One day we may wake-up and realize our life has become stale, mechanical, boring, and void of any passion, excitement or adventure. We simply feel flat and wonder, “Is this all there is to life?” Get up. Go to work. Come Home. Do it all again the next day. This can leave people to up and quit their jobs to travel the world. It can lead people to find thrill and stimulation in affairs, addictions, or other outlets to feel something or in some cases, to feel nothing. It can cause people to experience a deep depression known as a dark night of the soul. It can lead to a life of going through the motions wasting endless hours surfing the web or watching TV as means of numbing what seems like a banal existence.
Losing your zest for life can be an uncomfortable experience. We may know something in our life is amiss and change is needed, but we aren’t clear on what to do. We may feel stuck and suffocated by the weight of our adult responsibilities. On top of it, fear can stifle us and prevent us from taking radical action, when radical action may be exactly what our soul is ordering (while our doctor may be ordering anti-depressants).
While there are many factors that can contribute to feeling alive and engaged with life, below are some areas to ponder:
Congruency – Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer is a book that had one of the greatest impacts on my life. Parker Palmer poses the question, “Is the life I am living the life that wants to live in me?” The premise of this question is to determine whether there is congruency between your inner and outer life. Parker shares his own personal experience of pursuing his PhD at Berkeley and feeling pressure to stay in academia but knowing deep down he wasn’t suited to being a scholar. He took a very non-traditional path instead and spent ten years studying at Pendle Hill, a Quaker community in Pennsylvania. Parker’s family said, “You have a PhD from Berkeley and you are now living in a Quaker community?” Parker made a very bold and courageous choice to live life on his own terms in a way that honored his desire for communal living, deep contemplation, and a no-frills life stripped down to the basics.
While the majority of us may not feel called to live as Quakers, we may feel called to really evaluate our lives on a deeper and more soulful level. During certain points in my own career, I’ve felt my soul was dying. At first blush, it seemed I was merely dealing with burnout but upon further analysis, I came to the realization I was simply in the wrong type of jobs. As a highly creative, expressive, and entrepreneurial individual, I learned my soul suffers when I have to follow lots of processes, engage in transactional work, and be in an overly rigid and structured environment.
Freshness – A former colleague from Microsoft told me he was taking a cooking class to “prevent himself from being bored and being boring.” Even though my colleague told me this years ago, his words really stuck with me. Life has so many options to grow, learn, and stretch ourselves. How can we possibly ever be bored? It can happen to the best of us, especially when we are on this non-stop treadmill forgetting to hit the pause button.
If we decide to pause or call halt on our lives, we may ask ourselves how can we be more challenged from an intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual perspective? We may set a goal to read a book every week or two. We may sign up for a race to push ourselves physically. We may work with a coach, spiritual teacher, or mentor who can help us better understand ourselves. We may seek out ways to better handle stress such as meditation, tai-chi, or yoga. We may volunteer in order to give our lives meaning and feel we are making a difference in the world. We may figure out what scares us the most and then go do that! Public speaking anyone? 🙂
Creative Outlet – Recently I met with a coaching client who was dealing with a lack of fulfillment in her new job. When we talked about her unhappiness, we uncovered a deep need for her to be creative. She was spending her days having to follow processes, abide by rules, and ultimately perform very left-brain focused activities. As a result, she was ending her days feeling exhausted and drained. By the end of our session, my client realized she would thrive by engaging her right-brain. She thought about what made her happy as a child and realized her life was void of artistic activities such as painting, dancing, and just being silly and having fun. Life had become so serious and heavy. She had to give her left-brain a break and allow her mind to wander, daydream, and find a way to be inspired.
As another example, a colleague of mine stated he played the guitar to give his brain a break from constantly being in analyzing, doing, and thinking mode. Playing the guitar allowed for a freedom of creative expression and helped him deal with the stress of his job as a PM. He would take his guitar outside and play freely to his hearts desire. He would then return to his job with a new outlook and realize the problems he was dealing with weren’t really that heavy after all.
Getting your zest for life back requires experimentation and an openness to a new way of looking at your life. In some cases, dramatic changes may be needed, such as a move, a new job, or a relationship status change to “single,” while in other cases, only minor tweaks may be needed such as adding more belly laughs, doing what you loved as a child, or finding a new hobby that inspires and energizes you. What is key to know however, is that you can get your zest for life back! You don’t need to be stuck in super serious stressed out mode forever.
Colleen Canney is a Leadership Coach based in the beautiful Bay Area. She has a passion for empowering people to “Be the Leader of their Lives.” For more information on Colleen’s coaching services, please visit: www.colleencanney.com.