Monday, September 23, 2013

A Life Without Limits

I picked up this book on my last trip to the library, admittedly not really knowing anything about who Chrissie Wellington was.  Now, after having read her autobiography, I think her story and message is pretty amazing.  Chrissie entered the professional triathlon circuit at age 30 and outright won the Ironman World Championship at Kona in her first attempt!  She subsequently went on to win EVERY Ironman she ever entered!  Mind blowing to say the least.  Her innate, almost untapped athletic ability, coupled with her powerful inner drive, really make her a force to be reckoned with.
There were a few things about Chrissie's story that resonated with me personally.  First and foremost, I think was her message that it's never too late to embark on your dream.  She claims that she wasn't always a gifted athlete and kind of discovered triathlon by mistake, after becoming more and more infatuated with running and biking as forms of recreation outside her full time job with the British government.  Here, she talks about why she decided to quit her job and pursue this new dream:
"Thirty years old and only just about to embark on a career as a professional athlete - I knew it wasn't the conventional path, but that milestone was just another reason why I had to take the plunge.  If I didn't do it now, I never would.  And I would be left wondering "What if..."'

That last statement is the story of my life right now.
I connected with Chrissie in another way as well.  As she says, she never had her sights set on becoming a professional athlete, let alone an Ironman.  In her university and early career days, she really was striving to do work that was meaningful, humanitarian and helpful.  She majored in 'Development' at her university which meant she was studying how to improve conditions in developing/third world nations.  Her hunger to 'change the world' had her traveling to remote locations in Africa and ultimately led her to work as a civil servant in the UK government.  But she soon became disillusioned and felt her work behind the desk wasn't making the hands-on difference she wanted to see.  Exactly my sentiments with my previous career.  She had written some New Year goals for the year 2000, when she had just finished university. And although they sound somewhat simple and perhaps naive, I also think they're pretty beautiful, and sound like something I would have written years ago, before I entered and became jaded by the 'real world', and now again today as I try to get back to a place of authenticity:
"To be happy with myself and always make others happy.  To be confident and give others confidence in themselves.  To smile, to surf, to laugh and to make others laugh.  To read more widely.  To try to be more tolerant of my weaknesses and of others, and not to be so hard on myself all the time..."
Another thing I admire about Chrissie is her willingness to take chances.  I think one of the things that allows people to become great, and to accomplish great things, is not the absence of fear in their lives, but their ability to take chances and leaps of faith in spite of their fears and doubts.  Chrissie's story details how she abandoned security many times in her life to travel abroad, accept new positions, and finally take a giant leap into the unknown to pursue something few people will ever attempt.  She is now using the notoriety she acquired in the sport of triathlon to do good through her affiliations with charities, so in manifesting her natural talents she has also come to a place where she can continue to make a difference in other's lives.  Finally, she ends the book with this statement:
"...How can I speculate on what the future holds, when the present is so astronomically removed from whatever expectations I might have had in my youth?  I prefer to see my life as a tree, branching out in who knows what directions.  There is never a destination, just the impulse to grow.  My only policy throughout has been to keep an open mind and, whatever I may do, to give it my all.  It still takes my breath away to think where that simple outlook on life has taken me, how many times I have managed to defy what I thought possible.  I never set out to be a world champion...but neither have I ever wanted to be left wondering, "What if...?"  To my amazement, at so many stages along the way, the limits that I thought I could see in the distance dissolved as I approached them.  They turned out not to be real at all, but mere assumptions.  And that has been the most exciting revelation of all."
I used to think life was a very linear path.  Do A, B and C in that order to get to an end result.  Don't deviate, don't get creative and for heaven's sake do NOT color outside the lines!  But, that approach has decidedly not worked for me thus far in life.  Following a plan of what I thought I was 'supposed' to do has not led me to a place of fulfillment.  Many of my views about what life is all about have really changed in the past few years.  I've stopped looking at life as a straight line with a definitive end.  Life has become much more about the journey and not the destination.  Much more like a tree, as Chrissie puts it, with branches in so many limitless directions.  I've lately started branching out and kind of love not knowing what will happen next.  And who knows, those limits I thought I had just might disappear...

Your turn!

Have you read "A Life Without Limits"?

Have you ever done something you previously thought you could not do?



  1. I have to add this to my library list for sure. I never thought I'd be training for a marathon, but here I am! It's crazy to think back and realize how far I've come!

    1. Hi Ashley!
      That's awesome! Congrats on training for your first full. Running always surprises me - there are times my head thinks 'There's no way I can run that far today', and then my feet and heart just carry me away. I think there are so many untapped strengths that lie within all of us - just beyond our fears (and rational brains!)