Should life get easier over time, or just more meaningful?

There’s a famous quote cyclists like to cite: “It never gets easier, you just get faster.”

Of course, this isn’t technically true for biking. As a beginner, you simply can’t go long distances easily, nor do you have the choice of an easier or harder ride. This changes as your fitness increases, making it possible to choose — but the general point reveals something important about many road cyclists: the mindset is to use the increased fitness to do more, not to make it easier. Arguably, the better you get at cycling, the ability to push yourself even further can lead to more enriching experiences, i.e., bike touring trips, races, etc., where the better you get, the tougher it actually is.

I was thinking about this earlier this week, after a long day when I collapsed into bed feeling absolutely exhausted, questioning why I do this to myself. Shouldn’t my life get easier over time? Reflecting on what actually led to me feeling exhausted that day — all of the things I did were things that I feel enthusiastic about — I regret none of it.

Upon reflecting on this, I think I prefer a world where my life doesn’t get easier over time. As you grow as a person, develop more skills and knowledge, increase your network, and so on, you will have more opportunities for both enrichment and to positively impact the world. In my experience, my enjoyment of life has increased as my resources and capacities have grown. I am satisfied with the trade-off of using my personal growth to feel more enriched, rather than to have an easier time.

I acknowledge that many people face the challenge of appreciating the moment and always looking for the next thing, which I think is an important, but distinct challenge. I also recognize that some periods of life may be harder or there may be temporal mismatches between your capacity and opportunities for enrichment, as well as your energy levels changing over time. I also do not think doing hard things means doing things other people find impressive, it could mean driving your kids to swimming lessons, while also managing to see your favourite band in concert.