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Three Things to Try When Life Has You Stuck

Thursday, February 22, 2018

In the times you feel the least motivated is the moment you can really shine.

In many ways, we are creatures of habit, from the routines we engage when we first wake up till our head hits the pillow at night. Predictability is a good thing, but there are times when it leaves us wanting more.

Everyone has experienced the phenomenon of feeling “too safe” or bored with their lives. It’s a symptom of adulthood that we create little orbits of routine and comfort around the things that make us feel safe. The danger is that comfort slips into apathy and we stop caring or growing in our core competencies and relationships.

This happens easily in a marriage, but it can with our work too. Many people call it “going on autopilot” when we drift through life and let it take us wherever the wind is blowing. Another word for this is apathy.

Apathy doesn’t sound all that bad when you first think about it. Going with the flow of life isn’t the worst thing that could happen to us, or is it?

Some warning signs of apathy:

  • Lack of excitement for things we usually care about
  • Making excuses to maintain the status quo
  • Engaging in habits where mental or emotional absence is the result (i.e. digital media)
  • Neglect of physical or emotional health

To those of us intent on living a life of purpose, apathy is the portal to every place we don’t want to go. C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters wrote brilliantly of how the weakness of human desires can lead us to dark places. In the book, he says:

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Mistakenly, we assume it is the strongest desires in our life that are responsible for leading us away from success, when in fact, it’s the things we’re least likely to notice. The things that sneak up on us, like our lack of physical energy at work, our reliance on coffee instead of getting enough sleep, or avoidance of issues in our most important relationships. But the good news is, it’s never too late to get back on track. And you don’t have to go it alone!

Fear is an incredibly potent emotion that keeps us from doing all kinds of things that are meant for us. Which is why you need to do this thing first when you feel that apathy has a vise grip on your life.

1. Ask yourself “What am I afraid of or avoiding?”

Apathy isn’t caused by indifference. At its root, it is caused by anxiety. Is there feeling you’re hiding from emotionally? Grief, incompetence, anger? Fear is a huge driver of apathy. When the brain is stressed, it resorts to self-preservation mode which can sometimes drive things we need to pay attention to underground. This phenomenon breeds apathy as its symptom. We are avoiding something. Pay attention to signals that indicate you have some kind of repressed emotion to face. Naming your fear will get it out in the open and force you to work with it instead of letting it drive your behavior subconsciously.

2. Identify one source of decision fatigue in your life to eliminate.

For many of us, apathy is welcomed into our lives in the form of social media. Feeding ourselves on news updates from people we barely know taxes our emotional energy for the rest of the important tasks in our day. If you forget everything else I say in this blog remember this:

Everything that seeks our attention is an energy exchange.

The human mind has a limited amount of energy, much like the rest of the body. It’s said that highly successful people like Steve Jobs knew this and it affected how he dressed. His signature look was a simple black long-sleeve shirt, a pair of jeans and New Balance sneakers. Wearing a variation of the same thing every day meant one less decision to make that made his life simpler. When you start to think about it, having a uniform doesn’t seem like such a bad idea! Decision fatigue kills inspiration and motivation, and if we’re stressing about what to wear in the morning, we will waste precious energy for other tasks that need our attention. Identify one thing in your life that is a source of decision fatigue and eliminate it now. You could start in the closet or by dropping one of your social media accounts.

3. Pick up something new that excites you.

There’s nothing like a bit of novelty to stir up excitement in your life again. And what better way than by introducing something new and different to your old, tired routines? Living in the beautiful high-desert, one of the ways I do this is by changing up my exercise routines. On warmer days, I take a jog by the Deschutes River that runs through the middle of Bend or take my mountain bike on a new trail. During winters, I load up my skate skis early in the morning and trek up to the mountain for some treasured alone time in the snow. It doesn’t have to be a big change to bring a fresh wind of inspiration to your life, but it does take knowing a bit about what you enjoy, and having the bravery to try it out.

So what will it be for you? Taking a yoga class for the first time? Investing some money into a self-development program you’ve been eyeing? Getting more financially fit or smart with your investments? It could be anything but it must be important to you, or else it won’t stick. Either way, I hope one or all of these tips will give you leverage to feel less stuck. We all need what you have to offer!

To your excellence in getting on track to your best self,
Coach Greg

 

 
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