Spending quality time with your family is a tradition that most people take for granted. The times when you step outside and find the world waiting to be explored are few and far between, but using this article’s tips might make even those moments more enjoyable.
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Have you ever had a really hectic schedule – a lot of duties, deadlines, and stress — and felt compelled to take a break? But suddenly, for whatever reason — chores came to an end naturally; you were laid off — you were left with precisely what you had wished for: an ocean of free time. You didn’t have much to do.
It most likely felt amazing at first. You sat about doing nothing.
But after a time, maybe a couple of weeks or a month, the novelty of pure relaxation began to wear off. You were restless, disoriented, and sad. You started to wish to return to work; obligations seemed to be not only manageable, but also appealing.
This sensation is part of a natural cycle in humans: the constant oscillation between the desire to be free of all obligations and effort, and the urge to participate in labor and struggle.
We despise suffering; we relish it.
“Release me!” we scream at the same time. “More challenge!” and “More challenge!”
The latter is a more subtle, but more accurate instinct. While we frequently mistakenly believe that we are dissatisfied because we have too many things to do, the reality is that we seldom have enough.
At the very least, the appropriate type.
Tension in the Absence of Tension
A manuscript for a book that famed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl had been working on was stolen when he was brought to Auschwitz. He spent his days in the concentration camp attempting to rewrite it in his brain and scribbling notes on pieces of paper whenever he could, hoping to redo the text if he lived long enough to be released. Rather of confronting each day with nothing but the horrors of the camp and the emptiness of simple suffering, Frankl engaged in a work that provided him with a sense of purpose and, he felt, helped him survive both the physical and psychic horrors of captivity.
Frankl’s psychological theory was inspired by his liberation experience, which he detailed in Man’s Search for Meaning:
“Mental health is founded on a certain amount of strain, the tension between what one has previously accomplished and what one should yet achieve, or the gap between what one is and what one should become.” Such tension is inherent in the human being and, as a result, is necessary for mental health. As a result, we should not be afraid to confront man with a possible significance for him to fulfill. Only in this way can we elicit his will to meaning from its condition of dormancy. I believe it is a terrible mental hygiene mistake to believe that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium…a tension-free condition. Man truly need trying and battling for a good purpose, a freely chosen activity, rather than a tension-free condition. He needs the call of a potential meaning waiting to be realized by him, not the release of stress at any cost…
If architects wish to reinforce a deteriorated arch, they increase the stress placed on it, since the sections are thus more securely connected together.”
Frankl’s theory may seem to be paradoxical or contradictory to your own experience.
Even if we’ve experienced the experience stated in the introduction, when unrestricted leisure resulted in an uncomfortable malaise rather than delight, we nevertheless want for a tension-free condition. We want to free ourselves from the shackles of obligations and return to Eden. Then, we believe, we would finally be content.
Certainly, such a blissful existence seems to be considerably better to our present situation. The weight of daily tasks seems to shatter our delight rather than give strength and enjoyment to our life.
Why would we want to add even more weight on our psyche’s arch?
How can Frankl claim that mental health is based on taking on more responsibility? Isn’t it more likely that stress is the source of anguish and sadness rather than the cure?
It all depends on what’s causing the stress.
“Worthwhile aims” and “freely selected” are the key terms in Frankl’s thesis.
The majority of our life’s difficulties and tensions do not fulfill any of these requirements. They include duties that come with being an adult, jobs imposed by supervisors, and activities that were formerly performed by paid workers but are now performed by consumers. “Shadow labor,” to put it another way.
Despite all of this seeming weight, a part of us remains unsettled. We don’t have a shortage of assignments, but we are short on significant ones. Since college, we haven’t set any objectives. We don’t feel the strain that arises from “the gap between what one is and what one should become” because the gap doesn’t exist — we stopped striving for anything other than paying our bills and ticking off our to-do lists at some point.
We assume we desire peace and relaxation – a life free of work and responsibilities – but what we truly want is meaningful work and interests. We’re not looking for a total absence of tension, but rather a new kind of it.
We need more of the correct type of stress, not less.
Taking up the Burden
There are two methods to cultivate a healthy level of tension in your life.
Set objectives and seek out more varied activities, particularly those that contrast with the causes of your non-strengthening stress. You want a meaningful activity if you perform a pointless career (or side hustle). If you’re tired of continually working in the digital sphere, you attempt to pick up a tactile talent. You push yourself to form stronger interactions in the flesh if you feel alienated by technology.
Regardless of his age, a guy should never stop establishing new objectives and striving to be a better version of himself.
Second, you might look for a bigger “why” in the jobs you’ve previously done. Many men already have obligations that may be beneficial to their mental health, but they’ve never given them a sense of purpose or have forgotten about them over time. As a result, despite the fact that it may provide them with purpose, they are continually seeking to be free of it.
For example, I’m not sure how happy Jon Stewart is now that he’s no longer the host of The Daily Show. His main reason for quitting was that he could no longer gather the necessary excitement to accomplish the work as effectively as he would have wanted. Is it true, however, that quitting the work has resulted in better happiness? Or did he start wishing he was back in the host’s chair, and back in his position as a cultural influencer, after a few weeks of blissful relief? If the latter, would it have been wiser to find a means to reclaim the job’s feeling of meaning and purpose instead of seeking relief from what had grown to seem like a burden?
I’m not sure what the answers are to those concerns, but the theoretical dynamic surely applies to all of us. We frequently wish to let go of a burden that, if we could figure out or rediscover a deeper “why,” may really be a source of strength for us.
The issue is usually not with the burden itself, but with how we’re carrying it.
Weight accumulates on its own.
“The more we do, the more we are able to accomplish; the busier we are, the more leisure we have.” William Hazlitt (William Hazlitt)
The irony of adding more work to your life’s arch is that in seeking to perform more meaningful work, you find yourself being even more productive than when you had less to accomplish. Despite the fact that you have less time, you do more.
We often believe that a more relaxed schedule will help us achieve our objectives. When we give ourselves extra time and space, however, we discover that we do even less than before! We have the whole day free, but we can’t seem to get started on anything.
We fall apart if there isn’t enough weight on the arch.
Things start to fall into place if you put enough weight on them.
Increasing the Arch’s Load
Increasing the load on your life’s arch does not always make you feel “good” – in the sense of pleasure, of the comfortable sensation of sipping a pia colada on the beach.
When you’re squatting 400 pounds and attempting to set a new personal best; when you’re running mile 25 of a marathon; when you’re halfway up a 20,000-foot mountain, it doesn’t feel “wonderful.”
It hurts when you express your affections for someone and get rejected; it hurts when you’re learning to play a musical instrument for the first time; it hurts when your business fails.
In the midst of a process, the load from a well-stressed arch doesn’t necessarily feel pleasant.
True happiness, on the other hand, is not dependent on fleeting emotions. True happiness is the pleasure you experience at the end of the day, year, or life when you reflect on the fact that you accomplished something. You put things to the test. You took a chance and put yourself out there. You had a purposeful life. You persisted in pursuing your objectives. You made a valuable contribution to the world.
True pleasure comes from looking back on your life and seeing that, despite the storms and failures, the arch still remains, supporting a huge building above it.
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