Firmware Engineer, Minimalist, Improving Runner

Why An Easy Life Is Overrated

Photo from Pixar's Wall-E

Imagine two days:

  • You sleep in. Wake to a hearty breakfast. The sun is out and it's a beautiful day to relax on the patio with a craft beer and snacks. Later, you retreat to your couch with Chinese takeout and watch all 8 episodes of Stranger Things on Netflix. In one sitting. You silently thank the person who invented sweatpants.

  • It's 5am and you're running up a trail in pitch darkness. You're cold, hungry, and tired. The wheels come off at mile 24. It's a struggle to keep moving forward. There's still 10 miles left, you realize, before tripping over a rock and face-planting into the ground. You brush off the dirt and push your aching body on.

Which day would you prefer? Most people would choose the first day.

I've lived both of these days. They're nice in their own ways. But given the option, I'd choose the second day 9 times out of 10.

Is An Easy Life Really That Great?

Let's see. The first day was easy and relaxing. It required no mental or physical effort.

In terms of comfort, it was a 10/10. Just sit back and enjoy life. It's what we worked hard all week for.

Yet, when the day was over, I felt over-indulged, empty, and dare I say, hollow. My senses were dulled. There was no substance. No achievement, no value created. Just mindless consumption of food and entertainment.

Contrast that to the second day, which had punished my body and mind to an absurd level. My legs were wrecked. My toenails had turned black. I had aches in places I didn't even know could ache.

But the burger and fries never tasted better. The company of my friends never more appreciated. The sun was brighter. Life was more full. And I felt genuinely alive.

When you add in the sense of achievement, gratitude, and strength that followed, it's clear in my eyes which day impacted my life more.

Maybe an easy life isn't as perfect as we think it is. Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church certainly doesn't think so:

Dear young people, we didn’t come into this work to ‘vegetate’, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark.

Nothing Good In Life Comes Easy

Another reason why an easy life isn't all it's made out to be is nothing good in life comes easy.

Take a moment to think of the biggest accomplishments in your life. Now think of the hardest things you've done.

Odds are many of them are the same. Isn't that weird?

Many of us want life to be easier. To have everything handed to us on silver platters.

We want to be promoted simply for showing up at work. We want to lose weight with magic pills. We want our marriages to improve without putting in effort ourselves.

But how good is anything if it comes easy? If we don't sacrifice, struggle, or work hard for something, we value it less. It doesn't mean much to us.

It's like those people who win the lottery and throw it all away in a couple years.

Conversely, when you put your heart and soul into a goal, you're going to appreciate that success more. You'll take pride and satisfaction in your accomplishment, knowing all the work it took.

The Benefits Of Challenges

A challenging life also shapes and defines you in other positive ways:

  • It stretches your limits
  • It builds character and strength
  • It makes you resilient and resourceful
  • It allows you to grow
  • It exposes you to life's highs and lows

Consider a kid who was given everything growing up. Compare that to the kid who had to work and earn everything for him or herself. Who would you guess is more prepared to succeed in life?

Most importantly, challenges give you purpose. And overcoming them makes life meaningful. I love the quote below by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, which sums it up nicely:

It is the hard days, the times that challenge you to your very core, that will determine who you are.

Do You Still Want An Easy Life?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for easy days as much as the next person. Some of life's best moments happen when we're simply taking life in. Our bodies and minds need time to rest as well.

I'm merely stating that there is value in hardship. Instead of always seeking out a life of ease, why not embrace the hard paths in front of us? To use them as opportunities to grow and expand.

If it's one thing I've learned in 2016, it's that we are capable of much, much more than we think we can do.

So choose the hilly route on your next run. Volunteer for that tough project everyone is afraid of. Push yourself and get uncomfortable.

I guarantee, you won't regret the results.