Clients come to my office for a number of reasons. For example, when they’re feeling depressed, when they’re feeling anxious, and when they are experiencing conflict in their relationships, but also when they’ve become bored with their lives.
For these people, meaning and engagement in life seemed to have disappeared without conscious awareness, and not all of a sudden. Instead, it seemed to filter out slowly and they just woke up one day and experienced an emptiness that wasn’t previously there.
The sort of passion, energy, and curiosity they once had about life had slipped away, and in the absence of it, they felt lost, unmotivated, and not at all certain about how to get it back.
Sound like you?
So when I’m faced with clients who live a ‘ho hum’ existence that offers them little opportunity to stretch their wings so they can discover who they are, and what they’re capable of, some of the questions I usually ask is what, in years gone by, were they curious about?
What made them laugh? What caused them to experience excitement and challenge in their life? Was there a time when they couldn’t wait to get out of bed so they could engage in whatever made them feel truly alive? And if so, what were they doing at the time that caused them to feel that way?
In other words, what elements existed then that no longer do? What made their view of life change, such that they no longer experience it in the same way?
Part of the problem, I’ve come to believe, is that people who search for meaning in their lives often bypass the simpler, and more every day, experiences that usually make up the larger meaning of one’s life.
In other words, rather than searching for the one and only thing that will help them understand why they were put on this earth, or a hunt down a singular way to make an everlasting and profound difference to the larger society, we sometimes forget to seek out answers to life’s meaning that might be discovered down several different avenues closer to home.
For example, learning a new language, or taking up one that had been started at one time and later dropped; becoming a volunteer in an organization that holds personal meaning for whatever reason; adopting a new kitten or puppy; taking a university or college course; beginning a new fitness program that involves others with similar interests; consider changing jobs, or even professions; or reacquainting oneself with friendships that perhaps had slipped away over time.
These are only a few ideas but it’s important to remember that we can find multiple meanings in our lives. I previously mentioned, there isn’t just one justification for our existence; there an unlimited number of ways to experience engagement in one’s life, and ways that might not stay the same over time.
In fact, what was meaningful to us at one point in life, may no longer seem as compelling now.
I believe that as we change, and even as we age, our definition of what’s meaningful changes with us. So if we lose the ‘thread’ of what it used to be, we need to rediscover how we might define it today.
And if you’re bored to death with your life, don’t fret. Know that the boredom you’re experiencing is a vital tool for pushing you out of the places where life has become routine and stale, and toward a direction of internal and external revitalization.
On my fridge, I have a reminder of one of the necessary ingredients of my emotional and mental well-being, and it’s played a huge part in my life for well over three decades.
The quote simply states that: “[t]he greatest happiness is curiosity”, and I know it to be true; the lack of curiosity often leads to a dull, unchallenging, and boring life for many of us, and if it’s not addressed, depression can often follow closely behind.
And when we get to that point, it becomes tremendously difficult to break out of the inertness that has slowly swallowed us, but break out of it we must or life will seem increasingly meaningless.
So take some time to discover what you may find curious now – listening to a TED Talk once a day might help – and you gain a curiosity about things you may never have considered interesting before.
The idea is to stretch yourself to look at life from different perspectives – especially if you’ve lost your own – and in the end, you’ll likely trigger a spark of curiosity and interest that results in fostering far greater meaning for your life on a daily basis.
What can you start doing today to get out of your feeling of boredom?
When we pursue doing what we’re passionate about what does that mean? John Dir says in his article How to Find Your Passion, “Passion is a pure form of motivation or compulsion that provides an energizing constant which is independent of environmental demands. It is an irresistible drive to focus one’s attention and energy to accomplishing something of personal worth, which cannot be daunted by a sense of failure to accomplish the goal.” Did you ever wake up one morning way before the alarm went off just because you were going to do something you just couldn’t wait to do? What was it? You deserve to do what you love! In fact it’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.
Oh, you knew that already? So how do you figure it out?
Let’s start with the obvious:
1. What would you do if you were independently wealthy
and no longer had to do anything to earn money?
2. What do you enjoy doing so much that you would do it
everyday for free?
These questions are not easy for some people to answer. Many people consider these questions frivolous. After all, I’m not independently wealthy and I can’t afford to work for free.
Well, back up. I didn’t ask if you were wealthy I asked what you would do if you were. Please… allow yourself the opportunity to dream. This is a key. I know you know how to daydream you do it everyday.
You see if you get stuck on how to make money with your passion you’re not going to allow yourself to figure it out. Go back to question #2. What are you doing now for free that you love to do? Listen to your heart, not what you think others expect of you.
Plan the time in your life to do more of what you enjoy doing. Put it on your day planner if you have to. If you love to travel, plan it. Go online and study the places you want to go. Read about the hotels and the sights. Envision yourself doing those things. Plan day trips around where you live go find the unusual things in your neighborhood. Get guide books on your state and become an expert at finding the places that interest you. Practice traveling in your back yard. Take a picnic if you can’t afford to stop and eat. Do It!
I spend at least an hour each day studying Philosophy and Personal Development. I can’t get enough information it consumes my free time but it’s what I look forward to everyday it’s what I’m excited about each morning. What am I going to learn today that I can share with others?
Now let’s get to the money part. You may never earn a penny from your passion but what does it matter if you’re doing what you love. At least in your spare time. However, if you become knowledgeable in a particular area that you love and over time you know more about it than most other people guess what? You have value in that area. How do you market that value? Write an eBook and sell it through ClickBank, build a website, write a book to get published, share what you’re learning with others when you have the opportunity, teach it at an adult learning center, write articles to submit on the internet. Information today is like gold, it has great value and there are people everywhere looking for it. And just imagine how much joy you will get out of sharing what you love with others. They will not help but see your passion. I have read that after about 4 years, people who have pursued their passion start to make close to what they made in their old unfulfilling jobs – often even more.
I offer one more quote from John Dir’s article How to Find Your Passion, “Your life’s passion may be discovered in an instant, or take many long years to uncover. You will know you have it when your heart of hearts tells you, “I don’t care what other people think. I know this is what I want to do, and I am going to get started making it happen. I don’t care how long it takes, or how difficult it will be for me to accomplish; I just know I need to see where this idea will take me.””
Imagine you’re happily driving down a country road on a clear, sunny day. Suddenly a semi truck crosses the center line and is heading right at you. Heart pounding and adrenaline rushing, you react. Will you avert disaster? Maybe. Maybe not. In this moment, your life depends on where you focus.
Professional driving instructors tell us that what people usually do in emergency situations is to stay focused on the object they are trying to avoid. In driving, where your eyes and mind are focused is most often where you will steer.
Unfortunately, if you were focused on the truck in the situation above you would likely steer right into it. The route to safety is to focus on where you want to go. In this case, you’d look away from the truck to a place that’s safer. You would then automatically steer the car in that direction. Safe!
You may be wondering, “What the heck does that have to do with creating more pleasure, passion, and purpose in my life?”
My response is “A great deal!” As in the example of the truck, your life depends on where you focus.
Focusing on What You Don’t Want Steers You to More of That
Often when we are feeling stuck, dissatisfied, confused, or unhappy we are focused on what we DON’T want. We are looking at the truck we’d like to avoid.
We’re thinking or saying “I don’t want to be in this miserable job another day” or “I don’t want to work on this project” or “I don’t want to have pizza for dinner tonight.”
From the big events to the small details in life, we tend to put a lot of our thoughts and attention on precisely what we don’t want.
So, what’s the problem with that? Well, it’s kind of like steering your car into the truck. The more you focus on what you don’t want, the more you head in that direction.
Your mind is wired to create whatever you focus on.
Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” and Maxwell Maltz’s “Psychocybernetics” are two classic books on this subject. These and other researchers tell us that the mind can’t tell the difference between something you’re thinking about that you want and something you’re thinking about that you do not want.
Whatever you think about, your mind goes to work to make that happen.
Getting More of What You Really Do Want
If you’d like to get more of what you want in life (pleasure, passion, purpose), shift your focus away from what you don’t want and clearly, purposefully towards what you do want.
Your mind will go to work creating that. You’ll get unstuck. Your energy will increase. Solutions, alternatives, and options will come to you more easily.
Here’s a recent personal example. At the end of a long day, I was getting ready to prepare dinner. I’d been grocery shopping and had the ingredients for three complex dishes I hadn’t made before.
Hungry and tired, I reviewed the recipes but quickly became frustrated and overwhelmed. I started saying to myself “I don’t want to make these dishes. I don’t want this to be so hard. I don’t want these recipes to be so complicated.”
Those thoughts increased my agitation. I felt stuck and upset. Then I took a deep breath. I asked myself, “What do I really want in this situation right now?” (Besides a personal chef!)
The answer was “I want to make a healthy and great tasting dinner in a way that is fast and easy for me.”
I quickly saw a solution I’d been unable to see minutes before: make only one of the new dishes that night along with a simple salad and save the other new recipes for another evening.
So that’s what I did. The cooking was less stressful and the food turned out great. I switched from what I didn’t want to what I did want. And it worked!
Are you focused on what you want or what you don’t want?
I know many (maybe most) of us have an ingrained habit pattern that focuses us on what we don’t want. Changing this pattern can be challenging. And I’ve seen with myself and my clients that it’s definitely worth doing!
In Your Life
The more you focus on what you do want, the more pleasure, passion, and purpose you will create in your life. Focus on the clear road ahead, not on the truck coming at you. Try experimenting with this.
1) When you’re feeling stuck, stressed, worried, angry, unhappy, or upset, become aware of what you’re focusing on. You may be focusing on exactly what you don’t want.
2) As soon as you notice you’re focusing on what you DON’T want, ask yourself, “What DO I want in this situation?”
3) Purposefully and intentionally, change your focus to and keep your focus on what you do want.
4) Repeat as needed.