Change Your Life: The Purpose of Swimming is the Pursuit of Happiness
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on July 11th, 2011

In the Mission Statement blog I published what I’d intended as the Introduction to the new book “Swimming that Changes Your Life.” I’ve since revised the introduction so this part will come first.

The Purpose of Swimming is the Pursuit of Happiness.

I chose that as this book’s first sentence to get your attention–and probably surprise you as well. You may have had swimming experiences where happiness happened, but it would be a rare person whose foremost reason for swimming is happiness. I also want that thought to serve as a key reference point as you read further. I’ll remain mindful of it as I write.

While most swimming books tell you how to pull and kick, how far to swim and how hard, my aim—as the title states—is to show you how to use swimming to change your life for the better. At the same time, I can say confidently that embracing the new concepts you find herein will help you swim better, easier, farther, and faster than ever before.

Knowing your time is precious, I’ll strive to make sure the time you invest reading this book will be well spent, and that—as a result of your reading—that every hour of swimming you do from here on will bring greater health and happiness than almost anything else you might choose to do with those hours. If so, you’ll probably choose to swim more often, and I’ll feel my time was well spent in writing.

Stating that the purpose of swimming is the pursuit of happiness might strike you as less surprising if you consider that, in his immensely popular book The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama wrote that the purpose of life is happiness. Thus, he said, before making any choice you should ask: “Will this bring me happiness?”

It first occurred to me that the pursuit of happiness was the real purpose of swimming only a year ago, after I’d been swimming a half-century. Italian opera director Paolo Carignani had come to New York to conduct Aida at the Metropolitan Opera. Over several years, Paolo had transformed himself into a strong and graceful swimmer, aided by Total Immersion (TI) coaches in Zurich, Tokyo, Barcelona and New York as he traveled the world to conduct.

Paolo and I met for a swim before a performance. He told me he always practices TI before conducting, because it increases his energy (as we saw, conducting an opera demands remarkable endurance–Aida lasted over 3 hours) and even makes his gestures more fluid. But he was even more emphatic about the importance of a holistic effect, repeating several times: “TI has such a gift for making people happy!”

The next day, I read a newspaper article about a Zen roshi from Woodstock NY. In the article, he said: “People seem much happier as they leave a service.” This confluence of thoughts about happiness suggested an inspiring possibility— Kaizen Happiness! (Kaizen, a Japanese word meaning Continuous Improvement, is a core principle of TI practice.)

If Kaizen Happiness were possible, it would mean:

1) Continuously increasing your knowledge of how to create feelings of happiness; and

2) Continuously deepen the quality of happiness you feel.

If you could do both, one day someone might say of you (as co-author Howard Cutler wrote of the Dalai Lama): “I still had a long way to go before achieving the kind of pervasive joy that he seemed to radiate so effortlessly.”

The moment I contemplated the possibility of Kaizen Happiness, I was immediately happier than I had ever been about the privilege of coaching swimmers. What higher purpose could one have than helping people achieve greater—and possibly Kaizen—happiness.


2 Responses to “Change Your Life: The Purpose of Swimming is the Pursuit of Happiness”

  1. Brian Sudeth says:

    You are capturing my experience, as well as the “Emotional Brain Training” my wife is working on. This is brilliant work Terry…

  2. Brian Please share with us some key details from your wife’s work on the brain and emotion. I’ve seen some really interesting stuff about positive emotion registering in the left forebrain and negative or stressful emotion registering in the right.
    Buddhist monks have been found to have enlarged left forebrains. People who’ve suffered from long term depression have been found to have atrophied left forebrains and enlarged right. Fascinating stuff which tells us that brain tissue has the same properties as muscle tissue.

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