Image Courtesy of David Goehring https://flic.kr/p/HL4KB
Make sure that you always follow your heart and your gut, and let yourself be who you want to be, and who you know you are. And don’t let anyone steal your joy.
– Jonathan Groff
Life is much better when you follow your heart.
I learned this lesson the hard way. Especially when it comes to work, it is easy to pick the job that pays more over a job that is better fit. I’ve done this repeatedly.
To lead a fulfilling life, I believe we need to find an outlet to express our true nature.
Work is an expenditure of our lives, not just time. When we go to work and those hours pass by, we are giving a part of ourselves to whatever it is that is paying us in return. We can’t get that time back. It is precious. It is wise to be protective of the essence we expend in any pursuit.
Our brains are enormously powerful in processing data. My proposition is that if we are working in a job situation that is less than ideal, and we allow ourselves to become negative or resentful, that will impact all areas of our life. If the work environment has a lot of drama – and plenty of mine have – it can foster a negative overall work experience. When I wasn’t using my best skills, or when my efforts went unacknowledged, or I wasn’t intellectually stimulated by the work I was doing, my motivation went down the drain.
This is a soul-sucker.
When my mood deteriorated and my thoughts became negative, my brain took up the cause and factored a way to make me miserable. It was extremely effective to fulfill the task I gave it, by maximizing the unhappiness that my mind was concentrating on.
I call this the scumbag brain syndrome.
The lesson for me is that to feel energized and feel a sense of reward from my efforts, I needed to engage in an activity where I was utilizing my real talents.
If you long for something more meaningful in life, consider these three points that have helped me.
1. Find an outlet where you can be yourself.
Working hard for someone else is fine. We all need to pay the bills and support our families. There is the potential, however, to give to someone else (work) and neglect what is important to us. By not balancing giving to others with giving back to ourselves by doing activities that are rewarding, we deny ourselves growth and fulfillment.
The best scenario would be to find a job that truly utilizes your skills and abilities. If you choose to pursue your passion, you will be way ahead of nearly everyone else in terms of personal satisfaction and happiness.
If you don’t have the opportunity to work in a job following your passion or purpose, find an outlet where you can. If you have a cause to believe in, volunteer. Studies show that people who volunteer are happier than those who don’t. By giving in this way, you get back more than you put in.
Whatever the activity, give back to yourself. For me, I like to study, reflect and write. This blog is a way for me to exercise what interests me, and I enjoy doing it.
I can’t stress enough that living a life that is not an expression of our inner nature is a life less than optimal. Be yourself. Value the time that you have and choose wisely how you expend it. Just as the title of this blog, if you want to have a richer life, you must be yourself.
2. Express gratitude.
Studies have also shown that those who intentionally focus on gratitude are most happy. Again, our brain will try to actualize what we present to it. By taking time to intentionally think of what we are grateful for, our mind will be focused on gratitude, will find ways to be grateful, and we in turn, will become more positive and happy.
Our thoughts guide our emotions and our actions. If we are in a negative work environment, or we carry a chip on our shoulder about how unfair our situation is, we will be negative. Our life will be negative. Our experiences will be negative. Our relationships will be negative. By focusing on the positive, our minds will become positive, our actions will be positive and our relationships will be positive.
This is NOT a fake-it-until-you-make-it processes. Positiveness is a direct result of the thoughts we feed our brain. Just as “garbage in, garbage out” putting in gratefulness will make us even more grateful. Gratefulness is a powerful force.
3. If it ain’t fun, its time to move on.
This was the philosophy of one of the manager’s I once worked for. Unfortunately this job was one of those “ain’t” fun work experiences, but it drove the lesson home.
I don’t mean fun in the sense of a game or having a good time. What I mean here is that if the work experience is negative for you and you are not getting back what you are putting in, its time to find another job.
Yes, this may be easier said than done, especially in today’s economy, but it is the reality. Allowing ourselves to become complacent and/or afraid of change, whatever the reason, we almost invariably will become negative.
My Sunday’s were spent with a rock in the pit of my stomach, dreading having to go to work the next day. Getting out of bed in the morning was a chore. Going to sleep was also, causing insomnia and at the same time, not wanting to go to sleep because I knew I would have to get up to go to work again. I looked forward to the weekend, only to be resentful of having to do chores because I was having to work at home, and I was worn out from working during the week.
My attitude became terrible, I didn’t get joy out of life, I went through depression and it impacted all of my relationships. This sounds melodramatic, I understand, but this was my reality. That negativity was pervasive through every cell in my body and it was far beyond just “keeping a stiff upper lip.” Trust me when I say don’t live that way.
Bringing it all together.
It is said that life is what you make of it. It sounds pithy, but I think the sentiment is true. Our brain will utilize what we feed it, and actualize a result. If we feed it negative thoughts, so go our actions and our lives. If we nourish our minds with positive thoughts and deliberate action, our results will be vastly better.
I grew up in The Power of Positive Thinking era. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale knew the power of the mind and the thoughts we feed it. I remember him telling a story where he walked by a tattoo parlor and saw a flash tattoo that said “born to lose.” This was profound to him and couldn’t imagine how someone could imprint that on their body. That is such a negative mental state to have, but I think that this is what we do, in a way.
If we aren’t taking action to improve our lives, we succumb to the “born to lose” mentality.
Life is too short and too precious not to follow your heart. My challenge to you is to listen to what your heart is saying. If you have a drive, passion or dream, then take even small actions toward them. To take an action means to have had a thought. If its a positive action, it is a positive thought and you will have a positive outcome. Find that outlet where you can be yourself.
Practice gratitude daily. If you can keep a gratitude journal I would highly recommend it, especially if you are as deeply negative as I had become. This again, is a direct and proven method to improve your mental state.
Lastly, rip off the bandage if you find your work environment is a soul-sucker. It’s not worth spending your time and energy in a situation that is a detriment to you personally and to those around you. At some point it’s not just a mental state, the environment you are in will beat you down. Plan to make a change and find a way to do it.
These three areas all require action, but action for yourself. It may only take a little bit of effort, or it may take a wholesale change, but the reward is worth it, many times over. A happier and more fulfilling life really does await you if you have the courage to take bold action.
I remember getting out of a particularly bad work situation. The job in fact wasn’t all that bad, but it was a terrible fit for me and I was really mentally and emotionally drained. After I left that job, I remember one day the weight of the world lifting from my shoulders. I looked up at the trees, and I could swear I could see every leaf all at once. The sun was bright, colors more vivid and a feeling of peace came over me.
This wasn’t a foo-foo moment, but a simple realization that I finally grasped how negative I had become and how stressed I had been. Without that stress, my spirits lifted. It wasn’t a spiritual moment or anything like that, I just felt the way I knew I should feel. I was finally free to be me.
This feeling of peace is available to you as well.
It is of practical value to learn to like yourself. Since you must spend so much time with yourself you might as well get some satisfaction out of the relationship.
– Norman Vincent Peale
Challenge: List 10 things you are grateful for and spend 1 hour engaged in an activity where you can express yourself. Be aware of your thoughts and feed your brain better ones.