Quick two-question quiz. 1. What things did you love to do before marriage, kids or increasing work responsibilities, including side hustles to help pay the bills? 2. How many of those things do you still do now? For many of us, spending time doing the things we love the most gets sidelined for the big “r” word—responsibilities. Sure, we’d love to take in a matinee on a Saturday, but kids’ soccer games and a trip to the grocery store take priority. Readers we asked miss spontaneity, creative projects, cranking up the music, reading and the indulgence of sleeping in. While not always doing what you want to do is just part of adulting, drifting away from what you love can erode happiness and cause you to lose sight of who you really are.
How do you maintain the daily grind of responsibilities and stay connected to what you love? Rediscover your authentic self with our list of tips.
Facilitate your own wake-up call
Sherianna Boyle, author of the new book Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Release Toxicity and Energize Joy believes focusing on the present can facilitate your own wake-up call and increase awareness. “No doubt getting married, raising children and becoming a homeowner gives us a lot of extra things to think about. When we worry, stress and overthink, the less energy we have. Choose to focus on the now and your energy will grow,” she says. Let yourself feel your emotions and use them as guideposts.
Don’t let busy become an obstacle
Obligations can interfere with what’s calling to us. Jen Sincero, best-selling author of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, says, “When you constantly deny yourself the people, food, things and experiences that make you feel the most alive, that sends a pretty lousy message home.” Decide you are worth doing the things you love. She suggests making a conscious decision to increase your joy in whatever capacity you can. Plan the trip you’ve always wanted to take. Pursue a goal you fear. Spend an afternoon with a friend, dance at an outdoor music festival or buy an impractical pair of shoes. Don’t let busy win. Sure, you might not be able read in a hammock for four hours straight, but can you read every day for 30 minutes?
Put yourself first
Are you one of those people who never focuses on yourself? Start putting yourself first and trust that doing so will make you even more fulfilled and better able to give back to others. Investing in yourself is not selfish. “We drift away from doing what we once loved because it doesn’t fit our new lifestyle anymore or our partner doesn’t like the activity,” says Pat Pearson, a family therapist and author of Stop Self-Sabotage: Get Out of Your Own Way to Earn More Money, Improve Your Relationships, and Find the Success You Deserve. “You don’t sing at the top of your lungs because the baby is napping. Life and love is a cost-benefit analysis. If the cost is too high and the benefit too low, we give up even enjoyable activities.”
She suggests asking yourself this critical question: What do I want? “If it’s important to your well-being, you shouldn’t give it up. Find the place where you can have your joy and your spouse can have his/hers. Never give up on what you love if it feeds your soul. Negotiate on the time and space to make it happen.”
Do not delay
As writer Anne Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” While it might be comforting to promise ourselves “later” for those activities we love, the reality is we have to get them on our schedules in order for them to happen. Big life events—the death of a parent, a milestone birthday, an illness—can stir us awake and fuel our desire to pursue our passions, but without daily habits in place we often fall back into old routines. Seize the day.
The obstacles to writing the next great novel or reveling in the joy of dancing alone in your house can be a matter of practicality. To give yourself more time, set up time swaps with your significant other. One of you has the kids, the other gets half a day to work on a personal goal. Switch places the next day or weekend.
Do a date night swap
Another practical fix is teaming up with friends to create windows of adult time. Gone are the days when babysitters are inexpensive. Instead of doing away with date nights or spontaneity due to the costs, swap date nights with another couple. This is an easy solution that will make your kids and wallet happy. Now you can date your spouse again.
If you want to continue your education, get a massage, paint like you used to, start a side business or kayak in a new body of water, the most important first step is directing your attention to what you desire. Create a life with a rich blend of responsibilities and top interests.