Last week I posed the following question to myself and you, reader. Are You Enjoying Life? I identified a few action items to tackle and a short bulleted list of the things that may be impeding my ability to truly and wholly enjoy life.
To recap the action items:
1. Make a list of the things you enjoy.
2. Make a list of what may be blocking life enjoyment.
3. Prioritize your life around the enjoyable, take action toward eliminating the blockage.
Here is a list of what I fully enjoy.
- Moving in Nature. Specifically I enjoy trail running, mountain biking, and surfing.
- Staying curious. I voraciously read, and supplement with the occasional documentary and podcast.
- Being creative. I primarily get my creative needs met through writing, secondarily via taking photographs, and general problem solving or creating solutions.
- Coffee. I thoroughly enjoy spending time in cafes, sipping an Americano, and chatting with one or two individuals. Being an introvert I need my solitude but very much enjoy the company of a select few.
- Solitude. I need silence, stillness, and time to be contemplative. I think this is satiated by my primary need for movement in nature. Most often Wilderness is where I find solitude. I also need ample blocks of time reading and writing.
- Feeling useful. I hesitated putting this on my enjoyment list. For the most part, the items listed above are independent actions, solo ventures. Only in recent years have I identified that much of what brings me satisfaction does so because it can be helpful to others. We all need to feel connected, to the Universe in which we exist and the people that surround us. I feel most useful when I can share what I learn through written word or in one-on-one conversation.
So, what are contributors that block my life enjoyment?
I believe I have a growth mindset, as defined in Carol Dweck’s book. There are certainly things I struggle with in the realm of confidence, but by-in-large I push myself both physically and mentally to be better. As I mentioned in the previous post I have developed the concept that enjoying life should be a struggle and is undeserved. Logically I understand this isn't truth, but subconsciously the voice still whispers (sometimes shouts), "you don't deserve the life you're wishing for." I surmise this belief was constructed by my childhood experiences in the church. There I constructed hang-ups with the definition of sin and enjoyment, and the blurred lines that kept me constantly questioning and doubting. An equal contributor to my belief is our cultural directive to adopt a lifestyle of working and consuming, then exponentially working and consuming more year-over-year to deserve success and happiness.
To change this way of thinking I must continually do the things I identify as enjoyment and try to quiet the voices of guilt. Reading of others, connecting with others, that have chosen similar paths as I help add credibility to those choices and permission to pursue. I remind myself we all deserve to do that which gives us enjoyment, and while struggle is a part of life and living, it isn't a requirement for enjoyment and happiness.
Health & Injury
I've dealt with injuries often over the last few years, without question this has impacted my ability to answer the question of life enjoyment positively. I’ve not been able to accomplish some of the more lofty goals I’ve set for myself due to adrenal fatigue issues, plantar fasciitis, and a shoulder injury from a few years back. I take responsibility for those issues and injuries. Overtraining and overuse, poor nutrition, and improper form are the main contributors, plus maybe a bit of over-zealousness. While physical injuries impact my ability to do things, not wholly enjoying life because of injuries is another mindset issue. I’ve dealt and am dealing with the physical aspects, but equally I try to have a healthier outlook on my physically capabilities and goals as I age and adjust my mindset to focus on the enjoyment of the training and not attach myself to the outcome as much as I have in the past.
We all need money to exist and flourish. The question of how much is where perception can hijack reality. I used to have a figure in my head that I equated with happiness. "If I make X amount I'll be happy, because I'll be able to do more of what I want." This seems such a selfish outlook on financial gain and yet it is how I viewed it. Perhaps thinking it a selfish view subconsciously kept me from attaining X. The work I wanted to do, living the lifestyle of flexibility I wanted to live, didn't seem to align with the monetary goals I was setting. I spent decades as a self-labeled underachiever because I didn't make six-figures. I earn a fraction of that now, and while the finances can be difficult, I believe I am happier and enjoying life more today then when I made a more respectable living. I'm redefining success and taking the monetary element out of the equation. Yes, I need to make enough to pay the bills. I would like to make enough to be able to impact others, to help others, but I no longer attach an income level to my own enjoyment or my own ability to pursue the things I wish to pursue. My perception was that I needed ample income to enjoy life, the reality is I can live on very little and have a vital life.
Food Choices / Body Image
How do food choices impact my life enjoyment? Several foods don't agree with my system. Gluten causes digestive issues, headaches, and brain fog. Dairy messes with my gut. And consuming too much processed corn products (corn chips, popcorn, corn-based pastas) leads to issues as well. These foods create inflammation within my system, causing physical discomfort and issues, which shortly thereafter becomes an inflammation in the brain. The science surfacing about the gut and mind connection is hard to ignore. I firmly believe my issues with depression were caused in part by adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, and food allergies. I attempted to eat gluten again recently to see how it would impact me; within two days I had a depressive relapse. I wrote about body/self image a while back, my everlasting chicken legs and acne problems as a youth. I have less of an issue with these today, but I felt inferior as a male well into young adulthood and continue to catch myself comparing my physical traits and capabilities to others. I find myself wishing I was handsomer, more muscular, leaner and stronger. It seems silly to reflect on these things at age 48, and yet my mind does travel down that road of negative self judgement.
I've already begun to prioritize my life around the enjoyable. My choice to live a minimal existence in which I prioritize with running in wilderness, reading, writing, creating this newsletter, and starting Dirty Good Company are all contributing to enjoying life. These choices are interwoven with my desire to help others. Immersing myself in a lifestyle that feels more natural to me, that holds the possibility of serving, puts my attention on what is actionable. With this life of physical movement and mental focus I've reduced the empty space where the oft paralyzing rumination crept in.
This is my purpose — to enjoy life by engaging in the things I first listed and continuing to eliminate the blocks. If I wish to be a life enjoyment mentor, then I must wholly and equally enjoy life's struggles and elations.