Photo Credit: Artem Beliaikin, Unsplash.com

Written by Luke Iorio, President of One Idea Away and iPEC
June 5, 2019

What do you really want?

I know when I’ve considered what I really want, my head will drift between the material (which could be career accomplishments and lifestyle dreams) and the experiential (the feeling of life that I wish to connect to more frequently).

Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, found that experiences contributed more to our overall happiness than any commercial or material goods because they’re more likely to enhance our social connections, support our self-identity, and are less likely to be judged by comparison (2014, Journal of Consumer Psychology).

Other research has found this similar impact is true of life achievements—getting the promotion or landing the “right” job, performing at a certain level, or winning the big game (or hitting the big goal). Once those are accomplished, we adapt quickly to that being our new normal and those big accomplishments no longer hold as much weight.

It’s not the material or the accomplishment, but the experience (which includes the journey and process along the way) that’s most meaningful and beneficial to us.

So, let’s refine our question a bit further:

What do you really want to experience?

When most people explore this question and look underneath their initial answers, some version of “I want to feel more alive” seems to emerge as the answer.

That idea of “aliveness” can take many forms and, interestingly enough, most people connect aliveness to feelings of calm, connected, relaxed, clear, and present.

So, what makes you feel fully alive?

Most of the answers to this question are a lot simpler and more common and accessible than you might think.  

Cara Bradley, speaker, performance coach, and author of On the Verge, sat down for an interview in a recent One Idea Away episode and shared that in asking this question at countless speaking engagements and in her client work, most people point to simple, everyday type experiences—playing with a child or a family pet, going for a walk in nature, dancing, drawing, even reading a book that draws you in.

Being fully alive doesn’t need to be those moments that are ultra-exciting or adrenaline-inducing. For most of us, it’s quite the opposite. And yet, because our busy minds are distracted and our focus is elsewhere, we don’t realize just how available that feeling of aliveness actually is.

An Exercise for More Fulfillment in Your Every Day

Please, try this at home!

For one week, at the end of your day, ask yourself: “When did I feel more fully alive today?”

It might be a brief moment of awe, such as watching a sunset (Cara describes her own experiences in the episode), or it might be playing catch with your child in the backyard, or even working on a spreadsheet at work (Yes, crunching numbers can be fun and enlivening to some of us–don’t judge!).

See if you can even identify a few moments in your day–not just one–and keep a notepad or journal with your answers for the week.

The point’s to increase your awareness of these moments first.

Next, you can start to look for what these moments have in common and how you might be able to tap into that aliveness more often.

Now, our minds are going to associate the activity or the situation with the feeling, but don’t fall into the trap. The activity or situation isn’t the only way to bring it out. The feeling exists inside of you and the activity or situation touched and evoked it.

Your goal’s to uncover what are the patterns that help you reconnect to that aliveness, and each moment (activity, situation, experience) you do offers clues as to what works for you.

Put This Into Practice

Cara and I offered several of those prompts and clues in this episode—such as allowing our busy minds to calm (releasing the steady stream of narration in our heads), letting go of our agenda (for how things need to be or what outcome we desire), and even connecting to movement and rhythm (whether that be more physical with our bodies or just centering in to focus our breathing patterns).

At the heart of these experiences and the prompts that help us connect to them is the sense of being completely present, enraptured, and allowing yourself to be drawn into the moment. You’ll recognize these moments when you feel calm, clear, content, stable, at ease, relaxed, and yet still alert and perceptive.

As you recall your experiences of aliveness at the end of each day, see if you can start to identify any patterns that seem to work for you. At the end of the week, you’re likely to find a few, so for this coming week, be playful and curious and see if you can use those patterns and prompts to connect more often to that deeper feeling of aliveness.

One Last Tip for Daily Fulfillment

Don’t just look for “do I feel alive or not?” as that’s likely to drop you into pure judgment mode.

Look for when do I feel more alive—it’s a spectrum and each experience (when you feel more or less alive) offers you insights into what may or may not work best for you. Explore what all points on this spectrum can reveal to you.

Photo Credit: Artem Beliaikin, Unsplash.com