“Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something.”Ralph Marston
We often chase happiness and base our goals on the visual of a flag on top of mountain. Benefits can come from achieving such goals but there can be many downsides to this process. If we enjoy the process of the journey, use our strengths and act in alignment with our core values we will find much more growth and joy on such a journey.
If we understand our deeper motivation behind wanting to achieve such a goal then we can work with intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic forms of motivation. Life can be going really well and one day we wake up uninspired and lacking motivation. Other times we can be hit hard by life and this can shake us badly resulting in feeling lost in life.
Once we begin to understand why we do what we do and we also create the environment for our wellbeing, we will often quickly come out of a state of a downward spiral, and we will have the resources and ability to bounce back.
Why Do We Feel Lost at Times During our Lives?
Feeling lost can often happen due to our appraisal of a situation or a lack of hope for the future. If we judge a situation in a negative light, it means that we frame this situation through a certain lens. This can then furthermore turn itself in to a belief.
For example, if a freelance opportunity fell through, you may be very critical of yourself and view yourself through a negative lens. This may cause you to lack belief in yourself and lose hope for that path for your future. In contrast you may have prepared very well, and you can see this as a learning curve and room for personal growth. Take time to pause and appreciate how far you have come with your work and be compassionate towards yourself.
We make such appraisals not only for the bigger things in our day but also for the smaller subtle aspects of our lives. When stuck in traffic we can become frustrated, critical of other drivers and much more.
All of these subtle negatives influence our daily actions which further build up to the bigger challenges we may face that day. According to Barbara Fredrickson when we have a negative appraisal our cognitive functioning narrows and this can cause a further downward spiral of negative thinking patterns.
In contrast when viewing things through a positive lens our cognitive functioning increases and our creative ability grows. Both of these lenses are always available to us and it is our choice through which lens we choose to view the world.
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”Albert Einstein
Dr. Dan Tomasulo in his book Learned Hopefulness discusses the idea that when we can find hope, use our character strengths, act in alignment with our core values and we regularly connect to people we care for, then we have the pathway out of a depressive state or being lost in life. In living such a life this can also result in thriving and being in a state of flow much more regularly.
We cannot be happy all of the time, but if we learn to understand why we feel the way that we do through mindfulness-based practices and also live our lives in the above manner then we can experience many variations in positive emotions much more regularly and also bounce back from feeling lost.
How to Bounce Back
Where is a good place to start living such a life?
The Miracle Question
Find a comfortable position in a quiet room and close your eyes. Take a several deep breaths and ask yourself – “If there were no obstacles in life at all, what would I truly want out of life?”
Take your time to experience what this would feel like and imagine yourself in this scenario. Once you feel ready to open your eyes, write down a few thoughts or reflect on how this felt and why you want this vision.
This will help you get in touch with your deeper values. Begin to live each day in alignment with these values. This will help you feel more congruent and authentic in your day-to-day life.
If we think of child who is particularly curious or a child who cannot get enough of playing with puzzles. There is an authentic nature and a natural enjoyment for certain things in the life of that child. The child who is naturally curious may have a strength for curiosity and a love for learning.
Take your time to think about when you had a really good day, you were in a state of flow, and everything felt natural to you. What were you doing that day? What strengths might you have been using? A strength is something that naturally energises us and it is authentic to us.
Think of a friend who is very artistic or the friend who is always the first person on the dance floor. They may have a natural strength for creativity and social intelligence. If that friend worked in a call centre then they would spend the majority of their week in an environment that does not allow for the expression of their key character strengths.
Once you begin journalling your character strengths more often then you can begin to see what naturally energises you and make a plan to partake in things that allow the expression of your strengths every day.
If we do what feels authentic and naturally energises us each and every day then we will rarely feel lost in life. We cannot always make money from using our strengths but we can find roles that allow us to use our strengths each day and use our strengths during challenging times as well as when things are going well. Finding a balance in life is key.
According to Blue Zones studies positive relationships (romantic, friendship, family and community) are one of the biggest influences in our happiness and wellbeing. When we work long hours and have deadlines we can, without meaning to, often neglect spending quality time with the people we care about the most.
It is so important that we make time to spend with those who we have a deep connection with and also those that we have the most fun with too.
Reduce your television time by half, reduce your social media time by half and create pockets of time for positive relationships. Go for a 25-minute run with a friend, create a one night per week date night with your romantic partner, go for a walk after dinner and explore nature, join short classes such as a 30-minute Pilates class or a one-hour cooking class.
Ironically by creating the time for positive relationships our work will improve because we will feel full of wellbeing, had time away from our busy work and likely be using our character strengths more.
We often chase happiness and live our lives based on extrinsic motivation such as pressures to act in accordance to social pressures or the media saying how we should look and act. We may base our goals on an external standard whereby when we can life that trophy of plant that flag on top of the mountain, only then can I be happy.
Start living your life based on your deeper values and enjoy the process of the journey with mindfulness, time invested in positive relationships and creating your day around your character strength use.
Create an environment purpose built for your wellbeing and for a tapestry of positive emotions to arise.
Wishing you health and wellbeing.
David Chorlton is a Positive Psychology Practitioner and founder of Meaningful Paths.
David helps you create a life of well-being and purpose and helps connect you to meaningful community projects across the world.
Photo by Kristine Weilert on Unsplash