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The following is a trick question:
Would you rather feel miserable, or would you rather feel neutral?
I get it. No one really wakes up in the morning wanting to feel miserable. If you had your choice between feeling misery — you know, the existential angst and the “I can’t do this for one more day” kind of stuff — and feeling indifferent, we all know which one of those sensations sucks less. Feeling neutral about your circumstances may not be fun, but it’s not awful.
And honestly … that’s exactly the danger of feeling neutral.
Like it or not, misery is motivating. If you feel like crap, you’re more likely to have a fire lit under you. You have nothing left to lose (since you can’t really feel worse), so you’re more willing to take risks and make changes and do something.
But when life is “just OK” … there’s practically zero motivation. And without any sort of big incentive to change, you can find yourself stuck in a no man’s land — where life isn’t getting worse, but it’s not getting any better either — for years.
Whereas misery … most people can’t tolerate misery for months, let alone years. Which means people tend to rebound after hitting rock bottom. But if you never hit it, you can’t rebound. You just sort of float above it, indefinitely.
HOW MANY OF THESE BOXES DO YOU CHECK?
You can be pretty sure you’re stuck in neutral in some area of your life if:
- When people ask about your job (or anything else), you say: “I mean, it’s fine. I don’t hate it.”
- You have a hard time actually feeling things. There are no high-highs, and no low-lows. You just sort of … exist.
- You feel like you live mostly on autopilot.
- You’ve found yourself saying, “Well, there’s nothing wrong …” (But nothing is right, either.)
- You’re doing a good job of surviving, but you don’t feel like you’re thriving.
- You have a long list of things you’re tolerating and very few things you love.
- You find yourself rationalizing and justifying why you tolerate certain things.
- You don’t feel like rocking the boat or taking a risk because you’re afraid things could get worse.
- You can’t remember the last time you felt consistently energized, inspired, or motivated.
I like to think of indifference as a pebble in your shoe.
Because it seems like it’s no big deal, you don’t do anything about it. But when you leave it in there, eventually your gait changes to accommodate the pebble.
After a while, you forget about the rock. Until one day you wake up with terrible back and hip problems, and you can’t figure out why you’re suffering.
The longer you tolerate something, the more harmful it becomes.
SO … WHY DO WE TOLERATE THINGS THEN?
Our human instincts make it very easy to tolerate, settle, and never rock the boat.
We all have the “lizard brain” — the part of our programming that hasn’t evolved in the past 10,000+ years. And the lizard brain is only concerned with keeping you alive.
It doesn’t care about your joy, your self-actualization, or your purpose in life. It doesn’t even know those things exist.
All it cares about is making sure you don’t die, and to its credit, it does its job really well.
The more you take risks, rock the boat, and refuse to settle, the less “safe” your lizard brain thinks you are. It feels nice and comfortable to settle into a life of neutrality and indifference because it’s far less likely that you’ll ever get hurt, be ostracized, or die some sort of painful death in that space.
It’s hard to do the opposite of what your deepest instincts tell you to do. Which is why so many of us never grow, change, or evolve.
It’s safe to live an “autopilot” kind of life. And if that’s the life you choose, you’ll do an excellent job of surviving … but you’ll never know what it means to thrive.
SHORT-TERM PAIN VS. LONG-TERM GAIN
In my experience, getting out of a state of indifference has a lot to do with focusing on the long-term more than the short-term.
Long-term, I don’t know anyone who wants to be on their deathbed thinking, “I mean, my life was just OK. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great.”
Personally, that thought terrifies me. Because if that’s how I end up, it will only have been my own fault. It will mean that I settled, that I tolerated way too much for way too long. And I could have done something about it, but out of fear or laziness or whatever… I never did. No thank you!
But most people aren’t thinking that way. They’re thinking about the short-term pain, not the long-term gain.
Short-term, it feels unnecessarily risky to leave a job that’s OK, but not great.
Short-term, it doesn’t make logical sense to invest half of your savings into a trip around the world.
Short-term, there’s no point in rocking the boat in your relationship, when nothing is really bad.
HERE’S WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO
If you’d rather thrive than survive, experience joy rather than neutrality, actively love your life instead of tolerate it, and feel motivated instead of uninspired, there’s one big shift you must make:
You must fear having a mediocre life more than you fear making change.
If this is something you can get behind, then go ahead and make that list of things you’re just tolerating. It could be as small as “that pile of bills I haven’t sorted through” or as huge as “everything about my job.”
Then I want you to pick one (preferably the one that feels the easiest to change), and do something about it.
Schedule 30 minutes on your calendar to sort through your bills. Crunch the numbers to find out how much it would really cost to take that trip around the world. Spend 20 minutes Googling “marriage counseling” and make an inquiry with someone who sounds like a good fit.
It only takes a tiny bit of effort to get momentum going. Once you’ve proven to yourself that you can rise above toleration, it’s easier to find energy for the things that seem more challenging.
IF YOU NEED ACCOUNTABILITY, WE’RE HERE FOR YOU
One of the reasons we end up in a zone of indifference, even if we don’t like that we’re there, is because it’s hard to motivate yourself to make changes without any outside support or accountability.
Or maybe your problem is that you don’t know what you’d rather be doing, so can’t make any progress until you figure it out. You’re in a catch-22, so you do nothing.
Either way, it’s a lot easier and faster to get unstuck when someone’s helping you do it (and expecting you to follow through).
So, if 2019 is the year you’d like to thrive instead of just survive, and you’d like some expert guidance and accountability to make sure it happens for you, then we’re always here to chat with you about the possibility of 1-on-1 coaching.
What about you? Where is your momentum stalled out, and what could you do right now to get it moving even a little bit? Come share with us in the comments below.
Rachel (& Kristen)
WANT $50 OFF THE PASSION PROFILE SHORT COURSE?
Starting this coming Monday, December 10, through Friday, December 14, we’re going to be offering a special holiday deal ($50 off!) on the Passion Profile Short Course — our 5-ish hour, totally online, go-at-your-own-pace program that helps you find your career direction in as little as 1 day.
We’re also going to be offering a free, live Q&A workshop session (happening in January) to anyone who buys the PPSC during that window, as well as anyone who’s worked with us in the past.
Be sure to check your inbox on Monday for the special $50 discount code! 🙂