The Heptathlete Approach to Life

Like some of you perhaps, I have a complicated relationship with exercise: I love doing it, but I hate getting started (it really is true for me that the hardest part is showing up). So this year, I set myself a challenge to exercise/move with intention five days a week, and I am pleased to say that I am now into a six-week streak of – you guessed it – exercising five days a week. 

So how did I trick myself into doing it? (Because I did have to trick myself, make no mistake about that…) Well, I stopped fighting myself, and decided to make exercise easy. Instead of hyping myself up to go to the gym for epic all-or-nothing two-hour sweat fests, or talking myself down when I inevitably missed the mark, I exercise most days at home using free videos on YouTube, do one run a week, and one chin up session at the gym. That’s it. (PS – I can out chinup most of the brawny guys at my gym, so take that!)

Am I going to beat any world records this way? Hell no. But that’s not the point. The point is that I am doing just enough to stay fit so I can clear my head of all the drama and angst around working out and focus all that mental energy on my two main priorities instead: my work and my family.

Or to put it another way, I am taking the heptathlete approach to life: being the best I can be at a chosen few things, and being just good enough at everything else.

Because that is what life requires: acknowledged and intentional tradeoffs, not all-or-nothing chest thumping bravado or obsessive obsessions with “balancing” everything perfectly. Because there is no balance. Only choice.

And you have to choose what very few precious things will get all of you, and decide that all of the everything else will have to settle for good enough. Reality. Harmony. Sanity. Not so-called balance.

Or, as I like to put it: enlightened swagger, instead of just swagger.

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Rupal Patel logo
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Rupal is a born-and-bred New Yorker now living near London. Her high-octane career as a CIA officer turned serial entrepreneur has taken her from military briefing rooms in jungles and war zones to corporate boardrooms and international stages.

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