Feeling Flat? Here’s How to Pump Up Your Enjoyment

Why it's rarely wise to settle for the status quo when it feels flat, and what steps to take to pump up your enjoyment.

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Key Points

  • We all have parts of our lives that feel flatter and that we’d get more enjoyment from if we made the effort to “pump them up.”
  • Even when your situation’s not that bad, making the effort to improve it is worth it in the long run.
  • Make a plan, ask for or hire help, seek outside feedback, and make it an adventure.

To Pump or Not to Pump?

Today is almost perfect.

I’m traveling in LA and have taken the day off to shoot hoops at the fabled Venice Beach basketball courts.

The only minor bummer?

My basketball’s slightly flat. Every time I dribble, I have to push harder than usual. And when I swish a shot, the ball doesn’t bounce back to me like it would if were at the right PSI.

But I’m still having a good time. I’m at a beautiful beach, the weather’s perfect, and I’m doing something I love. Shouldn’t I be grateful?

I suppose.

Then again, maybe I ought to try and find a pump? I’ve got the whole day ahead of me and would have an even better time with a properly inflated ball.

What would you do in my situation?

Basketball shoes.
Try these on for size. (They’re clean.)

Put Yourself In My Basketball Shoes

Can you think of a similar situation in your life?

You’re doing something you mostly enjoy but it feels slightly flat, so you could pump your enjoyment up even higher with some intervention:

  • You’re in decent shape, but you’d have more bounce in your step if you exercised more.
  • You’ve got a wonderful social circle, but you could have more fun with it if you were more proactive.
  • You’re good at what you do, but would be even better if you put in the effort of more deliberate practice.
  • Your relationship’s solid, but it could use some patching up to avoid flatness and prevent the occasional explosion.
  • You feel fresh, but if you pumped your lungs through your nose instead of your mouth, you’d feel even better and suffer fewer seasonal allergies.

No matter how amazing your life is, there’s no way all the metaphorical basketballs in your life are perfectly pumped. So pluck a flat-feeling one from your collection and let’s consider our options.

Cart of balls on a basketball court.
Grab one of your wonky balls and play along.

How to Pump Up Your Flatness

Make a Plan

I live 1,741km north of Venice Beach, so I have no idea where I might find a pump nearby.

I suppose I could wander off and hope to come across something. But why? I can look it up on Google Maps or ask around. That way, I’ll get my ball pumped quicker with a much lower likelihood of a deflating outcome.

Seems like a stupidly obvious first step, no?

But how often do you do so? When you want to lose a bit of weight, spice up your social life, mejorar tu español, or whatever, do you map out a specific plan? Or do you pick a rough direction, set off, and hope for the best?

Ask for Help

Maybe I could ask the guys practicing volleyball on the beach nearby if they’ve got a pump?

Should I bother them?

It depends, right?

It might not be worth asking if it doesn’t look like they have gear with them. But if they’ve got a bag full of balls, odds are they’re packing a pump. In that case, why not wait until they take a break and ask?

And if they can help me, I tell them something like, “You’ve made my day! I came here from Vancouver, Canada to shoot around at these famous courts, so you’ve made the experience 15 percent better thanks to lending me your pump.” That’ll pump them up a little bit, too, right?

And who knows? Maybe we’ll get to chatting and invite me to join them for a poke bowl or something.

Your situation probably needs more than a $10 pump for ten seconds. But, as I learned from Heidi Grant’s book, Reinforcements, we substantially underestimate the benefits of asking one another for help, especially if we do it thoughtfully.

Guy offering to pump up your enjoyment.
My son is not allowed to take candy from this guy, but I might pay him $10.

Pay Someone

Imagine that beside the basketball courts there’s a creepy-looking dude sitting under a sun umbrella. At his feet are a pump and a crudely hand-written sign saying “$10 to get nice and stiff.”

The price is egregious and I don’t like the way the guy is grinning at me, either. But if the pump works, it’s worth it, right?

Now think of your scenario.

For whatever’s under-inflated in your life, I bet you can find plenty of helpers for hire. Regardless of whether they’re questionably-qualified bozos like me or clean-cut experts, if they can quickly pump up your enjoyment levels, they may be a wise investment.

Get an Outside Opinion

What if I don’t even realize that I could be having an even more enjoyable time shooting around by inflating my ball?

Then what if I brick a shot, my ball careens away to the path beside the court, a 6-foot-4 woman picks it up, expertly whips it back to me, and shouts, “Hey man, your ball’s flat.”

Do I ignore her? Or do I say, “Cool, thanks,” with a fake, tight-lipped smile while thinking to myself, “Pfft. Lady, you don’t know me and how I like my ball inflated.” Or do I let her pop my delusion bubble?

We’ll save my argument that ignorance isn’t bliss for a future Consider This.

For the purpose of this issue, I’ll leave it at this: Even if you think all your balls are perfectly pumped, you might want to seek an outside opinion from someone who might know better.

Treat It Like an Adventure

According to Google Maps, there’s a YMCA one mile away. That’s a long way to go for a little extra PSI in my ball, and a lot of time I could otherwise continue to enjoy shooting hoops here.

Also, what if I get run over by some SoCal socialite’s glitchy self-driving Tesla? Or the YMCA’s pump’s broken? Or I twist my ankle when distracted by some supermodel in a thong?

Anything’s possible.

But what if I reframe the chore/risk/distraction of having to trek over to get my ball pumped as an adventure? I get to explore somewhere new! That’s about as fun as playing basketball. And who knows what I’ll come across along the way? At the very least it’ll be something extra to remember from my California trip.

The Ball’s In Your Court

Where’s your potential enjoyment of life limited by flatness? Who could point out what you’re missing and/or help you? What plan could you set to make it a reality? And how can you frame it as an adventure?

For more ideas and extra motivation, you might want to check these out:

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on TheZag.com is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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