Did you know? That only one third of employees of any age feel fully engaged? That productivity losses due to presenteeism are estimated to be seven times greater than losses from absenteeism? That many more Canadians are working later in life – well into their sixties?
What if … people found ways to stay curious and open to new possibilities, to be as engaged as possible for as long as possible? This is entirely possible, if we become more skilled at rekindling our sparks in the face of malaise.
Malaise is that experience of rusting out – feeling uninspired, apathetic, disinterested – coasting on autopilot or just plain stuck. Something’s ‘off’, and it’s not clear why. Malaise negatively impacts individual satisfaction and engagement as well as organizational climate and productivity.
People most often experience malaise in mid-life, often during their forties and fifties, and even in their thirties. Given the current life expectancy of 80 and beyond, mid life includes all those years between thirty and sixty.
And, mid life and stocktaking go hand in hand. With aspirations in mind and experience under your belt, you start to measure how far you’ve come and you reconsider the road ahead.
Many mid-lifers experience a dip in satisfaction as they come to terms with unmet expectations. Although life may be ‘good’, it may not feel ‘great’. Some feel disengaged or saddened by a loss of passion. Others question the legacy they had hoped to create along the way.
A feeling of malaise can descend, bringing with it an uneasiness, a stuck-ness, and a lack of inspiration. If and when malaise appears, you have choices about how you respond.
You can see it as something to endure and suffer through; or you can choose to tap into its power as a catalyst for change. This restless discontent can be an invitation to reach out and explore new territory – a doorway to connect with what’s next in your life.
So, how do you move through malaise with less angst and fewer regrets? These steps will guide you along the way.
Give yourself permission to take charge
If you find yourself falling short of your own expectations, dissatisfied with parts of your life, or wondering if what you’re doing really makes a difference, know that nobody else is going to fix this for you.
Own the feelings. Sit with them. Welcome your discomfort as that trigger or catalyst for change.
Don’t wait for others to make changes for you. Avoid dallying, dithering or delaying beyond what is needed to get your bearings. Whenever possible, act sooner rather than later.
Each day spent in a funk, is another deposit in the gunnysack of resentment.
Set Your Intentions For How You Want to Be
Considering how you want to be is an easier place to start than trying to sort out what you want to do.
Think about the values you hold to be most important and whether you’re expressing them in your daily life.
Take a look at your life experiences and your story so far. Let them inform your understanding of yourself and what really matters to you.
Look at others whom you admire. What is it about their character that you aspire to for yourself?
Sum up your conclusions in a few key words. Find a way to keep that list in front of you every day.
Start Noticing What Calls To You
The pressure to name your ‘big purpose in life’, can feel downright overwhelming.
It’s true that some people receive major wake up calls or huge epiphanies that redirect and give purpose to their lives. Not so for many. Our inner guidance fades into the background as we busy ourselves responding to the ongoing demands of everyday life.
So treat yourself kindly. Start small. Listen for that quiet inner voice that may not speak loudly or directly. Notice small nudges or tugs in new directions. Register those tiny twinges of excitement. You’ll find clues everywhere once you pay closer attention.
Ask yourself questions like these. What interests have you cast aside along the way – or set aside for later? What strikes you as juicy or exciting? What are others doing that prompts a bit of envy? What do you naturally enjoy reading about, learning about, or talking about?
Watch for a flicker of interest or inspiration that, with a bit of attention, just might rekindle a fire in you.
Sometimes those sparks appear in our world of work, and sometimes glimmers show up in other parts of our lives. The arena makes no difference. When passion grows in any one area, it overflows in all directions.
Pick A Spark & Take It For A Test Run
Tapping into passion doesn’t mean you have to toss everything aside to set off in a totally new direction, ditching the good things, too.
Just zero in on one idea or direction or activity that seems to have potential and start exploring. Find a low risk way to test your interest. See how it flies.
Does it live up to the expectation or possibility? Or does it fall flat or fall short? No matter.
If choice number one fizzles, try something else. Keep experimenting until you connect with something that engages you – a pursuit that holds potential.
Integrate That Passion Into Everyday Life
When you connect with something that brings fresh life your way, fan the flames of your success. Make space and time in your life for that new interest or pursuit.
Start limiting old obligations, expectations and negative thoughts that may be holding you back. Set boundaries on elements of your life that you find exhausting or less engaging.
Set targets for how and when to engage in this new fresh pursuit. Start allocating more resources in that direction. Reach out for the support of others in making the shift.
Repeat As Necessary
Be prepared to circle back around again. Over time, most things that were once new and fresh grow old and familiar. Interest and commitment may fade. It’s the normal ebb and flow of life.
Stay alert to your experience as life unfolds. Continue to welcome the arrival of malaise as an invitation to work your way through this cycle of renewal one more time. Honor what you leave behind, and embrace with open arms what may come next.
It’s in this rhythm of reaching out and letting go that you will continue to fuel your passion for life. When you do this for yourself, you model this possibility for others. What’s more, you leave behind a legacy that was only yours to give.
In her survey of those reaching the end of their lives, palliative care nurse, Bonnie Ware, asked her patients about their regrets. Their number one regret was wishing they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves instead of the lives that others expected of them.
Don’t let that happen to you. Your life is not over yet. In the words of George Eliot, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
© Patricia Katz, Optimus Consulting MCE CHRP HoF, is a Canadian speaker and author who works with organizational leaders to ease the load and fuel the spirit. This best selling author of 6 books shares her wisdom weekly with thousands of readers of her e-zine, Pause. Sign up for Pause, and learn more about easing your load here on this site. Contact Pat for programs and publications at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306-934-1807.