Over the last few weeks I haven’t been feeling quite like myself. Like I don’t have my same energy levels. My same excitement and enthusiasm for life.
It’s normal, most of us are feeling this way in these crazy times. Covid and the quarantine and now all of the protests can take a toll on us emotionally whether we realise it or not.
This isn’t the problem though. Im not very bothered by these things. The quarantine has been a productive time for me to practice not living in fear, getting off of social media, getting back to myself. Ive largely been enjoying this time of peace and quiet.
Alas, for the last few weeks, in reality maybe even 2-3 months, I’ve been feeling a bit off.
It worried me at first because it’s not something I’ve ever really struggled with. I’ve always been a very motivated person and don’t have to try very hard to muster up the energy I need to tackle something. In fact, I’m usually excited for it!
It’s worrisome to me when I feel like I have to muster motivation. Where I feel like I have to try and be in a good mood, I have to put effort into it, instead of just being in a good mood naturally.
So, i’ve been digging into why. Why do I feel this way? What is making me feel off?
Could it be I’m working too much? Approaching burnout? While this could definitely be a large contributing factor, I know that this isn’t the case either. I enjoy my work and I do it well. I break my own records every month and it feels great to have a day when I close a lot of deals. If anything, those are the days when I’m happiest, but that’s also largely dopamine driven. In any event, I’ve been prioritising my recovery practices and that same nagging feeling that something is off is there even when I’m not working.
Could it be I’m smoking too much weed? For a while I thought this was it. Needed to take a break and calm down on the reefer. Well, I took a break for a few weeks still felt off, grumpy, like I wasn’t excited for life like I normally am. If anything it was amplified when I stopped smoking. Became more apparent that something wasn’t quite right. While I did see better mood and energy levels, I found myself returning back to this nagging sense of something being off.
Could it be my frustration with learning how to highline? It’s been a difficult process for me. Done it close to 15 times now and still having a hard time walking. Feeling like I’m struggling to get in the reps and build consistency. My body has also not been cooperating. I’ve struggled with lower back spasms and I’m now doing a lot more work with foam rollers and stretching.
But no, still, with high lining I feel that I know what I need to do. I know I just need to put in more time and the results will come. Take care of some old nagging injuries I’ve never fully dealt with. I’m not worried about my progress there and I don’t think it’s the root of what I’m feeling in my recent lack of inspiration for life.
Nope, while all of these may have been contributing to my overall lack of clarity or blind spot, but there was something deeper there. These felt like surface issues I already have a handle on.
As I continued to reflect, it dawned on me that so much of my motivation in the past has come from having goals that I am striving towards. Something that I am working for. A milestone that I want to hit.
So much of the last ten years has been focused on building an International lifestyle for myself… and I’ve finally accomplished that goal. I’ve built a lifestyle where I have complete location independence, making great money, doing work that I love working for one of my heroes surrounded by an awesome team of people to work with. I’ve arrived at the goal I have been working towards for so long.
On one hand, it’s nice to take a step back, acknowledge it. Reflect on how long it’s taken me to get here. Appreciate the journey and be grateful for the present I’ve built for myself.
But on the other hand, my brain is hardwired to ask, “what next?” What’s the next goal that I want to work towards? What’s the next thing I want to accomplish?
In that moment I realised that my current lack of inspiration, energy, enthusiasm, was rooted in the fact that I need a new goal to work towards. I need a new big picture idea of what I want to be doing, and where I want to be going. Or to flip things around – that I am in a better mood and a happier person when I have a goal I am working towards.
Steven Kotler talks about your “Massive Transformational Purpose”, or MTP. What does the impossible look like for you? What do you want to accomplish in life? Who do you want to impact?
I realised that I was missing my MTP. I was missing my next high hard goal for myself. I needed to spend more time creating longer term clarity for myself and where I want to go in this next stage of my life.
The more that I learn about flow, neurochemistry, habit formation and compulsive behaviours, the more I realise that our mood and energetic state are all rooted in goal seeking behaviour. As I set a goal, and then I take positive action towards achieving that goal, the brain releases dopamine, which then creates a reward circuit in the brain, and then encourages me to want to do it again. The more I do it the more it builds the pathway and thus a habit is built.
However if we don’t see progress towards our goal, we then start to get blocked out of those neurochemicals, or produce pesky stress chemicals as well. This is burnout in a nutshell – too much time working towards a goal without sufficient reward on the backend. This is why small achievable goals along the way are so important – they keep you motivated to continue pursuing your target.
Similarly without any goals at all, we can equally be missing out on the neurochemical fun. In not having a well defined MTP, a purpose, a guiding light to work towards like I have had for the last 10 years, I was blocking myself out of all the feel good neurochemicals that come along with goal seeking behaviour. Having a refined sense of purpose and clear goals will give me the energy back and improve my mood. The solution to my existential angst is creating a new vision of myself and what I want to achieve. Get clear on it and make progress towards it.
It also made me realise that this really applies to everyone. Enthusiasm for life, day to day happiness, fulfilment and well being, is rooted in having a vision and goal we are working towards. In a nutshell, setting goals for yourself, and then achieving those goals, will make you a happier more fulfilled person.
Not goal seeking for the sake of it either. We’re talking about CLEAR goals. Really defining exactly what you want and then taking the steps to make that happen. Defining your values and protecting what is most important to you. Doing it in a healthy and sustainable way where you don’t drive yourself crazy and stress yourself out along the way. A way to enjoy the journey.
That’s what I’ve been doing ever since that realisation and guess what? My mood saw a dramatic improvement. I’m now feeling motivated and inspired again. I’m reading new books, studying new things, researching pieces of the puzzle I need to fill in. I’m clear on my why and the next steps I need to take and it’s exciting! I want to share my ideas with my friends. Ask questions about areas I don’t understand. Learn.
While sharing these ideas with a friend of mine, it also made me realise how much I love learning. But it’s not learning for the sake of learning, it’s learning with a purpose. Putting that learning into action. How learning bridges the gap between you and your goals. Then, because I realise that learning is helping me achieve my goals, I look forward to it, thus creating a positive autotelic habit. All of this then reinforces the positive neurocircuitry that will provide you with sustainable motivation and the mood enhancing benefits that come along with that.
So if you’re feeling off about life, feeling stagnated, like you don’t know where to go next, you don’t know what you’re passionate about – the root of it could be a lack of clear vision for yourself.
The way through the tunnel could be giving those questions some thought. Exploring your curiosities and interests, creating goals for yourself. Things you want to learn and how those things you learn can help you get to somewhere new.
Try it for yourself and come back to me with your results 🙂
Feel like you need help in getting started? Email me and I’m happy to work with you to figure out the steps you need to take and create a gameplan for yourself!
Hope you enjoyed this exploration of the mind of Troy, hope it was helpful and useful in some way, and have a wonderful day ahead 🙂