Does life ever sometimes seem like one big long to-do list?
With too much to do and not enough time to do it, life can easily become a grind. We often think that an easier life would be a happier life, but in many cases that’s not so. Once you get beyond food and shelter, humans have two fundamental needs, connection and meaning. Parenting expert Amy McCready refers to the two big needs as belonging and significance.
The reason a life of endless to-dos feels hollow, is not because there’s too much to do, it’s because none of it is emotionally satisfying. Without meaning, or connection, life is flat. The secret to making your life happier is sometimes as simple as a shift in perspective.
Here are three groups of people that can help you push the reset button. Word of warning, these are often groups that others shy away from. But I promise you if you spend some time connecting with these groups, you’ll start seeing your own life in a context that improves your daily experience.
When your job feels hollow, connect with the people on the receiving end of your organization’s work to help you dial into the larger purpose of your job. If you work in a school system, spend some time with students. Find out what they enjoy about their days, and what they plan to do with their lives. If you work in accounting, get out and talk with some customers. Ask them why they buy your organization’s products and how your company helps them.
2. The less fortunate
You know the old parable, I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet. A minister friend of mine used to say she hated that story because it was often used to dismiss problems. She said, “You still don’t have any shoes, meeting the guy with no feet just put your problem into perspective.”
But sometimes perspective is exactly what we need. Every time I take my family to feed the homeless we come back with a greater sense of our own humanity. It’s not about feeling sorry for others. Whenever we’ve worked in those situations, we’ve made a point to connect with dignity and emotion.
We come away thinking, wow, we’re part of a bigger family of humans; one cosmic role of the dice and our roles could be reversed. Suddenly too many events in a single week becomes a blessing instead of a hassle. If you want to experience more gratitude and a greater connection to your own humanity, volunteer for a day working directly with those less fortunate.
Yes, I know they have runny noses and kick the back of your seat on airplanes. But children know how to live in the moment and have fun. As my own children
become adults, I can easily find myself turning into a curmudgeon. When I complained about some kids in a restaurant, a friend of mine said, “It’s just one step away from yelling, ‘Get off my lawn.’”
Yet, I’ve found that when I actually take the time to speak to young children, I always leave the experience smiling. It’s become my go-to reset button in airports, if the flight is delayed, or the bags are lost, smiling and speaking to a rambunctious toddler reminds you, life is a party, and you were meant to enjoy it, no matter what the grownups think.
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