The 50% Rule

Whilst attending a Q&A with Sir Steve Redgrave, the multiple Olympic gold medallist and thoroughly nice bloke, he discussed ‘the 50% rule’. He gave this discussion in response to the question of why put yourself through the sacrifice of training.

The answer is simple. He kept doing it because he enjoyed it at least 50% of the time and stated that he would give up rowing if he ever dipped below this level. Really any successful sportsperson or artist doesn’t undergo some huge personal sacrifice in order to achieve success, they do it because they enjoy the training 50% of the time. Of course he forced himself through many gruelling ERG session which he hated, nothing can be enjoyed everytime, but less than half of sessions were like this.

Really, the 50% rule can be applied to everything that we choose to get ourselves involved with as humans. It can also be applied to understand the difference between happy and unhappy people. Simply, unhappy people either persist in doing things they don’t enjoy, haven’t yet found something they really enjoy or are suffering some form of depression which prevents them enjoying life. Why 50%? why not 10% or 30%?

No-one is happy or sad most of the time, generally most people spend most of their lives in a state of neutrality, neither being happy or sad. People have moments of being happy or sad, also these states can linger for a while. A healthy person will allow feelings of happiness to persist and unhappy thought to be forgotten quickly.

So, if the peturbations away from neutrality are mainly happy, then the memory of happiness will pervade the neutral state and the person can generally be described as happy and content with themselves. Even if the majority of peturbations are sad ones, this can be outweighed by the lingering happiness increasing the influence of happy. Conversely the unhappy person will have their neutrality burdened by the memory of sadness.

I think that this is particularly hard on the depressed person, who has insufficient experience of happy to understand what it is. To the depressed person, the moments of happiness are so rare, they seem artificial and instead of enjoying them they agonise over how this came about and whether it would be possible to find this state again soon. Of course the agonising only serves to dispel the happiness, it is lingering in sadness, which only makes things worse.

For example I like to read about the news, I like to know what is going on in the world, however most of this news tends to be very sad and often this sadness effects me after I have stopped reading. Really by the logic of this, I should stop reading the news! so sometimes I do stop. Stopping allows me to be free of cynicism with the world, I’ll be aware it’s there but have actively chosen to be free of it, at least for a short while. so to be happy,one has to break your own rules, some of the time, to be happy.

I would say, being someone who only discovered happiness relatively recently is that understanding happiness is important as you only truly experience happiness when you know what it is and how you got there, an analogy is knowing where the state of happines is on a map. Humans naturally, know what happiness is, but long periods of depression serve to make people forget where happiness is. It also required lateral thinking. One cannot simply arrive at happiness in a linear logical way, it has to be felt rather than thought.

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