There’s a scary thing about habits. They change.
We spend time building them, crafting them, practicing them, perfecting them — and then they fall to the wayside when we most need their support.
Habits. Fickle little creatures, they are.
Ask most people who know me and they’ll describe me as some combination of freakish determination and explosive curiosity. They’ll say I tell it how it is without skipping a beat and go off on tangents about what book I’m reading and how it change the world.
Maintaining that level of intensity and curiosity is exhilarating. But let’s be honest. It’s also exhausting.
Superheroes are fiction — aren’t they?
When I went down a startup rabbit hole a few months ago, all the habits I had worked hard at perfecting started whittling away one at a time. Instead of focusing on my lifestyle, I put all my energy into creating something amazing — a product to change the world. Bring that product to life meant employees, an office, meetings, clients, and more.
Problem Numero Uno = all of my superpowers started dropping like flies in a spraystorm of Raid.
First, the evening gym trip started being pushed back an hour or two as my hours in the office started getting longer. After a while, I started skipping the gym completely because I ended up way too hungry for dinner to even make it out the door. I love and need my exercise time, so this was a huge downer.
Second, putting my mind and body on work overdrive meant a need for more fuel with less time to gather it. Enter fast food nation. While I definitely try to stick to healthier foods wherever I go, a salad from a drive-thru is never going to be the same as a salad at home. I also defaulted to some tasty garbage along the way — just for lack of time.
Third, exhausted and spent after a grueling week at the office, my writing fell by the wayside. The only way I was able to keep up my blog posts was by writing during the weekends, but I drastically felt the difference in my mood and happiness levels. Writing fulfills me, and leaving it for the weekend meant I’m a sad camper from Monday to Friday. It’s my passion, so why leave it for last? Where’s the fun in that?
Mayday, mayday! Houston, we have a problem.
Yes, my work feels exhausting at times — but it’s also exhilarating. It’s grueling and whittling away my good habits, but I love it so much! What am I to do?!
What are we all to do when work (even when it’s valuable and fulfilling) starts driving away all the work we’ve put in to make ourselves happier.
Let’s say you’re already doing what you love. You like your job or your new venture, and you are just trying to get your mind and body around this new thing I’m calling exhilaraustion. (Go ahead and laugh. I make up words for fun.) You’re loving the work, but you don’t know how much more of this fast-pace, high-risk lifestyle you can take.
You can’t control everything, but everything seems to be controlling you. That was never the intention, right?
Let me rephrase that.
You can hack it, but you don’t want to have to hack it.
Instead of hacking it and going through each day with umpteen cups of coffee flowing rampant through your bloodstream, the goal is to enjoy the process. Put down that latte and pay close attention. Let’s solve this exhilaraustion riddle once and for all.
Welcome to my handy-dandy Exhilaraustion Matrix! (I went to business school for something, didn’t I?)
As you can see above, most of the activities we partake in can be categorized on by asking ourselves two questions:
1) Is this fun?
2) Is this making me some kind of money?
They give us these answers:
Chores: These are the things that aren’t fun at all and aren’t money-makers. Don’t think this is just limited to doing your laundry or taking care of your pets. The days I don’t feel like going to the gym, I force myself to go — but it feels like more of a chore than cleaning the toilet. The days I don’t feel like watching another golf tournament with my husband most definitely feels like a chore. No fun, no money? Choreville.
Jobs: There are boring things that make us money, but I won’t go into detail on that because, well, we all know what a job is, right? It’s within this quadrant we spend the majority of our waking hours. No fun, with some money? Job City.
Getting sad? Don’t be. I’m getting to the good stuff.
Hobbies: Finally, the fun stuff. Activities that are incredibly fun but don’t actually make us any cash are what we call hobbies. Tennis is a great exercise, and golfing is relaxing, but there’s nothing else in it except for the fun in the experience. I’ll take a good serve or a birdie over most client meetings, so yes, there is beauty in the hobby — but there’s something missing. Yes fun, no money? Hobby Town.
Joy: And then there’s the star, the end goal, the golden place —Joy. Joy isn’t golden because it’s fun, though. It’s golden because it’s sustainable. It’s golden because it’s something we can do continuously, maybe even forever, because it’s fulfilling and creates meaning in our lives while also generating resources (like money). Activities that make us joyful are worthwhile because they make us extremely happy at the same time as they provide the means to continue doing so for long periods of time — via cash or other resources.
(See? When I said I was getting to the good stuff, I meant it.)
The key is taking putting together the Jobs and Hobbies quadrants, which will lead to the glory, the gold, the Joy.
I’ve always been a fan of writing, barreling through various bookcases and a good number of journals in my early years, but I never gave my writing the credit or time it deserved. I didn’t think my words could make me any money, so I never tried — until I started writing a blog for free.
Guess what? Apparently, my words can grant me the resources to allow me to produce more and more words. I can write to fuel more writing — what a beautiful business model!
But what happens when the writing and the joyful work becomes too much? What if we start wasting our energies and feeling sucked dry of everything we’ve got?
If only I had started doing the work earlier because, well, there’s a lot of that word “work” involved. And working lots isn’t the same as working smart, which is what helped me solve the whole exhilaraustion problem. We’re almost there, but I’ll leave the good stuff for next time…
Stay tuned, badassery-seekers!