I spent the rainy weekend parked in front of the TV with my family, watching the best in the world swim, cycle, and play beach volleyball.
It was Little Bit’s first real exposure to the Olympics. She was too little to pay attention in previous Olympic years, but this time she watched fascinated as the best athletes in the world performed in Rio.
Little Bit asked me if she could be in the Olympics someday. I smiled, remembering the Olympic dreams of my own youth.
“If you work hard and you’re the very best in the world,” I said.
“Are most people in the Olympics?”
“No, most people never get there. Most people don’t even try.”
“Can there be an Olympics for fun? I want to be the best in the world at fun!”
Hmmm, there’s an ambition. Little Bit’s probably never going to become an Olympic athlete. She’s never shown a lot of athletic ability or inclinations. But she could certainly pursue an ambition to be the best at fun, or at least the responsible adult version, the good life.
Most people never get there. Some don’t even try, feeling the good life will forever remain out of reach.
Unlike the Olympics, however, we can all win gold medals in the good life. No judges can tell you you haven’t made a perfect 10 when you dive into life. No competitors can displace you on the medal stand.
All that matters is reaching your personal best.
I’m not sure I’ve been doing all I can to reach a gold medal in the good life. I think I have a pretty good life, but it’s not the best that it can be. There are so many other things I could do to change to move from running a good race to being my best.
So in honor of the Olympics, I’m going to dedicate the rest of this Olympic period to pursuing the gold medal in the good life.
Every Olympic sport has a built in goal. Run or swim fastest, or tumble most precisely and aesthetically pleasingly. Score the most points. Lift the most weight. All sports have an understood way to win.
Life does not have built in goals. Your way to win may not be the same as everyone else’s. However, if you don’t set some goals, you can’t measure your progress.
Whether your goal is “retire early” or “have a house with a pool,” it’s important to state it, visualize it and go for it.
I’m still not entirely sure what my goal for the good life is. However, to me the good life involves financial security, independence, and fun. Probably some travel. One of the things I need to do as part of pursuing the gold medal in the good life is to refine those goals into a plan that can be stated, visualized and pursued.
Regardless of what those goals are, I’m not going to reach them if I don’t pick up my fitness game.
I’ve noticed that my New Year’s resolution to improve my daily activity has fallen by the wayside. That’s bad. If there’s one thing that can derail the quest for the good life, it’s bad health.
There are plenty of health conditions that are beyond our control. However, there are plenty of health risks that can be mitigated by a regular exercise program. Regular exercise gives you more energy, allowing you to enjoy life more. It also reduces your chance of expensive health conditions later on.
Unfortunately, exercise is my weakest event despite it being one of the most important. I find that the routines I develop fall by the wayside after a month or two.
I think I should bring in a coach, or at least a training buddy, to push me when I might otherwise slack off. Olympic athletes need a lot of support to become the best, and sometimes we need support to do the things we need to do as well.
Live Below Your Means
Olympic athletes push themselves to the brink of their endurance and physical capabilities, and use every means possible to reach their peak in time for their Olympics.
Pursuing the gold medal in the good life, though, probably doesn’t mean pushing all of your efforts toward a couple of days that happen once or twice in a lifetime. Pursuing good life is a marathon you’ll run the rest of your life, and you need to conserve your resources. You can’t blow through everything in a sprint. You have to save some for the end of the race.
So save something. Life life to the fullest, but don’t spend your bank account to the emptiest. Live below your means so that you still have fuel in the last few miles so you don’t peter out.
While we do okay on this, we could do better.
I like to eat. Good food provides joy, good memories, and sound sustenance.
If you like good food, you have a couple of choices. You can make it, you can buy it, or you can make do with mediocre body fuel.
For a long time, I made do with mediocre body fuel most of the time. Unfortunately, if you aren’t a good cook and you don’t make good food on a regular basis, you eventually give in to the temptation to pay someone else to cook good food for you.
You buy takeout or restaurant food, spending more money for food that’s expensive and probably not too healthy. So since we decided to save money and eat out less, I’ve had to crank up my cooking game. I’ve tried a bunch of new recipes and new cooking techniques in the past year, and so has Jon. We’re eating more healthy and delicious food on a regular basis, and spending less money since we’re happy staying in.
Good cooking is a pursuit that never ends. There’s always a new recipe to try or a new technique to master. Take the time to learn to cook well, and don’t stop learning.
I score pretty strongly on the introvert side, and being social can be difficult for me. However, life in isolation is rarely “the good life.”
One of the things I most admired about my Mom was her ability to make and keep good friends. I know that her friendships increased the quality of her life tremendously, and I worry that I don’t haven’t developed that support network.
While I might be happy to sit at home, it’s important that I do more to get out and develop stronger relationships. Whether I participate in volunteer activities or reach out to individuals more often, I need to do a better job with connecting to others.
I can work hard to get tons of great things in my life. It doesn’t matter, though, if I don’t recognize my life for the good life it is.
While there’s always things to work on and improve, it’s important that I can appreciate and celebrate the good things in my life, because I’ll never find the good life without being able to find contentment with what I have.
Discontent robs you of the joy of the moment. You can’t be jealous that someone else is earning gold.
Pursuing the Gold Medal In the Good Life
Gold medals are the goal of a lifetime, the culmination of years of sacrifice, hard work and talent.
For most of us, earning a gold medal in the Olympics is not a goal we’ll ever reach. Reaching a good life, though, is.
Having a good life also requires a lifetime pursuit. Those who have a good life haven’t gotten there without putting in their sacrifice and hard work. They haven’t gotten there without learning what works for them and what doesn’t, without learning to appreciate the journey.
So pursue the gold medal in the good life. Seek a good life with the focus and dedication of an Olympic athlete, and before long you’ll find that you’re standing on the medal stand of life.
How are you pursuing the gold medal in the good life? What do you need to do to reach the medal stand?