“Health is what I value most” – Diana Nyad
Living an epic life has been a constant pursuit for long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad and her best friend and former racquetball champion Bonnie Stoll.
Believing that health is true wealth, the two have teamed up to inspire America to get off the couch and get walking by launching a new program called EverWalk Nation. They developed EverWalk using the lessons they’ve learned over the years, including those from Diana’s epic swim from Cuba to Florida at age 64. They hope to make it the biggest walking initiative “in American history” and help millions of Americans get healthy by walking every day.
“I want my life to be epic,” Nyad tells 24Life. “I go to sleep every night flat out exhausted, knowing that there’s not anything more that I could give to that day. It was another epic day.”
Redefining epic for everyone
EverWalk Nation is certainly an epic undertaking, but you don’t have to start a program impacting millions of Americans to meet your own epic goals.
“Every single person on earth has something they do well,” Stoll says. “You either rest on those laurels, or you try to make it better and better until it’s great.”
Epic means different things to different people, and there is room for interpretation.
“The definition of epic for me,” Nyad said, “is you’re not wasting any of your time. It’s not that the dream is that big.
It’s that you’re engaged. You want to feel alert and awake every minute of your life, that you are living an epic life.”
Start small and be consistent
Whatever your epic goal is, it’s important to start out with manageable steps so that you won’t be tempted to quit. Once you reach the smaller goal, you can set a new goal for yourself. During the long swim to Cuba, Stoll encouraged Nyad to keep going even at her most exhausted, by asking her if she could keep swimming for five more strokes. It was much easier for Nyad to think about making the next five strokes than the miles and miles of cold, dark water ahead.
“If you think you’re down,” Stoll says, “Take one more step. If you think you have one, you have two. Pretty soon you’ll have 100, and you’ll be going up whatever your mountain is.”
By breaking it down into little goals, Nyad was able to finish the swim. Not on the first try, but on the fifth.
“It’s easy to quit,” Stoll says, “To rationalize that you need a break, but as a general rule, don’t quit.”
Figure out how you can break your big goal into smaller goals, so your next milestone won’t be so daunting. Know that you only have to achieve your next interim goal to get closer to your dream.
Whatever your epic goal is, it can be made dramatically easier when you have help. While Nyad was the one in the water achieving her endurance-swimming goal, she wasn’t alone. She had Stoll to help keep her motivated and to check in on her to see how she was doing. In addition to Stoll, there were 44 people on that monitoring boat including teams to handle sharks, jellyfish, navigation and medical issues. At no time was Nyad alone.
“Everybody needs a team,” Nyad said. “You don’t get through life without colleagues, friends and family helping you through the tough stuff. Not one person on that boat got paid a dime. They took years off their own lives and their own dreams because we had a vision together.”
Now Nyad and Stoll are creating teams for EverWalk Nation — to keep people going, together.
To help you meet your epic goal, Nyad advises taking stock of who might be on your team. Whether it’s making a pact with someone in your yoga class to show up every day, or swapping healthy recipes, it’s easier to stay accountable and it’s more fun with friends.
It’s never too late to start
Both Nyad and Stoll are now in their sixties, but they feel like they are in the prime of their lives.
“In our parents’ generation, our age used to be a time to slow down,” Nyad says. “But now we’re making up new definitions
of what it is to be 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70. It’s all in your mindset. We are talking about living that epic life of yours until old age.
“Go out and chase your epic dreams,” Nyad adds. “You’ll get there. You’ll get to your other shore no matter what it is.”