On Coming Alive
On Coming Alive
By Claire Nana
By Claire Nana
A few years ago, Dean Karnazes mentioned to me that
he believed that it is in the struggle – in facing adversity – that we become
most alive. Karnazes’s comment wasn’t entirely surprising given the context. I
had sent him a copy of my book, Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks
Into Springboards for
a review. While in my book I argue that setbacks are often the catalyst of
profound growth and the very thing that results in a dramatic shift in our
sense of priorities, connecting us to a more clear, authentic sense of purpose,
and in the process, revealing strengths within ourselves that we never knew
existed, Karnazes’s statement had me thinking that perhaps adversity isn’t just
about growth, but rather, about life. Perhaps in trying to remove all of the
obstacles from our lives – to make life as comfortable as possible – we had
forgotten how to live.
I her powerful TED talk, Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Ourselves, says that where we used to go to social media to express a feeling, now we go to social media to find a feeling.
The point Turkle makes is that as much as we love
our instant gratification world, it hasn’t really loved us back. While we can
have almost anything we want with the click, swipe, or touch of our fingertips,
the thing we want the most – to feel – has been lost.
I, like Karnazes, think that people want something
more. I think that people want to feel alive, but they also want their lives to
matter. Greg Mckewen, the author of Essentialism: The Disciplined
Pursuit of Less, describes the process of connecting to
your essential, or most meaningful, purpose like editing a book. You want to
remove all of things that will confuse the reader, distract from the message of
the book, or simply don’t need to be there. For McKewen, when you remove all of
the obligations (spoken and unspoken), responsibilities, activities, and even
relationships from your life that distract you from what you are most meant to
do, the result is a deep rooted sense of purpose.
As a psychotherapist, I have always felt that a
sense of purpose was its own energy form. While we can’t calculate the number
of ATP units like we can with carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, we can’t help
but notice it when we see it. I remember once, years ago, running an
ultramarathon where one runner came through the aid station each time singing
joyously at the top of his lungs. While he was given a few strange looks, he
expressed what I suspect many of us felt.
I believe ultra-running is like that. It calls upon
our deepest purpose – to face challenges, to persevere beyond our limits, to
become alive. In its purest form, ultra-running is an act of self-actualization.
We take what was given to us – two legs, a heart, lungs, and a mind – and we
discover what we can do with it.
The limiting factor is usually not what we think it
is. I have heard many people say, “I can’t possibly run that far”, or, “There
is no way I could run for 24 hours,” but the truth is, none of us really knows.
A friend of mine, who stills holds the cross country record for his college
some 15 years later, used to tell me that you never know
where a four minute mile lies. It could be inside someone covered by heavy
layers of excess pounds, just waiting to be released. And yet, it may never see
the light of day.
For most of us, a true purpose is also hidden under layers of obligations, expectations, assumptions, and fear. I don’t know that most of us will ever find it. But I do know this: we will likely feel more alive when we do.
At Icarus Florida UltraFest we believe in distilling ultrarunning to its purest form – that is, to abandon your limits and find out what you are made of. To date, we have had 9 records broken in events like the 144 hour race, the 72 hour race, the 48 hour race, the 24 hour race and the 12 hour race. We have had athletes representing 23 different nations all connected by the desire to push each other beyond their limits to a greater version of themselves.