Here’s a quick question: What’s your favourite thing to do?
What activity, hobby, or interest makes you feel happiest and most recharged?
And do you think you do enough of it? Why aren’t you doing it now, in fact?
There are plenty of people who live for the weekend, and you might be one of them – spending your days counting the hours until your time off, where you’re free to let your hair down, go dancing ‘til the sun comes up, or hike across the hills, or disappear into virtual worlds while scoffing a pizza.
But it always seems to be fleeting – and you dread the next working day where you’ll have to put aside the things that make you happy and rejoin the ‘adult’ masses.
I have a short personal story I’d like to share about this…
I grew up in a loving, but restrictive, household. I talk about this in more detail in my book, Physician on Fire, but in short, my parents’ Muslim beliefs meant some of the interests boys tend to gravitate towards – like violent cartoons and girls in skimpy outfits – were kept strictly out of reach.
I still loved these things, though. They made me happy – especially when they were backed up by the thrill of engaging in illicit activity. I suspect you too had (and possibly still have) a hidden desire your upbringing or background taught you to think of as a forbidden pleasure. Parents love to refer to such things using phrases like ‘a waste of time’, ‘pointless’, and ‘haven’t-you-got-something-better-to-do?’
Perhaps you, like me, grew up feeling that some of what made you happy was wrong or naughty. As a child, that can be exciting, giving you a sense of rebellion against authority. I used to watch He-Man cartoons and televised boxing matches when I thought no-one would know. Sadly, as the years went by, I felt emotionally drained by the effort – the reward of the thrill losing its capacity to outweigh the risk and worry of getting caught.
Then, as I grew older, I even began to believe that the excitement I felt from watching a boxing match, or enjoying the spectacle of pro wrestling, was a personality defect. And so I stopped.
I considered myself to be ‘growing up’. What really happened was my world became less joyful.
The thing is: we all have activities that make us feel empowered and alive. Things that get your pulse racing, that truly light you up. Mine might be different from yours, but that doesn’t matter. And these are the things we usually drag ourselves through the week for.
But the burning question about all this is: why choose to live like that? Why make life duller than it has to be? Yes, ‘YOLO’ is a bloody stupid saying (that usually precedes doing something equally stupid) – but it’s nevertheless true.
We allow ourselves to be conditioned by society, by our upbringing, and by our own habits (like our approach to work), to push aside the very things that make life worth living. It’s as though people are constantly standing by, waiting for permission to enjoy themselves.
Waiting for the leash to come off so they can finally go bolting across the park to roll in the mud, dive in the lake, and finally thrive for a few fleeting hours.
But if you ask me, being an adult isn’t about repressing your own happiness. It’s about having the freedom, and the wisdom, to balance necessity and responsibility with joyful fulfillment. Leaving behind what you love in favour of that leash around your neck is not an imperative. It’s a self-constructed mental prison – and life holds much more flavour when you open that cage.
So if you’re finding yourself waiting quietly for some kind of permission – here it is. Go do what you like. Go get your blood pumping. Get your hands sweaty. Get a smile on your face and a light in your eyes.
Do it today. Hell, if you don’t have any other pressing tasks, go do it right now. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone, nor shirking responsibilities, there’s no reason not to. Is there? Truly?
Don’t restrict life to the weekend. Enjoy yourself as much as possible, and make the focus of your perspective the activities that excite you – not the things that get in the way.
Let’s not be entirely wishy-washy, though. Realistically, figuring out how to make this happen can be hard – beliefs and behaviours, once ingrained, make for tough adversaries, as do the pressures of hectic modern life.
But it’s perfectly possible to come out on top – and it’s worth the effort to get a coach to help you through if you think you might need it.
Because you really do only live once. You might as well enjoy it.