Vitality and Wisdom

If you want a long term goal as a direction of travel, you will struggle to find a better one than building vitality and wisdom.

Vitality [ vahy-tal-i-tee ]

noun, plural vi·tal·i·ties.

1. exuberant physical strength or mental vigor: a person of great vitality.

2. capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence:the vitality of an institution.

3. power to live or grow: the vitality of a language.

4. vital force or principle. 

Wisdom [ wiz-duhm ]


1. the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.

2. scholarly knowledge or learning: the wisdom of the schools.

3. wise sayings or teachings; precepts.

4. a wise act or saying.


Vitality, or vigour, can be summed up as staying physically young for as long as possible. Someone with vigour has energy, enthusiasm, and ‘aliveness’ and the absence of fatigue, weariness, and exhaustion. Most research attempt to measure it using a Vitality subscale as part of various medical questionnaires that include four questions: 

  • Did you feel full of pep? 
  • Did you have a lot of energy? 
  • Did you feel worn out? 
  • Did you feel tired?

The feelings of energy and aliveness are both physical and mental, linked to self-actualisation, self-esteem and self-motivation. As well as having physical strength and being free from pain, those that see themselves as having vitality also express excitement, enthusiasm, and spontaneity. The subjective element of vitality suggests that it goes much further than being physically healthy and an attitude that can be chosen and practised. 


The traditional interpretation of wisdom from western philosophy related to ‘knowing the truth of things’. For someone to be wise, they must have integrated knowledge, unbiased judgement, ethics, compassion, insight, and self-awareness. Psychologists mainly use self-assessment methods to measure wisdom; these suggest that wisdom is developed through life experience, openness, emotional control, and reflectiveness. The DIKW pyramid from Information theory provides a more objective view of wisdom, listing it at the top of the cognitive hierarchy. Data is processed to create information (the what), cognition is used to turn information into knowledge (the how), and finally, judgement is used to produce wisdom (the why). 

Developing vitality and wisdom

To develop vitality, you need to maintain high energy levels and avoid fatigue. Training consistently with moderation is required and keep high-intensity exhausting sessions that push you towards failure to short blocks once or twice per year. A foundation of strength and mobility is essential that is supplemented by sport and adventure.

To develop wisdom, you need to focus on gaining knowledge, applying it, and then reflecting on your decisions to build better judgement. Charlie Munger suggests starting by learning the various cognitive bias to understand better how you come to conclusions. Naval Ravikant recommends learning the basics of all the hard sciences so you can pick up any book in a library and understand it. Read, do stuff, then try to understand the outcome.

Goal setting for inspiration

I have been reading Sir Chris Hoy’s ‘How to ride a bike’ over the last few days. The book is an excellent training manual that I highly recommend it for any cyclist. Hoy starts with the basics, including choosing a bike and road safety but quickly moves to training details. As one of the most successful British athletes of all time, winning Eleven World Championships and six Olympic gold medals, some training methods, such as the clown bike where Hoy would do short high cadence intervals at 320+ rpm are not for the faint of heart. There is no referenced research on the methods to satisfy the more geeky time trialist, but it makes it an easier read and Hoy was at the cutting edge for most of his career, and at the hight of British Cycling’s rise, so the methods have provenance.  

Later in the book, Hoy writes about setting and managing goals. He suggests setting a massive goal that you would love to do, that is a bit beyond you, and is a little scary such as riding a tour du France mountain stage in l’Etape du Tour or targetting a national age-group title. You can then spend time analysing precisely what is needed to achieve the goal and compare them to where you are. You can then create a ‘recipe for success’ planning out exactly what you need to do in your training, recovery, nutrition, and equipment to bridge the gap. Finally, Hoy quotes advice given to him by Chis Boardman, if you are not excited when you read through the plan, then rip it up and start again. 

The big goal acts as a motivation to carry out each day’s plan and develop discipline in your training. Hoy suggests you close your eyes, imagine doing something that excites and gives you goosebumps, then write it down, plan out how you can get there an, and then do it. 

How to choose and manage your cycling goals

  1. Choose a big scary goal so large that you are almost embarrassed to tell people. 
  2. Research and map out each aspect of what it will take to achieve the goal, such as a required power to weight ratio and equipment needs.
  3. Map out where you are now against the requirements to identify what you need to do.
  4. Create a long term plan to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you need to be.
  5. Create a detailed plan for the next four weeks.
  6. Execute the plan flawlessly, ‘controlling the controllable.’
  7. Review at the end of the four weeks to assess if the plan achieved the intended outcomes.
  8. Repeat steps 7-7 until the big scary goal is complete.