Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning. Without a reason, without a purpose, the day seems to drag on. By day’s end you can be completely exhausted. Not because you haven’t been busy. Most likely you have been. But when you work at filling your time, you drain a lot of energy and vitality. Without energy, there can be little joy. Without joy, it is simply a matter of surviving one day to get to the next.
Here is the fascinating thing. Many of us have a lot to do. Most of us would say we have too much to do. That means we all have reasons to get up, right? Things you need to get done and get crossed off that list. That’s definitely a reason to get up. It’s a great feeling to knock off those daily chores–a sense of real accomplishment. Maybe not. Unfortunately, those same chores are back on the list the next day, just waiting to steal your time again. By the end of the day, we’ve gotten through the list again, or at least part of it anyway. But there isn’t any real satisfaction. Why? Because we didn’t get around to the things that challenged us–those things we keep putting off because we don’t want to tackle them. Things that are too hard or will take too much time. Maybe it’s something we haven’t done before and aren’t sure we will be able to do it. In other words, those things make us nervous–they frighten us so we put them off.
There is a secret to that reason for getting up. It’s not just something to do. That only proves we can be busy but there isn’t any real victory in that. The thing that will give our time meaning is not just a list–it’s a challenge. That is what keeps us fired up, creative, and moving forward. The problem is that at some point many of us stopped challenging ourselves. Maybe we decided we couldn’t do something. Possibly someone told us we were out of our league and should stick with what we knew. Maybe there was a setback, or even a failure. At some point it became easier just to sit it out. After all, there are so many other things to deal with. Rather than something to anticipated and welcomed, challenges became something to be avoided.
I see so many people who have fallen into that pattern. They fast-tracked the road to success, took on every obstacle in their path, and really pushed themselves through their earlier years. At some point, though, they slowed down. Somehow the new opportunities didn’t seem so appealing. It became easier to avoid the challenge, look for ways to fill the time and not face the new project that might be more than they could handle. After all, with challenge comes risk, and with success there is a lot more to lose.
These are the people who are tired. They get through the day, to-do items crossed off the list, but they end the day without a sense of joy or pleasure in what they have accomplished. They will tell you it’s because they aren’t as young as they used to be. Time is catching up with them. They aren’t lazy–far from it. It’s just that they had so much more energy back in the day. That was a time they were achieving, creating, and growing. There were worlds to conquer, after all.
I know about this pattern because I fell into it myself. Somewhere along the line I became complacent. I was content with things as they were. It was easier just to maintain the status quo. As I did that, my energy level dropped. I filled my time with emails, phone calls, daily and weekly reports, even housework when I got home. Anything to feel like I was accomplishing something. There was still a work ethic to uphold, after all. I just didn’t have the energy to step up to any new opportunities.
I became very adept at filling my time in order to avoid potential challenges.
Fast forward to now. Now I welcome challenges, even create them. They are opportunities for growth. Not all of them turn out so well, either. The difference is now I don’t let that frighten me. It is said that we don’t learn from success. We learn from failure. That is true. The key to failure is to not see it as reflection of yourself. Or worse, of how others see you. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn something new. Something that might be applied to future projects or your future self. It’s not a reason to avoid the challenge. Failure is actually a reason to embrace it.
Once you acknowledge the benefits of challenge and give yourself permission to succeed or fail, something amazing happens.
Energy levels return.
It’s no longer a question of just getting through the day. There is a profound sense of satisfaction and joy in personal and professional growth. You end the day excited about tomorrow. Suddenly that to-to list is not just wash, rinse, repeat. It’s full of new opportunities and possibilities. And that is really one of the best reasons to get up in the morning.