I smiled at a wee-one recently who proclaimed, “I can’t wait to be an adult!” in response to her mother’s refusal to buy her a desired toy.
Her mother and I locked eyes and smiled as we wryly shared that being an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Being an adult is losing its lustre for many. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and certainly not as I’d imagined it would when I was a youth.
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.”
People find they’re busy but not happy, living a life based on habit, obligation and reaction rather than from awareness and conscious choice. When that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of meaning and what we value most. Where is purpose and meaning? Where is life?
It’s easy to feel resentful when we’re exhausted and 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.
With the holiday season fast approaching, the pressure of living is mounting for many. What are we doing to ourselves? Are we forsaking happiness in the face of constant busyness, the need to keep up appearances, and time-pressures?
I’ve gained clarity in remembering to ask myself, why? What is the meaning and purpose behind my actions? 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 that question when I consider a new undertaking, and when I notice I’ve started to live my life from habit and routine, or based on others’ expectations. That simple question wakes me up and helps me to gain clarity.
When I forget the reason or meaning behind the things I do, I lose the joy of living. Realigning with my purpose helps me regain the sense of joy and meaning. It reinvigorates me and helps keep me on track. With the approach of the holidays, I’m drawn to pause and remember the meaning behind the season’s activities for me. I come back to my values and intentions for living. I consciously choose the qualities I want my actions to reflect. Our intentions are the invisible essence that infuse what we do with meaning.
Each of us has different traditions for the holidays, but when we lose touch with the meaning of the traditions, they are empty actions. When we do things out of habit or obligation, the essence is lost and we miss out on the reciprocal nature of giving.
I now look at my to-do list and remember why each item is on the list, and who or what it represents. I think about the people in my life and have gratitude for my opportunity to engage with them this season. I also reflect on the meaning of our traditions.
For example, I asked myself about the purpose and intention of holiday meals. Are they an opportunity to be together and enjoy one another’s company or is it to exhaust myself and demonstrate my vast culinary acumen and table-decorating ability? I’ve learned I’d rather serve a simple meal in joy rather than a gourmet feast cooked from sacrifice and exhaustion.
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 our values and what’s important to us. We can then 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 can reinvigorate our intention for living. It’s heartening to recognize we are always at a point of choice and change.
Living from habit or in reaction to life can change 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.