So you’ve been in the same job for a little while here. You did all the hard stuff: getting through school, dealing with years of odd jobs that didn’t fit, maybe even buying a house. You’ve come to a place where you’re feeling like things are balanced out and you can just coast for a while now.
So what happens then? How do you decide what’s next?
If you find yourself just going through the motions and wondering what makes life exciting now — you’re not alone. We all come to a place in our lives where we start to feel like we’ve accomplished most of the “adult” things we know we need to do.
How do we decide to move forward from that place and continue to grow, learn, and do more of what we want to do?
Mixing Responsibility with Passion: The Cocktail of Adulthood
Reaching “adulthood” means that we’re faced with more responsibility than ever. We pay our own bills, we more than likely have some debt piled up, and we have people outside of ourselves who depend on us to keep the world spinning.
It’s a lot to take in. It’s also a lot to deal with on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis.
The important thing that we need to wrap our minds around is that more responsibility doesn’t have to mean less enthusiasm for life. It doesn’t have to mean that we give up on what makes us feel passionate and alive.
The Change You Need Starts in Your Mind
Before you start to panic about updating your resume or checking real estate across the country, hear me out. What if the changes you really need to make are as simple as spending some time brainstorming?
Becoming a little more self-aware, and a little less extrinsically motivated is a great start.
Self Awareness & Dealing with the Mundane
Nobody is arguing that everyday life is thrilling. In fact, I think many of us spend entire weeks with a “case of the Mondays”. Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Go to bed.
It’s more than tiring. It’s draining. But it’s not necessarily the only way to go through life.
When we take some time to really get to know ourselves and what drives us, we can make strides towards a life that we love.
The best part about focused brainstorming (aka: growing some self-awareness skills) is that it’s basically free and we don’t have to tell anyone. We can work on this area of growth and change in secret.
If you’re anything like me, that’s incredibly appealing.
The following three questions are just the beginning of a million questions you should ask yourself. The key is to be honest. Our happiness in life depends on our ability to know and take care of ourselves. Only then can we know and take care of what’s most important to us (family, a career, friends, etc).
If you’re feeling stuck in life there are three starter questions you need to ask yourself:
1. Am I feeling underwhelmed by where I am in life because I had unrealistic expectations for myself and the people around me?
If you said yes to this question, your starting point for changing your mindset should be to examine your expectations. From there, you can reason with yourself to decide whether they are truly unrealistic, or if there is something that you can do to move towards them.
2. Have I lost my passion and enthusiasm because of decisions I have made?
If you said yes to this question, your starting point for changing your mindset should be to own up to your decisions. Then decide you’re going to make different ones now. Your enthusiasm for life is incredibly important and you’ll need it to draw from when things get really tough. If you’re coasting right now, you have space to make some adjustments. Start prioritizing some of the things that stoke your enthusiasm today.
3. If I had the time, what is something that I would like to add to/change about my life?
Your answer to this question will give you a heading. Go with the first thing that comes into your mind. You want to lose some excess weight? You want to find a better job? You want to be able to devote more time to woodworking? Start actively moving towards that goal. It might take time. You might need to change your everyday schedule. But you’re sick of standing still – right?
The Problem with Extrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic motivation is driven by outside factors. For many of us the factors are things like money, authority, approval of others, etc. Motivation founded outside of ourselves has a higher chance of leaving us feeling disappointed and resentful.
The magnitude of our failures depend on the decisions we make immediately afterwards.
As students, many of us learned to work hard for the approval of our teachers and parents. To get a good grade. As we get older, we take on thankless jobs and responsibilities with no tangible reward for a job well done.
At that point, our successes aren’t defined by a grade or even a high five. We have to decide to do the work and get the job done simply because it needs to be done. We have to pay the bills.
When we rely heavily on outside recognition in the form of praise, money, etc, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
In order to live for more than just getting through day-to-day life, we need to find motivation inside of ourselves. We have to assign meaning to the tasks and actions that don’t get us fired up.
We have to use that intrinsic motivation to get past responsibilities so that we can spend time on things we want to do.
Self-Awareness and Intrinsic Motivation = More of Your Favorite Things
The goal is to create a life with meaning and purpose. We have to hold on to our enthusiasm because we need it to take on challenges and to make the most out of the time we have.
If we let go of our enthusiasm for life, we become empty shells. We can lose what makes us unique and it often results in a loss of creativity, ingenuity, and progress.
When we couple a life of people and responsibility with a priority on our favorite hobbies and projects, we get more of what we want. A life that feels full AND meaningful.
The key is to understand how our mind works, what makes us happy, and how to find balance. We can’t give up on the life we live now, but we can make changes over time.