I got lost yesterday. I seem to be getting lost a lot lately. Not physically lost rather mentally lost. I know you know what I am talking about. That feeling that you are not where you want to be, where your world is grey and cold instead of colorful and warm. What happened to the color in my life?
We all have those days when introspection becomes an interrogation and you feel worse for having gone there. You feel you are not where you should be in life, that if you just achieve one more goal you can have exactly the life you envision.
It seems also on these days your life is grey. You want to run away, start over, begin again, try to buy a do-over from whoever is dealing them. You feel yourself get heavier and darker and soon your world is grey. You want your colors back.
What happened to the colors?
What happened to the colors? The bright yellows and greens, blues and purples? You vividly remember when your world was a kaleidoscope where every moment seemed more exciting than the one before. So why is everything now just one dull color that makes you feel like you are draped in vomit gold 1970s curtains?
Why is it when our colors are bright we are filled with boundless energy, have smiles plastered on our faces that don’t seem to go away and everything seems easy and goes without a hitch? And by the same token why is it when our world is grey we can barely put one foot in front of the other, everything feels like moving mountains only to move the same ones again and again and we can barely form a half smile?
You had a plan.
Yup. When your world was a rave of lights, colors and sounds you had a direction, a plan, a goal or goals. Your brain was organizing information into what you needed to do next to achieve the goal you’d set for yourself, your plan unfolding piece by piece, day by day.
Everything you did when your world was bright served a purpose, led you to the next step. You knew where you were going and life was yours for the taking. You felt energized, unstoppable, and unbeatable.
Maybe it was your job, your kids, your hobby you were perfecting. Your mind was focused on something that made you happy and you felt excited about your future. You could envision great things coming from your efforts. These things could be as tiny as making a four tier cake that didn’t look like the leaning tower of Pisa or as big as getting your degree.
It matters not what you were trying to accomplish when your world was bright what mattered was you had a direction, a goal, focus and determination. The achievements you desired kept your mind busy, gave you purpose and kept your attention.
I see it in people all the time whose kids are leaving the nest. Regardless of whether these people work full time jobs, have a lot of activities or stay at home writing the feeling of emptiness, of the change in what used to be routine, takes the color out of their lives.
Losing your job, changing your job, changing relationships, where you live, financial changes and health problems can all change your world to grey. But sometimes it is nothing as drastic as these things. Sometimes all that is necessary for your world to become grey is for you to lose focus.
It doesn’t matter what “focus” means to you. What matters is it is lost, or gone or playing a savage game of hide and seek. Cheeky little fucker.
What is most curious, and aggravating to me is sometimes life goes grey when it should be the brightest, when everything is going great.
Your relationship is the best you have ever been in, your kids are strong, independent and confident as they ready themselves for the new world outside the nest. Your job is great, you are happy to do what you do, love who you work with and feel fulfilled. Money is not an issue, you are healthy and by all accounts you should be dancing and singing all day.
But you aren’t. Instead you feel lost, depressed, sad and wonder what life means and why you are here. You are also angry that you feel this way when you know you are at a great place in your life. You feel like every passing day is just another day you go through the motions of living but inside you feel like you are a snail in a herd of rabbits (yes, a group of rabbits is called a herd, I looked it up) being trampled on by velvety feet as they blow past you.
What has happened that seems to have caused your world to turn grey is an oxymoron. You see, you have reached the goals you set. Life is easy, your brain is on autopilot, you no longer have to think about the next step because what you used to have to think about has become routines and habits. Routines and habits are easy compared to having to learn something and what we don’t understand and often confuse is peace and contentment with stagnation.
Your mind no longer has to consciously follow a path because it follows it unconsciously. Like when you are on your way home and your mind is off somewhere else but you find yourself pulling into your driveway without really thinking about how you got there. Your mind was on autopilot. You didn’t have to consciously think about the turns and stops because your brain knew them and effortlessly guided you home.
When your world is grey but should be more vibrant than a tie dye shirt on acid one explanation may be that you have actually reached your goals. Life is easy, less of a struggle and you have more time to think about nothing related to the goals you were trying to achieve. Suddenly you feel lost because what you were working toward has become reality, become easier and your life is autopilot.
Your mind and body are no longer being kept on the straight and narrow with all your energy focused on what you are trying to achieve. You have arrived. Though by the way you feel you would think just the opposite. Oxymoron remember?
WTF? I thought it would be all bells and whistles and Fourth of July fireworks! How in the heck did achieving ones goals become depressing and grey? It isn’t. Really, this is actually a good thing that should be embraced!
I have found there is a thrill, an endorphin rush that fuels your thoughts and actions when focused on a goal. When that goal is achieved or you have gone through the really hard part, the endorphins and the thrill of the chase so to speak level out or drop causing you to feel lost, depressed, grey.
What the Hell do you do?
My immediate thought is to abandon all I have worked for, the goal I have sacrificed to achieve, to find a new thrill, a new rush. I want to start a new business, try a new hobby, take on something to fill the extra time I seem to have.
But I have to stop myself and take a deep breath. Life isn’t empty, the thrill isn’t gone, the endorphins haven’t abandoned me, they have just leveled out. I am still “high”, but because the focus has changed I incorrectly assume I need another challenge to fill my time.
What I truly need to do is embrace the extra time, smile and realize that for all the struggling, paddling and kicking to reach my goals I made it to the shore. I can sit on the sand, catch my breath and revel in the feeling of being exactly where I wanted to be. I made it!
If you are an overly driven person, one who feels then next goal is going to be the one you were supposed to attain, if you are the kind of person who never feels satisfied with what you have achieved, if you incorrectly assume that if you stop moving you will go backwards this was written for you. And me.
You are allowed to be still, to have down time, to be lazy, do nothing or very little. I know for a fact this can be very hard, makes you feel like you have ants crawling all over your skin, makes your mind feel like it is swirling like toilet water going down the drain, makes you feel like you should be DOING something because if you aren’t doing something you are a failure.
You are not! And neither am I! Someone very close to me, who sees my struggle every day against the demons I put in myself, took my by the shoulders and stared into my eyes. He gently raised my face to his with a bear paw of a hand beneath my chin as gently as a butterfly kiss, smiled and said “you are one of the strongest, most determined people I have ever known. You run circles around me and I get exhausted just watching you. But you have the right to stop, be still and enjoy what you have made/achieved. Putting pressure on yourself to achieve is one thing, never taking the time to enjoy what you have made makes your goal worthless. Do not struggle so hard for the “next” thing when you haven’t take the time to enjoy the “now” thing.
What is Life all About?
We all seem to live for tomorrow and you have heard it time and time again. There might be no tomorrow. Live for today for all the busyness, the laziness, the sadness, the laughter. Set goals, keep them in your mind but do not let the future overshadow the present. So much of your day to day living, just being alive, is what life is all about.
It is the connections to people, the relationships you forge and truly knowing who you are that matters, not how much money you make, how nice your house is or how many vacations you take.
I have begun to think more and more about a palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware who asked the patients she cared for in their last 12 or so weeks of life what they regretted most or what would they have done differently.
The almost universal answer was
- “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me” followed by
- “I wish I had let myself be happier”
- “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”
- “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings”
- “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”
If you are an over achiever, driven by demons you know not where they come from or maybe you do know where they come from, you may need to learn one more thing. You may need to learn life isn’t all about achievements but a balance of achievements and moments. I am guilty of this, of not having as many moments as I could have because I was always focused on achievements no matter how beautiful and perfect the present was.
Moments are what Matter, Then all the Other Stuff
Moments are what you make that you reflect on which make you smile. Memories are moments that make your heart happy, make your life what you wanted it to be when you lay surrounded by family and friends as you take your last breath.
Do not let your last thoughts be of “what if”. You and I both have the opportunity right now, today, to take on a new goal of being in the moment, of letting the world go by without feeling it is leaving you behind, being mindful. You have the opportunity right now to form new habits, ones that force you to be present, aware, observing rather than participating.
I think the hardest thing I will ever have to learn, but am determined to learn, is how to be not only thankful for what I have but to let go of the desire to always have to be more. I am enough. You are enough. I’m not saying stop striving but don’t let setting and reaching goals overshadow the satisfaction and beauty of being in the moment.
It means making and ENJOYING the fruits of your labor to the fullest BEFORE you set off to attain new goals.
Your Next Goal
You are driven you already know this about yourself, you don’t have to prove that to anyone let alone yourself over and over again. This is when achieving goals becomes an obsession which in and of itself becomes unhealthy. There is a vast difference between allowing yourself to be lazy and being lazy just as there is a difference between being focused on achieving a goal and driven to achieve goals because you fear failure.
Your next goal is to understand what drives you and from there determine whether what drives you is you, your past or someone else’s fears. If what drives you is the happiness you receive from the fruits of your labor and you take the time to enjoy those luscious fruits then by all means keep on keeping on.
If what drives you is fear or words forced into your head from someone else, maybe someone else who was bitter or angry or felt the world shit on them then it is time to redefine your goals and figure out what makes you truly happy and stop chasing someone else’s dream.
I once told myself that as long as I was happy, had laughter, faith in my heart, food on my table, a roof over my head and love in my heart that was all I needed to have to die happy. I still believe that but struggle every day with that truly being ENOUGH.
I too have to stop and smell the roses, or car exhaust or dog poop. I have to embrace what I have instead of wishing for what I don’t have nor may never have. I have enough, there is nothing more I need. Is there a desire for more? Certainly. But do not overlook the donut in your hand for the dream of a baker’s dozen that may never come to be.
If you would like to learn more about having the life you desire pick up your copy of A Life Well Made today!