Week 5: VIA Strength of Zest, Enthusiasm and Energy
At exactly what point in our “growing up” did celebrating birthdays and jumping in puddles become something to lie about and avoid? “The Pirate” turned seven recently, and their blissful energy and enthusiasm was contagious. An enormous amount of exuberance built up to the birthday breakfast with grandparents and a Saturday evening pizza-making party with friends. Much consideration was given to the cake’s icing colors and pizza toppings to be offered at the celebration. There were no expectations about how the party would go, just shear excitement that it would happen.
The anticipation of the event brought as much joy as the actual party. Who knew! Well, actually, the social scientists. There is a fair amount of research to back up the anticipation of an experience bringing a lot more happiness and well-being to our personal world than physical stuff. Lots of marketing strategies try to convince us that buying a new gadget or device will make our lives so much better. They tap into our anticipation vibe and make the build up to getting that new thing its own experience. Yeah, advertising’s mind control works, and we end up with a bunch of stuff to sell on Facebook Marketplace as a result.
Here’s the tricky part; we can find ways to ride the anticipation wave related to experiences when we let go of expecting a particular outcome from it. It is also crucial to understand when anticipation is all-consuming and destructive to our daily functioning, instead of enhancing our overall well-being. Throughout life, social norms and our environment often push away the positive, creative possibilities found through the use of our imagination. Our joie de vivre is damped down. No space for fun and glee. We also find ourselves tuning out a lot of information, and only cue in on the parts that support our current narrative. Engaging our brains to think critically and feel what we are doing, being and perceiving in each moment opens up our ability to have enthusiasm and zest in all we do.
That same birthday week, while running in the rain with an inner dialogue of grumbles rolling through my brain, I noticed I was avoiding the puddles. A reprimanding voice in my head saying “You’ll get your shoes wet! You’ll ruin them!”. At a certain point in the run, “The Pirate’s” high, squeaky voice chirped, “It’s fun to splash in the puddles, Mommy!!” I followed that carefree thought, and decided to splish and splash in every puddle along my route. Shoes dry out, and let’s be real, they were already wet since I was running in the RAIN!
From a very young age, we carry the strength of zest, enthusiasm and energy within us right alongside worry, concern and fear. “The Pirate” struggles with big emotions and thoughts on a daily basis, and we work to create a supportive environment for them to build the imagination muscle that lifts up positivity even when things are hard. In planning the party, I easily could have picked the cake, ice cream, decorations and food, selected the guests and planned the experience. However, in an effort to share the power and control over the situation, I put aside my need to check the party planning off My List and went at “The Pirate’s” pace. There were lots of modifications to the plan over the few weeks leading up to their birthday. At first, this was slightly annoying to me, but as the days passed, “The Pirate’s” birthday party planning discussions became something I enjoyed.
This is significantly different from “The Pirate’s” sixth birthday, when I was all-consumed by work. In fact, I barely remembered how we spent the day. My brain inserted memories from their fifth birthday in place of last year’s actual celebration. It is frightening how we become consumed with a negative narrative and destructive feelings that cause us to miss the meaningful moments with those we love. And, if those destructive thoughts are keeping us from forming loving relationships with people, it is even more important to reclaim the power of our imagination to generate the positive energy that we grow from not the negativity we drown in.
Spend the time building up anticipation and enjoy the experiences in your life. Jump in the puddles. Make a splash that is just your size. Tell the truth about your age. Know who and what you love, and celebrate it with zest, enthusiasm and tons of vivacity!