Life Isn’t A Race

Don’t let your life pass you by while you race along at 100 miles per hour. This thought may seem contradictory. It isn’t. Many people spend much of their life in “frantic” mode – lives so full that they dash from one event or project to the next. It’s as if they are in a race with their own lives – and that they are! The trouble is there are no prizes, no 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, because we all arrive at the same destination, albeit at different times. When they get there many people realize that life itself was the prize and they missed much of it.

Don’t wait until then. People often get warning nudges that perhaps it is time to slow down, to stop and look around. Maybe they think they are going to lose their job (or they actually lose it), get a cancer scare (or actually get cancer or some other illness or injury) or someone similar in age and status dies. They stop briefly, tell themselves things have to change, that they have to get their priorities straight and start to enjoy life more while they can. But the crisis passes and they brush themselves off and get back on the track until the next time when it is a punch in the mouth and then a full body blow before they really listen. Some never do.

I know. I was there. I had (still have but much less) a bookkeeping business in addition to my writing business (if you can call something I make a minimal amount of money from a business!) Suddenly in 2003 I got a contract for a book and I barely remember the next six years. I wrote seven books (some small, some not so small) and continued with enough bookkeeping to pay the bills. It was an exhilarating and “frantic” time. I have always been able to multi-task and could get more things done in one day than most in a week. That trait served me well. It was not unusual to be at the computer for 12-14 hours a day. In order to get fit I lost a great deal of weight, did something I had wanted to do for 25 years by becoming a vegetarian, and I walked 1-2 hours a day. I finally decided to give up most of the accounting and focus full time on the writing.

Then it all came crashing down. Four years ago I crawled from the taxi into the emergency ward of a hospital and my life has not been the same since. The facts of the story are not important. What is important is that I believe it happened because I lived life at high speed and then ramped up to frantic for six years and my body finally said “if the only way I can get you to stop is to completely break down then that is what we are doing.” I will live forever with the consequences of my choice to live at high speed. And I fear that if I was able to I’d still be zooming along and never resting or really enjoying the ride. But, I am not able, and so I have changed. I am trying to pace myself, to enjoy as many moments as I can and to take care of what’s left of my health. I wish I had learned the lesson in a less “painful” way and I will carry the results of my stupidity for the rest of my life but I am trying.

Slow down. Look around. It is not enough to stop and smell the roses. You need to take enough time to really look at them, ponder them and wonder what it is in them that attracts you. Maybe you could even write about them or paint them if you can find that time. Watch a cat. Mine can spend five minutes sniffing every part of one flower or leaf. I envy Jay that concentration. At that moment nothing else in the world matters except that flower or leaf. He really absorbs the experience. Of course a cat’s sense of smell is huge so it is likely the smells (and a part of me does not want to know what he smells on there, thanks!) that enthrall him.

I am far from successful at it but I still often pause now when I look at something/someone I love or enjoy and try to remember this is my life and I will never have this moment again. I really try to see it and absorb the feeling it gives me instead of racing by.

Please do one thing for me. Think of something you love whether it’s your cat, a sport, the sky, a soothing cup of tea or a tree in your back yard. It doesn’t have to be something big. Anything. Just take a couple of moments and look at it. Really see it. Notice the aspects you love about it and feel them. What is it in you that is stirred when you look at it?  It is only a couple of minutes of your life – and you’re worth it.

Are you able to slow down long enough to do this?




  1. Cheryl Harrington
    Jun 4, 2013

    Thanks for this, Susan. It’s something I really needed to read right now. I fear I’ve been in what you call “frantic” mode for the last …too many years. Never enough time and always an excuse for not slowing down. I keep telling myself things will change when I retire (695 days!) but when I really listen, my body is warning me to make some changes now or suffer the consequences. I’m going to bookmark this and read it again. A good lesson here!

    • Susan McNicoll
      Jun 4, 2013

      Thanks Cheryl. As I said, I have not yet “got it down” but I am better. And I can tell you that the more you stop, even for five minutes, and look at something really closely, the more often you will find yourself doing it. It does become a habit I am pleased to say. My productive hours in a day are drastically reduced but I am still taking some of that time to walk my talk. Don’t wait to retire. I told myself that when I was able to give up all my accounting and work only on writing, things would be better. Trouble was as soon as I tried to do that my body died because, truth be told, it saw the opportunity and knew it could finally just stop. I would hate for you to have that happen. You still have too much to give to the world. I hope I still get to where I wanted to go but I know I have a better shot of reaching my goal by being the turtle than the hare! Thanks again for commenting.

  2. Marie
    Jun 4, 2013

    Great post, and couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me!

    • Susan McNicoll
      Jun 4, 2013

      Thank you Marie. If it helps even a little bit it will make me very happy. As I said in another reply, I truly am finding the more I do it the easier it is becoming. Good luck.

  3. Doreen Pendgracs
    Jun 14, 2013

    Thanks for this post, Susan.

    I’ve learned how to slow down from my husband. He’s quite a bit older than me, and so he’s had to slow down out of necessity. And I’ve learned how to slow down and enjoy life at his pace.

    And yes, I’ve also learned much from my beloved cat, Junior. He always made me stop and be still for awhile, just so he could sit on my lap and enjoy the moment. I shall really miss that.

    • Susan McNicoll
      Jun 15, 2013

      I’m glad you learned to slow down Doreen, whether from your husband or your precious boy Junior, who you will see again one day. Treasure your memories of him and his lessons to you. I wish I had learned earlier. I shall work hard not to make the mistake again. I wish everyone could stop and drink in the moment, wherever they are in life.

  4. Alison
    Jun 28, 2013

    I’m glad I read this article, Susan. I keep telling myself I need to slow down, but various fears keep me saying ‘yes’ to all the work that comes my way. I have a sign on my wall that says “Saying NO To Work = Yes to family, Yes to friends, Yes to …., Yes to Rupert [my cat], Yes to relaxation.” Your article is a well-timed reminder that losing my health should be the worst thing to fear, and to slow down is to give myself the gift of enjoying life.

    • Susan McNicoll
      Jun 29, 2013

      Thank you Alison. If even some of my post resonates for you I am glad. I don’t want anyone to lose their health in order to see what was there all along. Rupert would say “about time”! And while you are saying yes to family, yes to friends, why don’t you try yes to yourself!

  5. Seema Shah
    Sep 16, 2013

    Thanks for the great post, Susan. I’ve read it a few times since it was posted and it’s been a helpful reminder to stop and spend time really appreciating and enjoying what’s right in front of me. The “now” so rarely seems to get our full attention, as the future is always looming like a needy child constantly demanding our attention. And the time we do spend in the now is often overtaken by the “have tos.”

    It seems we spend much time and energy on the future, worrying about the “what ifs” or working to achieve goals (sights set on the outcome) and then, almost as soon as we reach them, we wonder “what now?” We’re constantly eating but rarely savouring anything. There are so many things we so quickly lose excitement over, forget the value of, stop appreciating, stop noticing, etc. – be it an accomplishment, a hoped-for outcome, a relationship, a kind word or gesture, or a valuable possession, to name a few things. Your post is a good reminder not to lose emotional sight of all that can and does bring us contentment in the present.


    • Susan McNicoll
      Sep 16, 2013

      Thanks Seema for your comment. YOUR words made me go and read MY words again and to remind myself to follow them. It is something we need to be vigilant about because it is so easy to forget and fall into “frantic” mode. I like your eating but not savouring comment. It is a great analogy. How often do we shovel are food in and swallow without even tasting it.

      You are so right about us racing towards goals and then when we reach them just looking for the next goal. Not only do we not allow ourselves to slow down and relish our achievement, we enjoy little of the journey we made to get there. I shall strive harder to take my own advice!

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