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The Simplest Ways to Stay Enthusiastic in Life (Even When You Are Drowning in Work)

The Simplest Ways to Stay Enthusiastic in Life (Even When You Are Drowning in Work)

“What you need is an attitude of gratitude,” my boyfriend said.

I wanted to smack him.

It was 2002, and I was working like a dog to build up my art business, desperately trying to fill in the gaps left when my spousal support ran out. I was burning out quickly, and whenever my boyfriend was over at my apartment, I was pretty vocal that this was not the life I wanted to be living, which inevitably prompted him to chirp a reminder to have “an attitude of gratitude.”

It was infuriating, and no less so because he was right. Or partly right. Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to help stay enthusiastic in life when you’re drowning in work, but it’s not the only one.

A dozen years later, I’m now living a life I truly love, but sometimes I still find myself overcommitted. Here are 13 tips I’ve learned in the past decade-plus that really help me stay enthusiastic in life, even when I’m crazy busy.

1. Act enthusiastic

Back in the early 1900s, there was a major league baseball player named Frank Bettger, who was demoted to the minors (the story goes) because his manager thought he lacked enthusiasm.

Instead of lamenting his bad luck, Bettger took his manager’s note to heart and determined to establish a reputation as one of the most enthusiastic ball players in the league, even if he had to fake it. People began to take notice, and before long Bettger landed a position with a better team, shout-outs in the papers and a dramatic increase in his income, too.

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It’s worth noting that Bettger’s playing hadn’t improved; it was simply the power of his enthusiasm that led to his change of fortune.

Bettger’s baseball career only lasted a few years, but he went on to become one of the most successful salesmen of his day, and a best-selling self-help author. “Force yourself to act enthusiastic, and you’ll become more enthusiastic,” was his number one rule. He challenged people to try this for just 30 days, because this one change could easily revolutionize your life.

2. Take 15 minutes a day to do something you love

I used to complain regularly that I “never had time” to pursue my passions, until I heard an artist I admired say, “If you can’t put fifteen minutes into doing what you love, you’re making an excuse.”

I’d been nailed. That very day I determined to paint for at least 15 minutes every day for the next month. I was astonished at how my enthusiasm for life soared, just from 15 minutes a day of doing something I loved.

Try this yourself. Make a list of everything you love to do. What’s calling to you right now?

No matter how busy you are, take 15 minutes to do something that gives you joy, and watch your enthusiasm return.

3. Get enough sleep

There’s a prevalent notion in our “go-go-go” culture that sleep is for wimps. “You can sleep when you’re dead,” goes a popular saying.

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In fact, chronic sleep loss not only drains energy and enthusiasm, but can contribute to serious health problems. Learning and memory, metabolism and weight, cardiovascular health, and immune function all suffer when you don’t get enough sleep, and so does mood.

Getting enough sleep can be so hard, but making it a priority makes everything in life go so much better!

4. Feed yourself well

The typical American diet is not just terrible for the heart, bones, and belly. Big spikes and drops in blood sugar levels also wreak havoc with the way the brain uses energy. When your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, it affects brain chemistry, which impacts mood, memory, and cognitive function.

Shifting to a plant-based, low-glycemic diet actually changes how the brain functions, which can boost your mood, help you deal with stress, and make it easier to stay enthusiastic.

5. Move your body

Face it, we were not designed to sit eight (or more!) hours a day. Our bodies are made for movement. Exercise is not just essential to keep obesity at bay and keep our muscles, hearts and bones healthy; research has shown that it’s a powerful mood booster.

In his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. John Sarno shares study after study that demonstrate the power of exercise to improve thought processes, attention, and creativity, and even eliminate depression more effectively than prescription drugs!

When you’re feeling unenthusiastic, you may want to head for the couch, but instead of lying around in the dumps, go do something that will make you sweat. Take a walk, swim, dance, go throw a football around with a friend. Anything that gets your body doing what it was made for (i.e., moving!) will make it easier for you to find your enthusiasm again.

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6. Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is the practice of noticing what you’re feeling, remembering that you’re human (and therefore fallible, just like everyone else on the planet), and treating yourself with the same kindness you’d give to a beloved friend. Unfortunately, few of us have been trained to respond to ourselves in this way. Much more often our response is to beat ourselves up when we stumble, but research has shown (and your own experience may echo) that self-flagellation is counterproductive.

If you practice responding to yourself with self-compassion rather than aggression, you’ll discover it’s a much more pleasant way to live, and when life is better, it’s so much easier to stay enthusiastic.

7. Meditate

Meditation (or any kind of mindfulness training) affects the brain in powerfully positive ways. In fact, studies have shown that mindfulness training actually increases grey matter in brain regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and perspective taking — all important for keeping your enthusiasm up!

Even just 10 minutes a day can spur these kinds of positive changes, and because meditation is the practice of continually — and self-compassionately — redirecting your attention (and redirecting your attention, and redirecting your attention … ) when you notice it becoming absorbed in thought, it’s the perfect way to strengthen your self-compassion muscles, too!

8. Flex your “what’s going well” muscle

Human beings seem to be wired to focus on what’s not going well. It’s important to notice this, of course, so we can make adjustments, but it’s equally important to notice what’s going well.

Yes, I wanted to smack my boyfriend whenever he preached “attitude of gratitude” at me, but he was right: the more attention you put on what’s going well in your life right now, the better life goes, and the easier it is to stay enthusiastic. Instead of focusing on all the things you wish were different, write down everything you can think of that you’re grateful for, and make a practice every day of noticing what’s going well.

9. Clear out clutter

It’s hard to be enthusiastic when you’re weighted down with stuff cluttering up your space. You can’t find things (where did that overdue cable bill go?), you’re ashamed to have people over, and it’s hard to even think!

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If clutter is a big problem for you, it may feel overwhelming and impossible to start. Just pick one small area where you’ll really notice a change, and you’ll be amazed at the fresh supply of energy and enthusiasm (and motivation to keep at the clutterbusting!) that will be your reward.

10. Spend time with enthusiastic people

Enthusiasm is contagious. Since your time and energy is limited, pay attention to how you feel after spending time with people in your life, and seek out those who fill you up, energize and inspire you.

11. Avoid energy drains

Negativity is also contagious. If you notice certain people or relationships causing you to feel drained, depressed, or badly about yourself, stay away from them!

12. Learn to say no

Notice where your time is going. Write down everything that takes up time in your life, and ask yourself who you are doing it for. Is it nourishing you, or are you acting out of a sense of false guilt or martyrdom? The happiest, most enthusiastic people I know are those who have learned to be ruthless with their time and energy, and to say no to things — and people — who suck them dry.

13. Practice spontaneous acts of kindness (but not sacrifice)

Have you ever noticed how good it feels to say or do something kind for someone else? Performing random, spontaneous acts of kindness — even just a kind word or a genuine smile — has been shown to boost self-image, lead us to perceive others more compassionately, promote a greater sense of connection with others, and feel grateful for our own good fortune. All of these things make us happier, and when we’re happier, it’s easy to be more enthusiastic.

Be careful, however, not to get sucked into acts of kindness out of a sense of obligation. Acts of kindness must be offered spontaneously — not as an act of martyrdom — in order to have a positive effect.

Each of these tips has helped me keep my own enthusiasm up. Let us know if you have any to add!

Featured photo credit: Peter Conlan via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

More Tips About Making Influence

Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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