Being an adult is losing its lustre. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted these days.
In my work, people report working harder and longer but are experiencing decreased levels of happiness and satisfaction with life. They are not enjoying ‘adulting’.
So many are living lives of quiet desperation, being pulled forward on the hamster-wheel of life, busy but not happy, living a life based on habit, obligation and reaction rather than from awareness and conscious choice. When this happens, it’s easy to lose sight of meaning and what we value most.
Racing through the motions of life, feeling pulled from one situation to the next, feeling spit out at the end of the day leaves us feeling empty. We’re left wondering what happened, ending the day exhausted, sleeping, or maybe not, and repeating the same cycle again, day after day. Where is purpose and meaning? Where is life?
There’s so much we do out of habit, guilt or feeling obligated, leaving us feeling exhausted and drained. It’s easy to feel resentful when many of our efforts feel like a sacrifice. It’s no wonder we feel drained if we fail to fill and nourish ourselves with things that add meaning and depth to our lives. It’s an expensive way to live. You can’t give from an empty vessel; we must fill ourselves.
Often, people appear to be doing well, as they put on a façade of pleasantness and control. I heard one woman describe herself as being like a duck; from the outside, appearing to float along the surface of life pleasantly and smoothly, while underneath she was paddling like crazy, just trying to stay afloat, just trying to maintain the façade of everything being OK when it wasn’t.
I was that duck, until the duck started to drown, tired of furiously paddling beneath the surface. I used to say yes to new requests too easily and I became over-loaded. I felt trapped until I realized I was the one who’d constructed the trap and I was the only one who could free myself. When the things I loved to do seemed a distant memory, it was time for serious self-reflection.
In examining my busy life, I started to ask myself why? This is an important, but often under-asked, question. Why do we do any of the things we do? What is my ‘why’? I’ve made it a practice to pause and ask myself this question when I consider a new undertaking, and when I notice I’ve started to live my life from habit and routine. This simple question of “what is my why?” wakes me up and helps me to gain clarity.
Just because I’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean it must continue. Extraneous demands and activities fall away if the answer to ‘why’ is not in alignment with my values and what’s important to me. I experience the richness of living life on purpose.
Living out of alignment with what we value most creates stress. Chronic stress is expensive to our physical, mental and emotional health. As the three intersect, it can feel like a downward spiral. We may begin to see life as something to be survived instead of lived and enjoyed.
Pausing and asking why can offer us a new, fresh perspective and clarity. It’s heartening to recognize we are always at a point of choice and change. Living from habit or in reaction to life can be transformed into a life of conscious, mindful response. What is your why?
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.