Here’s a question I’ve been thinking about lately – Do we sabotage our success at certain things by purposefully limiting our enthusiasm, our curiosity or our genuine interest? I’m thinking specifically about things like greater happiness, better diet, improved exercise or expanded faith or spirituality – although I’m sure there are others.
This has been on my mind for two reasons:
First, the topic came up in a class I’m taking. It’s an online class on the Science of Happiness and is being offered through the Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. In the first week of the course, in addition to learning about the scientific research behind what makes people happy, we were encouraged to take up a week-long happiness project. The task was based on the benefits of gratitude and we were asked to write down each day, for a week, 3 good things that happened each day. As part of the instructions we were told that we would likely benefit more from the activity if we set aside any notion of it being “hokey” or “woo woo” and really got into it.
The other reason is this – I’m a pretty enthusiastic person. I get excited about things. Even things about which I’m skeptical or unsure, I’ve found I’ve always been able to rein that in a bit and remember to just go forward with a positive mindset. Recently, I expressed to my mom my thrill in finding a babysitter that would be a perfect fit for us. Her response? “Well, don’t get your hopes up.” “What?! What’s wrong with hopes up?” I thought. I mean, I’m well aware that it might not work out, but when good things happen, I kind of like to enjoy that feeling.
So, back to the sabotage. Social worker, researcher and author, Brené Brown, (kind of) covers this in her book The Gifts of Imperfection (although she doesn’t use the word sabotage). She writes,
We hustle for our worthiness by slipping on the emotional and behavioral straitjacket of cool and posturing as the tragically hip and the terminally “better than.” Being “in control” isn’t always about the desire to manipulate situations, but often it’s about the need to manage perception. We want to be able to control what other people think about us so that we can feel good enough.
She’s talking about this in the context of the ways in which shame gets in the way of what she calls wholehearted living. Regardless of why we do this, I think it’s safe to say that we do. I believe that most people are naturally curious, generous, loving, and open to possibility. But, our fear of failure, of looking stupid or even looking too smart, too goody-goody, too emotional or too cheesy makes us hold back – especially when we’re trying something new.
This is an especially challenging issue for expats, because we’re ALWAYS in new situations and faced with a decision to go for it 100% or to hold back and see how things go. And here’s where my question lies. If we were to stop holding back, would we be more successful at living our transitions in ways that are more true to ourselves? I really think so. But, what if opening up to your natural curiosity and inner-enthusiast doesn’t come easily for you? I’ve listed a few starter ideas below. Go ahead and give them a try.
- Find an enthusiasm buddy. Know someone that seems to get excited about things? Tell them about a change you’re wanting to make, a new activity you’re hoping to try or a dream you’re ready to pursue and see if he or she will cheer you on.
- Try it out in private. Love to sing, but feel self-conscious? Listen – that’s what the shower and the car are for…right? Take advantage of privacy to get comfortable with your enthusiasm. Working on giving it your all when you don’t have an audience, can free you up to let that enthusiasm trickle out to other places.
- Get enthusiastic about the little things. Found a dollar bill in your pocket? Yay!! Did you manage to get the kids out of the house with only one small meltdown (yours or theirs – doesn’t matter)? Yee-haw!! You rock! No accomplishment is too small for you to celebrate when you’re working on an enthusiasm boost.
- Celebrate someone else’s success. Sometimes being enthusiastic for other people can be easier than admitting to ourselves that we’ve got something to be excited about. This doesn’t need to be fancy. Simply saying, “Wow! Good for you!” can be enough. If you can manage to cultivate excitement and interest in someone else’s accomplishments, you’re teaching yourself how to get excited about what you have in store.
- Write down 3 things you love and totally, absolutely and completely admit it. Personally, I think there are few things more attractive in a person than someone who can admit that they love something that’s traditionally seen as nerdy, uncool, strange or silly. And my husband grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons so you can trust me on this one.
Still curious? Wanna’ boost your natural enthusiast? Check out my FREE pdf of this activity on accessing your curiosity from The Expat Activity Book. It’s sure to help you focus in on raising your enthusiasm and might just help you find success in a new endeavor!