I knew that my style of parkour was about conquering my own fears and doubts. I use the physical jumps I am scared of to help achieve a higher level of self-esteem. For so long I thought I was getting used to the daily grind and parkour was becoming part of that for me, and that was scary because it started to feel like all the time I invested into training and getting better was almost worthless. Like when you break up with someone after 5+ years of being together, a part of you just felt like you wasted time while the other part is trying to convince you that it wasn’t.

The hedonic treadmill is something I think we face as humans because we get complacent and we lose the sight of the original goal. I started training because I wanted to do ninja stuff and survive a zombie apocalypse, now its become more for me. It’s my job, my hobby, and it’s become my lifestyle. I’ve made countless new friends and relationships because of it and I’ve done things pre-parkour me would lose his mind over. It was okay to get complacent and feel those moments of self-doubt because that was a way to show me how to appreciate what I almost started taking for granted.

So my friends I will leave you with this, when you feel like your not achieving what you set out to do, Parkour oriented or not, do not let that overwhelm you. It is a sign from the universe that you are being tested to see if this is what you really wanted. Those who find there way back to the path will realize that there are more things to accomplish and more goals to conquer and those who don’t will find there next passion. It’s okay to get used to something, but it’s just a test to see if you can find the passion within that keeps you going.