If you did not have to work for one day throughout 2018 at your job or as a parent, what would you do with your time? Assume you did not win the lottery or come across a huge sum of money, rather you magically have similar financial support as if you were to continue working. Assume an incredibly trustworthy person is selflessly helping with the children. Would you continue to work and if so, in the exact same capacity, for example, the same position, company or industry? -or would you try something new? Would you parent in the same way? Would you study an academic subject or a vocation? Would you volunteer for a charitable organisation? Would you pursue hobbies such as sewing, home-brewing or learning a musical instrument? Would you pursue fitness, sports or thrill-seeking activities? Would you give that seedling idea that you have been sowing in your mind a chance to become reality? As your read this, I imagine you are coming up with your own fascinating ideas for how you may spend your time.
If you find your answer is that you would continue in exactly the same way and that nothing would change, either you are quintessentially adept at making decisions in life that are attuned to your core desires or you may be reluctant to say that you are not 100% satisfied with who you are as a workplace figure or parent. If this is the case, I invite you to pay attention to this steadfastness and/or this reluctance. There may be a small chink in the metaphorical armour worth looking at. It may be that you have succumb to the roles you play in life instead of heeding your true passions.
Existentialism is the philosophy that people define their own meaning in life and do so by fully embracing existence, physiologically and emotionally. In this philosophy, the experience of life is paramount and people are viewed as having freedom and choice to make rational decisions to find the meaning of it. Some of the famous philosophers that developed and contributed to existentialism include Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir and Camus. To fully understand the intricacies and complexities of existentialism, you may wish to read further writings and publications by these and related philosophers and authors.
A person does not have to be a staunch existentialist to benefit from the core principles. From my perspective as a therapist, stopping to consider the meaning of life and recognising that we have control over it is very powerful and useful. Accepting that we are capable of making decisions that impact the quality of our own lives can ward off depression and help calm anxiety. Modern society makes it tricky to live a life immaculately consistent with the formal ideas of existentialism. However, we can still heed some of the key concepts and ask ourselves some higher-level questions about why we do what-we-do. We can question whether our rituals and roles are serving us appropriately.
When the daily grind of our routines and responsibilities are forefront and domineering, it can be really helpful to stop and reconnect with our individual reasons for existing. There may be an opportunity to reorient, walk along an alternative path of life or experience something refreshingly different when we question automated tasks and society-driven responsibilities. Existentially-guided ways of life manifest in unique ways for different people. Some people think that their daily run and the way they feel during it, in their body and through their senses of sight and smell is enough to give it meaning. Other people think that the experience of walking, hiking or climbing in the mountains is life's mojo. Some people think it is important to erect healthy boundaries at work so that they can reserve time and energy to pursue their hobbies and pastimes. Some people find solace in and relish the feeling of deep breathing and notice how the oxygen feeds the mind and relaxes the body.
For 2018 - or any year - I invite you to think about your life from an existentialist angle. While we may not be able to quit our jobs to engage in our favourite activities solely, we may be able to permit ourselves to break away more frequently to pursue our personal interests. Alternatively, we may also decide to shake-life-up a bit by changing our careers, parenting conventions, how or where we live, friendship dynamics or leisure activities. We may question how much money we actually need to maximise the satisfaction we feel and the meaning we make in our lives. For example, working very long hours may get us results and nods of approval at work, but do we enjoy our lives and how we feel in our bodies when we work this way? -or are we wearing ourselves down for a unidimensional and ultimately boring existence? When we focus on why we are living we empower ourselves to achieve and experience what we think is really important and end up feeling more satisfied. We also inject vitality into our lives and our souls. Happy Existential New Year to All.
Blogging about mental health issues for personal and professional development. All material is authored by Cori Lambert unless explicitly stated otherwise. Authentic Consulting and Counselling is located in West Perth, Greater Perth Area.