No matter your age or situation, it can be easy to find your days filling up with obligations and “have to” items on your to-do list. You may find yourself saying “I have to…” when anticipating the next day as you lay awake in your bed at night. With so many “have to’s”, it is easy to get lost and, eventually, fall into a burn-out.
You might find yourself feeling disconnected from the things you dedicate time to in a day, week or month. While you can be certain that your days are full and busy, the day may still feel fruitless or it may feel like a day passes in the blink of an eye and yet “nothing got done”.
It may begin to feel like life is happening to you, rather than you being an active participant in and creator of this life.
This is a common sentiment that is expressed by clients. They are feeling lost or uncertain of purpose. They find that days have become 24 hours in which they do things that they are “supposed” to do… uncertain of why or if they actually want to do these things. These are often times for reflection, reevaluation, and reconnection.
1. Clarify your values. These might change and evolve through your life. What was once significant and a primary focus of your life may not necessarily be so important, or fulfill the same role, now. Identify the tasks and moments in which you tend to find joy and fulfillment- what do these things have in common? A few examples of values may be family, success, independence, stability, adventure, learning…
2. Be mindful. While you are engaged in an activity, be aware of the purpose you are fulfilling in this task and how this purpose connects with the things you value. Perhaps you find yourself engaged in an activity and you find that the purpose in no way connects with your values. This can provide an opportunity to reevaluate why this a task you feel compelled to complete, and perhaps this task can be eliminated from your list.
3. Change your language. “I have to…” can, for many, conjure up a feeling of being out of control or being made to do something by an outside entity. The language we use in powerful! See if you can replace “I have to” with “I am going to”, “I am choosing to”, etc. Mentally remind yourself that this task is something you have a choice in. Perhaps you only complete a task to avoid an undesirable consequence, but that it still a choice! (example: I’m completing this work project because I want to avoid the consequence of getting written up or fired from work. It is important for me to keep this job. An alternative choice would be to not complete the assignment or to quit, but neither of these are reasonable choices for my long-term needs and wants.)
Reflect on the season of life you are in and on the values that are important to you. Reevaluate the relationship between the tasks and responsibilities you are currently facing with your values and your season of life. Reconnect with the purpose, big or small, that each task and responsibility is fulfilling in our life. Reconnect with your why.
Remember that there may be seasons of your life which are more so characterized by mundane or tedious tasks than other seasons. Again, try and mindfully relate these tasks to the purpose they, and you, are fulfilling. It can also be helpful to remind yourself that this is, in fact, a season; as such, this time and these tasks will pass.
Loss of motivation or loss of interest/pleasure in activities that you previously enjoyed can be symptoms of depression. It is important to assess this and other symptoms with a provider in order to ensure appropriate treatment.
To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.
Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.