I recommend to clients that they have a full life. But that doesn’t mean a BUSY life.
We do a lot of stuff that doesn’t bring us joy. We do a lot of tasks and have a lot of expectations that drain energy from us. What about activities that exhilarate us? The things that light us up? How about more gratification and joy?
We always feel like we’re doing too much. But the problem is we’re doing too much of the shit we don’t want to do, and not enough of what we do want to do.
Yes, we have obligations like jobs and kids. Both of which ideally give us more joy than pain (depends on the day, right?).
But what’s going on in between the servicing of the job and servicing the kids?
What and who is servicing you?
One way to size up the size of your life right now – is to consider the weight of water. If you were to use water as a metaphor for how you feel (on a regular basis) or what most accurately describes how your life feels, which would you choose:
- Floating slowly down a placid stream
- Swimming across a small lake where the other side feels within reach
- Rafting a river with various classes of rapids, but you are pretty proficient with a paddle.
- Swimming in the ocean, getting toppled by giant waves and beginning to tire & panic.
Depending on your personality and sensibility, if you chose A, B, or C, you may be living your best life.
If you chose D, I invite you to share these feelings with a confidant, or give yourself permission to get a coach or a therapist because that’s a tough spot to be in, even if it’s temporary (knock wood!). And it’s often a self-sabotaging cycle. The more you panic, the more exhausted you get.
But for those of you who answered A, B, or C – if you feel something is missing from your life, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, there are several areas to consider for potentially “up leveling” your life.
In this country, the majority of Americans have basic human needs met (like shelter, food, safety). After these basic human needs are met, we turn our attention to:
(check out Maslow’s theory and hierarchy of needs/concerns for more info)
- Control over one’s destiny
- Economic Well-being
How do you feel you are doing within each of these areas? Which one matters most to you? What do you need more of? Maybe you have a wonderful family who you feel loved by, but aren’t getting the recognition you deserve at the office? Or possibly you make tons of money so have a secure future, but no spouse to enjoy and share it with? What’s the missing piece for you?
In the book, “Lost Connections” Johann Hari identifies root & systemic causes depression – beyond chemical imbalances. He sees it as an epidemic in America, especially. One caveat, before I go on to share his findings — I’m an advocate of anti-depressants as a real solution for clinical depression (the author and I diverge on this point).
In this book, the author saw instance upon instance of depression in our modern day world. And what he learned was: many people have lost connections to the following basic human concerns:
Connection to Community – this gives people a sense of belonging. We’ve done an incredible job connecting our world virtually but local connection often gets lost as a result. More and more people are moving away from their hometowns – which is freeing in some ways, but also means we don’t have the support of family and old trusted friends down the street as a resource. We have to develop a new tribe.
Connections to meaningful Values – we’ve gone a terrific job evolving our world to be more open and diverse in terms of values and cultures, but as a result we have to create our own new culture, our own traditions. It takes real work and time and attention to outline/identify our personal values since we don’t necessarily have church or club to lean on anymore.
Connection to meaningful Work – the sense of contributing to and being a part of something greater and being respected/valued for that particular contribution. This is missing for many Americans. They feel no true connection to work beyond the transactional nature of earning a wage.
Which is connected to:
Connection to a Secure Future – this gives us a sense of hope, security, control over one’s destiny and economic wellbeing.
Connection to Nature (breathe in that oxygen from tall trees!!) – there is something about nature that forces us to be in the moment, and to reckon with our place in the universe. It levels sets exactly how special we are (special and unspecial at the exact same time).
Which is deeply intertwined (at least for me), in why this next one is critical…
Connection to Spirituality – we can feel pretty out of control in this modern world. And sometimes helpless and hopeless. I guarantee you this: you will find more joy and peace if believe in something bigger than yourself. I’m no doctor, but if you are happier as a result, who cares if it’s a placebo effect, or real?
What could you use more of?