Muscle for life

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

I think there’s an art to truly enjoying life. And it has nothing to do with getting rich or ripped or admired or acclaimed.

I believe that if you can’t find genuine enjoyment in the smallest of things…having a stimulating conversation…relaxing with the right person…getting through a successful workout…you won’t likely find it in “bigger” things either.










If you told me that a few years ago, I would have scoffed.

I had the idea that I had to earn the right to take enjoyment in the little things. And that this right could only be earned through diligence and accomplishment. Accordingly, my sole focus in life was achieving goals and relieving some of the internal pressure I felt to realize what I thought I was capable of. Only then, I thought, I could comfortably leave my warpath for something a bit more scenic. Only then could I find “simple” things worthwhile.

Well, I was wrong.

No matter what I achieved, pressure readings remained the same. Context changed but there it was, bearing down on me just as it always had.

Building the body I had always dreamed about did little to relieve the pressure of feeling like “is this it?” If only I were stronger. If only I had better genetics, if I only could eat more and stay lean.

Making more money did little to relieve the pressure of wanting more. Just for the sake of more. It no longer had to do with paying bills or saving up for something important. It just became a way to keep score and mine just felt too damn low. Compared to what? I don’t know. Compared to people with higher scores.

Having nicer things did little to relieve the pressure of wanting the cooler car, the bigger home, the more extravagant widgets. I was chasing a sheen that seemed to fade quicker and quicker.

Selling hundreds of thousands of books, building one of the biggest fitness blogs on the Net, launching a successful supplement company, and meeting and helping thousands of people did little the relieve the pressure of “what’s next?” Of wanting to climb the bigger, more treacherous mountain in the distance.

Well, eventually I learned that these pressures aren’t like a fog that eventually dissipates–they’re like gravity. You don’t grope around in the dark until the sun finally bakes it away–you learn to operate within its sphere…to feel its heft and smile.

The lesson I eventually learned was inspired by a quote from the legendary writer Kurt Vonnegut:

“When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?'”

-Kurt Vonnegut

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That is…if I can’t find enjoyment in this moment here and now…no matter how simple it is…when will I ever be able to?

In short, I realized that no amount of objective things or accomplishments was going to give me happiness or contentment. I didn’t have to earn this right for myself–I had to grant it. And that didn’t require millions of dollars, millions of books sold, or millions of Facebook followers. I’ll gladly take all that too, but I no longer hold my conscience hostage against these milestones.

I still feel the same pressures as I’ve always felt…pressure to be more…do more…have more…but I have a new way of dealing with them. When they weigh a bit too heavily, I stop and ask, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

If watching a Star Wars cartoon with my son isn’t nice, what is?

If sneaking away for a dinner date with my wife isn’t nice, what is?

If playing this round of golf with my dad isn’t nice, what is?

If doing work I love, just for its own sake, isn’t nice, what is?

It all comes down to how we choose to perceive our lives and the world around us. And it’s captured nicely in the following quote:

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success.”

-Henry David Thoreau

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Anyone can do this, regardless of their circumstances. And those that can are far better off than those that can’t.


What do you think about finding contentment and enjoyment? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • halevi

    There’s nothing new under the sun. – King Solomon

  • Jeremy

    I love this! This is exactly what i focus on in my own life and it makes everrrrrything better. Great article

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jeremy!

  • Darren

    You are extremely fortunate to have realised this at a young age.

    I have personally worked extremely hard running businesses over the years. At the age of about 45 I looked back and realised how much life had passed me by. Without giving you my life story when I analysed my life I realised that it was the small things that really made me happy.

    I bought the big expensive flash cars, and it was great to start with, but after a while it was just a car, in fact going for a bicycle ride was more enjoyable then driving the car. I accumulated wealth but never had time to enjoy it.

    If you have not realised this already Mike you find yourself buying things because you feel you need to as a treat because you work so hard. A good example is you buy the latest gadgets and they only add to the stress when they go wrong. What I found is the more I owned the more time it took to maintain, which is a problem when time is the one thing I did not have the luxury of.

    As the poet Papa Roach wrote “theres no possession only obsession”.

    One of the turning points for me was when I found inner peace. Now I don’t mean some kind of Kung Fu thing I mean when you are happy with yourself and your life. I learned to enjoy the moment, the small things like when my Son looks me directly in the eyes and says “I love you Daddy”.

    In weight training terms feeling inner peace is like pushing that last rep, nothing else matters at that precise moment in time, not work, not bills, not family issues, just lift that weight with everything you have left as it is all that matters.

    The truth is the children do not remember the big car but they do remember the day you chased each other around the garden with water pistols.

    Mike you are obviously in a business you enjoy which is a gift many do not have the fortune of.

    I am one of the many you have helped lose weight and gain muscle. Stick with your initial plan of helping others and this will bring you great happiness. Strive for inner peace as it is a great feeling.

    • Michael Matthews

      This is a great comment. Thanks a lot for sharing and I’m 100% with you on all points.

      I also think there’s something to be said for how focusing on the right things keeps you humble. The people I know that are too wrapped up in being flashy are just insufferable egomaniacs. In some cases it almost seems like a God complex.

  • Shamir Alvis

    Hey Mike,

    Unrelated question:
    Muslims will start fasting in about 1 week. In the UK that’s fasting (no food or water) from 3AM->9.30PM roughly. then night prayers from 10.30PM->11.50PM. I’m really not sure how to eat and when to workout in this situation. Also I doubt I can progress on lifts without any water during the day. Any advice?

    I’m currently on a cut

    • Michael Matthews

      I’ve actually been working with some Muslims and what we do is break the fast with a moderate meal, wait an hour, lift, eat a massive post-workout meal, wait 2 hours, last protein, sleep.

      Kinda uncomfortable but it works.

      • Shamir Alvis

        probably works in murica but in the UK our feeding window is going to be 2130->0315.

        1hour after breaking the fast I should really be in the mosque for 90mins, after that it’s only another 90mins until the fast starts again. Maybe if I eat uber light and take extra bcaas when i break the fast and have a short lifting session I might be able to continue with some strength progress.

        Not sure, i’d rather hear what you suggest.

        • Michael Matthews

          Oh okay then how about this:

          30-40 g pro & cho before lifting.

          Post-workout meal as big as you can stomach.

          Mosque for 90 min.

          Meal to hit the rest of your numbers for the day.

  • adam

    So after 8 weeks shedule has to be changed mike.?not just for chest bt for othr parts too?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes that’s how the program works.

      • adam

        So what changes i should make in my shedule?mike

        • adam

          Change the exercises completely or change one or two exercises?

          • Michael Matthews

            If you download the bonus report at the end of the book you’ll get 1 year’s worth of workouts.

  • Kaiti

    Enjoying the “small things” is great way to boost your mood and resilience. Some things I do are: wear a nice perfume every day, eat good tasty food every day (if not quite managing every meal!), listen to enjoyable educational courses on the car cd, speak to my family every day, play with my cats, feed the birds and round the day off with a warm scented bath and a good night’s sleep. Exercise is there too. Weight training gets my mood up the fastest but I can’t do that every day. Into each life some aerobics and stretching must fall.

    • Michael Matthews

      I like this! I totally agree.

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