The Surprising Way to Experience More Joy in Life
Millions of people are bored or burned-out. It doesn’t have to be this way.
My daughter is turning nine. She loves life. Whether it’s splashing in a fountain, inspecting bugs on the sidewalk, or playing dress-up with her best friend Bella, she throws herself 100% into what she is doing.
Most of us were like this as kids. Enthusiastic. Brimming with energy. Curious.
Psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman call this zest - “a habitual approach to life with anticipation, energy and excitement.” Others define it as vitality, liveliness, exuberance, or wholeheartedness.
Do you know what zest feels like? Do you experience it daily? I hope so.
A new body of research suggests it is one of the key drivers of life satisfaction and well-being. We are at our best and most fulfilled with we are living and working with enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, many of us lose our excitement for life. Whether by neglect or outside pressure, we start playing it safe. We give up on our dreams.
As a result, life gets boring, stress takes over, and our joy and impact wanes.
Fortunately, there is a way to re-kindle your zest for living. Here’s how:
Go on an adventure. Yes, an adventure.
The French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry perhaps explains it best: “It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man [people] finds his [their] supreme joys.”
Adventure. Creativity. Victory.
These are powerful words and the blueprint for a better life.
Just thinking about adventure quickens our pulse and gives us energy. Planning for one sparks our imagination. And living adventurously ignites our passion and fills us with zest and joy.
Very simply, we are most alive, and at our best, when we’re pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the pursuit of something we love.
This is the power of adventure.
But, for many of us, living adventurously seems unrealistic or beyond what we are capable of doing. The word adventure conjures up images of mountain climbing, desert treks, or deep sea diving; places we could never imagine ourselves going.
Fortunately, you don’t have to scale Mt. Everest to live adventurously. An adventure is simply anything that involves doing something new, a measure of risk, and an unknown outcome.
You can start right where you are. Here’s how.
Begin in a way that is commensurate with your courage. If you’ve made bold moves in the past, go big. If you’ve never tried anything risky, start small.
I call this stretch and stability. For an adventure to be meaningful, it has to stretch you beyond where you currently are. We grow best when we’re being challenged.
But, your goal can’t be so far beyond your experience and expertise that you’re doomed to fail. Begin where you have some familiarity, some sense of stability.
I have a friend who, after raising three children, wanted to serve outside of the home. She had never volunteered before so she wasn’t sure where to start and was a bit nervous to try. A voracious reader, I suggested that she volunteer at the local library. She mustered the courage and went to the library. They asked her to lead a youth reading circle.
The night before her first session, she said could hardly sleep because she was so nervous. But seeing her afterwards you would never know. She radiated enthusiasm. “Oh my gosh. It was amazing,” she blurted out (normally she’s pretty reserved). “I can’t wait to go back, and I’ve got ideas to connect with the kids even better.”
This is the power of adventure. It ignites our creativity and causes us to dream and do big things.
Are you living adventurously? If not, now is the time to start. Take the plunge. Go on a trip. Learn a new language. Take up a hobby. Start a new business. Take on a challenging assignment at work.
Whatever it is, do something you’ve never done before and ask people to help you get to where you want to go.
Being adventurous takes courage. But it’s worth it.
It’s only when we enter the unknown that we discover ourselves and experience everything life has to offer.
It is here that we experience the presence and power of zest.
It is here that we experience joy.
And, as my daughter likes to say, “That’s really cool.”