Life is a Sine Curve, explained

The notion or idea of Life is a Sine Curve first came to me when trying to explain to a friend over a beer what it is like to run an ultramarathon, which is any running event of 50km or more. At the time we were talking about what it was like to complete longer events such as 100 milers and multi-day events; when you have to get up and do another 50km on tired legs or have been running (or walking) for 24 hours or more! During the course of one of these races you go through a series of highs and lows; when you are on a high you know that sooner or later that feel good factor will leave you. When you are feeling awful, tired or want to quit, you don’t, because you know and believe that sooner or later you will get a second wind and feel better. You believe in your goal of finishing the race and you know that these highs and lows are simply chapters of your journey.

So for me, the sine curve represents your journey; any journey that you are on. The Oxford Dictionary defines a journey as an act of traveling from one place to another; you will have a much stronger sense of purpose in your life if you know where you want to go; your plan, goal or vision. What is it that you want to achieve?

Many of us have created different plans for our careers and job roles, but not so many people take the time to make a personal plan for ourselves. If you want to be the best person you can be, then you need to first decide where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Then you can set your direction to achieve your goal. By the way, this is not a selfish exercise, far from it. Your goals may well be centered on your family or friends, whatever it is you want to achieve.

By its very nature, the sine curve demonstrates that very little in life happens in straight lines and that we all go through peaks and troughs, highs and lows as part of our life’s journey.  By recognizing and knowing that wherever you are on the sine curve at this particular point in your life; you know that things will get better if you are in a dark place and that things will get worse if you are currently riding the crest of a wave! By embracing this thought, you can better enjoy being enriched by your surroundings and be more positive about today and for your future. A brief explanation…

The x-axis plots time, the y-axis plots the success; your goals, objectives, happiness; how you are feeling. The greater the amplitude of the curve at any particular point in time, the greater the success (be it happiness or achievement). We can take action to reduce the time between the peaks and troughs and we can maximize the highs and reduce the lows, through attitude and action and change the shape of our sine curve.

Summer represents the sweet spot of success, a time when we celebrate our achievement. You exude confidence and self- belief; you nail everything you want to achieve. When you are in this zone your objective is simple. To make hay whilst the sun shines! Try and understand how you can prolong this period and really reap the benefits of being in such a good place for as long as you possibly can. You should also prepare yourself for the next period, Autumn and rather than looking at this as a downturn realize that the seasons are necessary for our own growth and regeneration.


I have been fortunate to have spent most of my career working in agriculture. In dairy cows, maintenance is the Basel Metabolic Rate, the amount of energy required to keep the cow alive. For the purpose of this exercise, I have used the idea to represent normal life activity; that is the amount of energy, time, commitment, etc. for us all to do the normal life stuff. The things you need to do outside planning and working towards growing the future you. So ‘m’ on the graphic represents your normal life routines and necessities which also require energy, focus, and attention.

Autumn represents the period when you are coming off the crest of a wave. The body and mind cannot operate at 90% plus for prolonged periods, so you start to slow down, to take your foot off the gas. You know that winter is coming so you prepare by putting some protection around yourself, you reassess your goals and objectives, perhaps look for new goals or consider areas where you need to grow in the future? You will best know and understand what is happening here.

Whatever the cause of your Autumn timing, your response should be the same. First of all, you should not sit back and rest on the spoils of your summer success. Rather, start planning for the next Summer. Assess where you are vis-a-vis your next goals. Be they personal, sport related or professional. Use your knowledge and wisdom to best guess where you think you can be next Summer. Write a new plan or update your existing one. By adding dates to your dream you start to set some goals. Establish a small number or realistic goals, with each goal broken down into SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time based) actions and you have a plan.

Winter for me is about endurance. Working your plan as hard as you can, training hard to ensure that you are in the best possible shape to achieve your dream for the next summer.

As an ultramarathon runner, I know from experience that my winter training dictates the quality of my next season’s races. Not only must you achieve your goals during the Winter, but you must also try and reduce to a minimum your time spent in this tough period. After all, time is finite and we all should understand that we can control to a large extent how we create value from our 168 hours each week. A short hard winter kills bugs and sets nature up for a terrific spring. Those of you who fast will appreciate and recognize the strength you gain from each fast. Use this Winter period in the same way, to dedicate quality time and quality effort towards achieving your goals. You can also take solace from the fact that even in the middle of winter when life seems so tough, things will get better.

We know this from our belief in the concept of Life is a Sine Curve. In some ways, the notion of Life is a Sine Curve could appear a bit fatalistic, but I think the opposite to be true. How you spend your time and what you decide to think about and do, will to a large extent determine what will happen in the next period of your life. So you are very much in control of your own destiny and can change the shape of your own sine curve.

Of course, the name of the season is simply a metaphor for which of the four periods you are currently traversing. Nature in the spring is about growing and establishing new foliage and growing, what can and should you be doing to grow yourself? For me, spring means leaves on the trees and early morning runs accompanied by birds singing. I find it an incredibly hopeful time of year. It is the time to put in to practice what I have learned and developed over the Winter months.

Ask yourself what shape is your sine curve? Where are you on your sine curve? Perhaps you are struggling to figure out where you are on your sine curve? Judge for yourself how you are feeling. Are you happy? Are you supporting your friends and family? Are you achieving what is important to you? Do you know what is really important to you? If something awful happened to you later today, would you look back and be satisfied with your life’s contribution? Wherever you are on the sine curve, take action and write down what you need to do to best progress into the next phase.