The Problem With Chasing Temporary Highs


Stacie Orrico, who you might remember as a briefly popular singer in the early 2000s, had a catchy song called, “(There’s Gotta Be) More To Life.” The chorus goes as follows:

There’s gotta be more to life
Than chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me…
Cause the more that I’m…
Tripping out thinking there must be more to life
Well it’s life, but I’m sure…there’s gotta be more
Than wanting more

Everything in life is temporary. It’s a philosophical perspective that I abide by, yet one that is so hard to put in practice every day. A rude encounter, an embarrassing moment, a failed risk, a rejection, a broken heart, a deceptive kiss…it’s hard to believe that all of these are temporary and yet they are. All of them. And I use negative examples not because only negative things are temporary, but because as humans, even the best of us have a tendency to dwell on the negative. At least much longer than the positive, the good – loving relationships, something you built or created, an achievement you have worked hard for; leaving a place or a situation or a person knowing that you have made a positive difference, the kiss that changed everything, etc.

Even in my love of this philosophical principle, I admit and believe that some things are more permanent than others. Or perhaps more accurately, some things are less temporary than others. It may be a matter of perspective, and indeed the subjective reality of one’s experiences to determine what those things are. Often, hindsight becomes the tool we use to establish what was less important or more temporary, from what was more important or less temporary.

Given that hindsight is the thing we do when we’re looking from the present into the past, distinguishing between temporary things – the more and the less – in the here and the now, is hard. I think of a certain HONY post from last year that I came across again recently. A young lady sits on a piece of luggage at what might be an airport or a train station and says, “I wish I had partied a little less. People always say ‘be true to yourself.’ But that’s misleading, because there are two selves. There’s your short-term self, and there’s your long-term self. And if you’re only true to your short-term self, your long-term self slowly decays.”

I wonder how many of us are chasing temporary highs, and are missing the “more to life,” and as a result, are losing our long-term self to our short-term self.

I’ve been thinking about my relationship to my body, which I do every once in while, and especially when there’s something “wrong” with it. I’m currently working to shake off some hamstring pain and foot pain so I can run a half marathon in 12 days. So for a few weeks I took a break, and I’m just trying to get back. Of course it was the worst time to have to take a break – not just physically, because I have a race coming up. But because mentally, I was in a funk.

Running and working out in general is something that improves my state of mind and well-being. In fact, I partially attribute my hell on earth year – last year, 2014 – to being so bad because I was injured for much of it, and was not very active. When I’m active, I eat better, I am much more productive, and I simply just feel better in almost every area of my life. But having experienced injuries in the last year or two, it has made me question if running isn’t something I’m doing to chase temporary highs as well.

Now running and working out in general has given me a lot – it’s been my escape, it’s taught me a lot about strength, and sometimes on extremely dark days, it’s been the only reason I had to get out of bed. But running, like just about anything else in life, is something that can be used for all the wrong reasons. I’ve used it to judge myself and others harshly, I’ve judged how I felt about who I am by the physique I see in the mirror, and I’ve let it be my ultimate avoidance mechanism. In a choice between facing heartbreak, loneliness, sadness, disappointment, and unfortunate choices or experiences, I have many times chosen to go running instead. One would say I have quite literally chosen the temporary runner’s high.

The problem with chasing temporary highs is that they trick you, and in a deceitful way. They trick you into thinking you must escape the negative important temporary moments for positive unimportant ones. They trick you into thinking that your short-term self is the only one that matters. They trick you into escaping short-term pains that you must confront, and that could eventually lead to long-term pleasure; but instead you choose short-term pleasure for a much more lasting long-term pain. The problem with chasing temporary highs is that there is always a temporary high to chase.

Food, alcohol, drugs, sex, (running), and just about anything can be used as a temporary high, negatively. But perhaps worst of all, we can use people too – and we often do. Other people become the medication we take, the “fix” we need, the high we desperately crave to cure whatever pains, and achieve whatever pleasures we desire. And yet, in the deep dark corner of our souls – the place we don’t like to go to often or talk about very much, we know that this chase won’t bring us the joy we really want.

I guess in the end it is a balancing act. Maybe not all temporary highs are bad. Maybe it’s about knowing which to chase, and which to let run past you. Maybe sometimes you have to forget about the more temporary things, and be okay with the less temporary. But there’s also something to be said about obedience to the things you really want in your life, and sometimes the more temporary highs get in the way of those. It can be hard to know though – that whole hindsight thing.

But if you ever find yourself continuously chasing temporary highs – slow down, and maybe even stop. You don’t have to stop running entirely. But you might have to get on a longer, much more difficult path – one where the race isn’t quite so familiar, and the journey is much longer. You might even need to create the path yourself. And if you ever get scared, remember: It’s all temporary anyway.