For most people, life is a series of challenges in learning, growing, and accumulating all the things we need (or think we need) to thrive: knowledge through education and training, finances, material goods, new career experiences — the list goes on. Often, we take these challenges very seriously, believing they define who we are as individuals as well as contributing citizens.
But taking a closer look, the only one who’s usually tallying the personal accumulation of all these things is the one reflected in the mirror. Too many of us put a significant amount of pressure on ourselves and become so rigid and focused on achieving a certain standard or amount that we don’t enjoy the journey toward all these amazing accomplishments. We take the fun and joy away from the experiences that should be the most rewarding.
The all-work-and-no-play approach — whether it’s applied to sports and fitness, our professional or personal lives, or our unique interests and talents — creates stress that continually builds and can eventually take a significant toll on our health. The more stressed out we get, the more vulnerable we are to physical and emotional issues, like susceptibility to illness or having a short fuse with those we love.
It hurts our relationships, too: When we’re carrying negative energy from accumulated and unreleased stress, our words and actions don’t usually come from a good, mindful place — and that affects everyone around us.
But the same is true of positivity. In the midst of the seriousness of all things life, it’s essential to find the fun in your experiences — those things that make work seem like play yet still keep you motivated to get the job done.
And what that really comes down to is doing what you love in as many areas of your life as possible. That’s why I always ask the same questions of every person who comes to me in search of a job, direction, or guidance:
• What are you so passionate about that you would be willing to do it for free?
• What would make you excited about getting out of bed each morning and giving back if you had billions of dollars?
I also ask about their skill set:
• What are you incredibly gifted at, naturally and by training?
• What do you do better than anyone else around you?
I encourage people to take a day or two to think about their responses, because these questions are hard to answer authentically on the spot. Most people’s immediate reaction is to share what they think I want to hear.
But when you give yourself permission and space to honestly assess these queries, there’s huge opportunity for more satisfaction and greater accomplishments in everything you do.
There’s always going to be serious work ahead. But if this serious work can converge with what you’re passionate about and what you’re most skilled at, you can enjoy what you are doing and get the job done, too. You’ll be primed to produce the most, give the most, create the most, play the most — and not be broken.
Those things that put a smile on your face despite the hours and the struggles? They tend to be the most meaningful and fun, and it’s worth every minute it takes to figure out what that means specifically for you.
Speaking of fun, worthwhile endeavors, I want to take a moment to recognize that this issue marks Experience Life’s 15-year anniversary of publication — wow!
Experience Life started with the vision to bring Healthy Way of Life perspectives to Life Time members. But in 2001, when founding editor Pilar Gerasimo presented the idea of a progressive-minded consumer health and fitness magazine that would educate and inspire people around the country, I knew we were on to something special and unique. It has proved to be that and more, and I can’t wait to see what the next 15 years have in store. I’m so proud that Life Time and Experience Life are leading the charge in supporting millions of people in living healthier lives — that’s truly fun work to tackle.