Starting way back in high school, one of my favorite sayings has been “Variety is the spice of life.” This applied then from the subjects that I liked in school to my hobbies in my free time. This has held true for me throughout my life with interests, friendships, work and even forms of exercise. I take pride in being a sort of “Jill of all trades” rather than being super into any one thing. It’s one of the reasons that I like participating in and training for triathlons – the variety. It’s also the reason why I’ve never aspired to take it all the way to signing up for an Ironman, because that would mean that the training would become all-consuming and would take away from the many other things that I enjoy such as hiking, stand up paddle boarding, mountain biking and spending time with friends and family.
The most extreme thing I have ever done was Ride the Rockies in 2015 (a seven-day, 465-mile bike tour in the mountains of Colorado). After all of that time on my road bike, I nearly stopped road biking for over a year. It was too much time on one thing, which changed biking from being enjoyable to feeling like work.
In society today, it seems like most people believe that more is better, and that they have to do and be everything – the supermom (or dad), dedicated worker who puts in loads of hours to climb the corporate ladder and make more money to buy more stuff, AND the ultra-athlete. I suppose there are plenty of people who get joy from being the best at something and spending loads of time becoming an expert. However, I would bet that there are plenty of others for whom it’s no longer enjoyable being in this rat race to the top. People who are on the edge of burnout, who have risked their health and happiness doing more, faster and trying to win the race to be the busiest to prove that they have it all.
I went off course early in my career and spent plenty of years believing the lie that more and bigger is better. I was trying to have it all and do it all when a blood clot in my coronary artery said ”enough is enough.” I nearly died of a heart attack at 31 years old. It was enough to wake me up to the realization that I was chasing someone else’s dream. I had lost a bit of my variety is the spice of life spirit and had let work take up too much of my focus. I was stressed out and on the verge of burnout.
What did I learn from my brush with death? That less is actually more. That simple is the answer to a happier, healthier life. That a little challenge is good to prevent boredom, but that finding the flow state means spending time on things that I enjoy – and that means saying no to some things and letting go of this idea that I need to be superwoman. Being the busiest does not translate to being the happiest. Down time is not only nice to have, but a necessity.
Where are my people at? The ones who are perfectly happy to let their forms of exercise be fun rather than a workout? Who don’t care if they have the biggest house, fastest car or highest title at work? Maybe this is you deep down inside, but you too got caught up in this culture of pushing yourself to the brink to prove yourself worthy. Let’s reclaim our lives. Let’s make happy more important than busy. Let’s enjoy our brief time on this spinning ball in the middle of space. Let’s have some variety! You don’t have to do or be anything other than you – the labels, titles, awards and achievements are not what define you. Doing what lights you up and makes you feel alive is the most urgent thing – even if that means doing less.