EPIC POST: What to do when you lose all your enthusiasm
At times, there can be nothing scarier than losing your enthusiasm. Losing your enthusiasm for life, losing enthusiasm for passion projects that you were once so excited about, losing your enthusiasm for your dreams. Believe me, I've been there and it feels like a seriously lonely place. Enthusiasm is a massive driver for me, and it feels so scary when I lose it, because suddenly things stop making sense like they used to.
Things that I once loved doing cease to exist and things I had enthusiasm for become these unspeakable things that I simultaneously try not to think about, and obsess over how I can get back.
It's a lot like grieving. It's a lot like saying a heartfelt goodbye, not knowing when you're going to see it again. It's a lot like the world has been pulled from under your feet, and you've lost your place in the world.
I know what it's like to have so little enthusiasm it's hard to find a reason to get out of bed. And I've had plenty of days where taking a shower feels as possible as flying to the moon on a lime green marshmallow. In this post, I'm going to share some questions and some practical things that might really help if you're feeling like you've lost all your enthusiasm. All these things have really made a difference for me.
While, like many things in life, there isn't a rhyme or reason, it's sometimes worth pondering over these questions to explore why your enthusiasm seems to have up and left you.
1. Has the voice of self doubt taken over?
Who are YOU to think you can do it? You'll never succeed. (Insert successful person's name) is so much better than you. This is never going to work out. Who do you think you are? Don't be so stupid.
That, right there, is the voice of my self doubt. The internal critic that sits in my head, feeding me toxic waste, and trying to do everything she can to stop me in my tracks, believing that I'm not enough, that I'm not smart enough, and that I should just give up.
The thing about our internal critic (we've all got one) is that they have one job to do. And that's to keep you safe. Keep you from taking risks, doing something that might not work out or trying anything without a certain outcome. And your internal critic? She's going to say whatever she has to in order to make you stop. Truth doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if it's all bullshit. Your internal critic only cares as long as it stops you from doing perceived dangerous things, and keeps you safe.
If this sounds like what's going on for you right now, I really do encourage you to do several things:
Write a list of every little thing you've done that you're proud of
Right now, think of 3 ways you've defied odds
Thank your critic and tell them that you've got this and they can leave now
2. Did expectations get higher?
Joy seeps out of my body when I start setting high (read: unrealistic) expectations. There is nothing wrong with wanting to write a New York Time Bestseller. But in a week?! That's when things start to get messy. Let's look at this logically - if you're putting so much pressure on yourself to do something, you're not going to want to do it. The F word is going to come out to play. Yep, I said it - failure. You're going to get so scared of letting yourself down (because that's the person we always fear letting down the most) and not meeting our expectations, that previous joyful things become BIG ISSUES.
For me, when I get caught up in all of this, I try to remember my why. Why did I start it? What motivates me? What keeps me coming back to it?
Write your answer on a postit note and look at it regularly.
3. Did you get what you came for?
When I first stumbled on multipotentiality, I felt like I'd won the lottery. When I started reading Barbara Sher's Refuse to Choose, I started to realise that when you have many passions, it's normal to feel overwhelmed and like there's never enough time. I also learned a huge lesson which is that sometimes we lose enthusiasm because we got what we came for. Say you're an ideas person but hate planning finite detailed plans - when a project goes past the ideas stage, it makes sense that you'll lose some/all enthusiasm. This is why it can help collaborating with someone who loves the bits you don't.
Sometimes you lose enthusiasm because you've taken all the joy you can and you feel done with it. Don't beat yourself up - be glad about what happened and move on. If you're a fellow multipotentialite, and you're willing to give yourself a break, I'm sure it's not going to take long for the next project to show up.
In the meantime, check out these great articles on Puttylike (the best resource for multipotentialites!)
4. Is it time you let it go?
Seriously, I've been there. As an activist who burned out pretty damn hard, I know what it's like to lose enthusiasm, yet feel like you should grip onto any last remaining bit of passion with everything you have. I also know what it's like to work through the loss of enthusiasm, forcing yourself to do things that your heart isn't in anymore, and ending up ill because of it.
Letting go of things you once had a world of enthusiasm for is really fucking hard. You're left with feeling like somehow you didn't do a good enough job, you weren't good enough, you weren't cut out for it, you weren't committed enough, you could have done MORE. But sister? If you're anything like me, you did everything. You did enough.
It just doesn't serve you anymore. And that's a hard thing to admit. But once you can? Then there's a whole world of possibilities out there. And the world can wait until you feel up to it. And yeah, of course it's scary (what if this happens again?! I hear you ask). But that's when true bravery comes into it. Going all in anyway. 'Daring greatly' as Brene Brown would say.
There can also be nothing braver than believing that your enthusiasm still exists, and it will return.
And if you can grab that courage and hold onto it like the last Lindt chocolate in the world, then you can start to look towards a bright future.
Some things you could try are:
Go back to the things you loved doing as a child - they often hold the key to a whole abundance of joy
Write about it. Journal about it. Get your feelings out. Writing sorts out so much head-mess, chances you'll finish with a deeper understanding of what's going on for you right now
Really embrace play and do things just for fun. Follow your curiosity. (Elizabeth Gilbert recently did a fantastic interview on following your curiosity instead of your passions. I think it might be right up your street).
But sometimes, trying to find the answer, spending time pondering over questions just isn't going to cut it.
THE PRACTICAL SHIT
Sometimes that's going to make it plain worse, and you know yourself the best - you know when that might be the case. If that's the case for you right now, try these on for size.
Make a Pick Me Up Box
This is one of the first things I did for myself when I got really ill. I was struggling with depression, anxiety and my zest for life had vanished. When you lose enthusiasm and your zest for life, it can become really hard to make decisions, and you can literally sit there, trying to figure out what to do for hours or days.
A Pick Me Up box goes a long way to getting you out of the cycle of sitting there. You fill a box with pieces of paper with things that you can do that will inspire you, distract you, energise you, and with pieces of paper with quotes on them. When you're in that place, go to the box and let is make a decision for you. You can find a very easy 4 step tutorial I wrote right here.
Give yourself a break
One thing that's taken me a tonne of shit experiences to learn is that the time when I feel like I can't take a break is the time I should be taking a break. Sometimes we just go so hard at it, and wonder why it's not working, and we just need to STOP.
A break and time away provides:
Time for your body and mind to get some much needed rest
A chance to connect - with nature, with friends, with pets, with fictional characters
An opportunity for new ideas to develop
The space you need to evaluate things properly and make thought out decisions
Take a break now. Plan a break. Give yourself some time. And don't feel selfish or guilty for doing it - this is what you'd tell your best friend to do, right? (And you don't have to plan some exotic break. Lying in your bed with a box of chocolates and Homeland is perfectly acceptable, if not downright encouraged in my book!)
Go cold turkey
This might sound a bit ridiculous but stay with me, okay? Work and passions can be addictive. If you know something isn't serving you, and is probably the root cause of your lack of enthusiasm, try and cut down on it. Or go cold turkey.
That can include distancing yourself from things that hurt.
Real life example from my own life: For now, I avoid any form of activism. I don't go to demos or marches. I'm not involved in activist groups. None of it. Why? Because right now as I'm trying to distance myself from things I know have caused so much pain in my life, I know it would hurt too much. It would be a reminder of who I was versus who I am now, it would make me even more bitter at people and experiences that slowly drained me. By keeping away, I protect my own sanity and I'm spending time exploring other things I previously wouldn't have. And life's become pretty damn interesting! (I'm starting a podcast, for one thing!)
This might be easier said than done if it's a work thing that's making you feel this way. If that is the case, start considering other careers. Talk to people you love and trust about the things they think you would rock at that you might not have thought of. There is always a way out. And if you feel really trapped in your job and like there's no way out, read this. (No really, read it). Sometimes you just can't see all of the options available to you when you're in that dark place.
Tips for going cold turkey:
Tell someone and ask them for loving encouragement and to check in with you from time to time
Don't say yes to things immediately. Take some time to make decisions based on your own sanity and your own wellbeing. This may be tough at first, but when it becomes a practice, you start making decisions from a place of love, not fear, and that's always a good thing!
Give yourself a deadline to evaluate how it's been going cold turkey. Take an honest look at your life and see if anything has changed of the better.
Recognise the truth
With a loss of enthusiasm, can come a loss of confidence. And that shit is hard.
But here's the thing. If the most energy you have right now is pressing play on Netflix, that's okay. Because you have skills, you have strengths, and you have a personality unique to you, that when combined, makes you a pretty hardcore genius and wonderful person. And you don't have to be on fire all the time.
Whether you feel like you've lost your confidence, or things have been taken away from you, spend some time getting to know your skills and strengths. A couple of ways you can do this are:
Take the Fascination Advantage test and see how the world sees you
Take the Strength Finder Test (this costs about $20 but it is seriously worth it
Start a little book of compliments, and every time someone says something nice to you or about you, write it down. And try and look over it every week.
Do something just for fun that involves your skills. Give yourself permission to do whatever you like, and just play.
Surround yourself with inspiration
I find a hell of a lot of my motivation by surrounding myself with inspiration. And this can be virtual as well as real life. When I was in the job I hated, I would listen to The Good Life Project and The Lively Show for my entire commute. I didn't know anyone else who had decided to live life on their own terms in real life, but the guests on these podcast showed me opportunities, ways of living beyond my own bubble. (It's also why I've decided to start my own podcast).
And the great thing about surrounding yourself with people who inspire you? It starts to become the norm. And for me, that was the biggest motivation in making huge changes in my life. By spending my time listening to people who had taken risks, who were living unconventional lives and doing it for themselves, it became something that was tangible. It became my new norm.
Amber Thomas recently wrote a fantastic guest post on That Hummingbird Life, about how consumption can influence our creativity. Give it a read and start your own experiment.
Write a list of things that inspire you, and for each thing, find a way to incorporate them into your daily life. Here's something I made that sits above my desk and inspires me every day:
Chances are, that if you're all out of enthusiasm, you're also pretty exhausted. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is rest. And by rest I mean listen to you body and do what it needs. If you need to sleep all day, sleep all day. If you're craving a nice hearty meal, go cook yourself something tasty. Don't focus on being productive, but instead just rest.
Your body needs rest. It's not lazy. It's absolutely essential. Give yourself opportunity to rest and you might just find enthusiasm creeping back up on you when you least expect it.
This is perhaps the hardest one, but the one that is going to have the most profound effect on your life. And that's to trust that everything will be okay, that your enthusiasm will return and things won't always be this hard.
Things might be hard as hell right now but they won't always be. How things will work out is a mystery, but they will work out, somehow. You've got yourself this far - have a little faith in yourself.
Finally, some reminders:
Your enthusiasm will return. It might come in a different form, but it will return.
Taking a break is important. It's not selfish or lazy, it's essential.
You are more than a sum of your actions
The world will is still turning and you will find the right rhythm and dance for you
You are one fucking amazing person, and you have a lot to be proud of.
I hope this has helped you in some way, and I hope at the very least, you feel less alone. I know everything feels scary right now, so be kind and gentle with yourself. You're dealing with some really hard shit, so try to give yourself as much compassion as you can.
You've got this my love, you really have. You know more than you think you do, and you have everything you need inside you <3. I know that might sound like utter bollocks right now, but you just need to trust that. And if you feel alone, there's a whole bunch of like-minded women sharing their stories over on The Couragemakers Podcast.
I would love to know your experiences in the comments, or send me an email at meg [at] thathummingbirdlife [dot] com) if you prefer :)
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