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Last Updated on September 12, 2018

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 March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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