The Hollow Life: The Hidden Dangers of the Unfulfilled
The following is a guest post by Halley Bock. Her bio follows.
Right now, there are more active mobile devices than people in the world, and the growth of mobile devices is outpacing the human population by a factor of five. Even in economically depressed countries, approximately 89.4 mobile subscriptions exist for every one hundred inhabitants. No matter how you slice these numbers, it’s clear we have more capacity for connection than we’ve ever had, yet we are the most disconnected we have ever been.
Are You Disconnected?
By this, I mean we are disconnected from ourselves, our passions, our loved ones, and our lives. How many of us park ourselves in front of our computer and attempt to experience life through a machine? Attempt to create deep, meaningful connection through a DSL cable? Choose to stare into pixels instead of eyes? Share status updates instead of intimacy? We choose to plug into the binary code of a computer over the DNA of another person. Simply put, we have lost the skill to connect deeply with ourselves and others because we’ve turned the task over to technology, a task too big even for the best and brightest in Silicon Valley.
What is Enough?
In addition to being consumed by technology, we have simultaneously become swept up in the self-imposed, achievement-based, drone-producing norms of society. There exists more and more pressure to keep up though the bar never seems to stop rising. This is because we have lost the ability to define “enough” for ourselves. Instead, we cast it out for others to determine and invariably fall short with each well-intended effort, because we’ve borrowed the masthead from someone else’s ship and have set sail on a course that has no destination.
We judge our worth by how many “friends” we have on social media, how many cars are parked in the garage, how many appointments fill up our Day-Timer, how many alerts are flashed upon our screen, how many flags we can capture in our reckless slalom through an impossible life. And when we find ourselves exhausted and unfulfilled—yet again—we point the finger at work-life balance or anything else close enough to be our unsuspecting scapegoat. That, or we pour caffeine and pharmaceuticals down our throats hoping they will prop us up as we embark on yet another reckless attempt in our pursuit of happiness.
When we careen through life this way, the prices we pay are weighty. Here are four of the costliest:
1) We are more susceptible to addiction.
When we’re unclear of what brings us joy we naturally look to external means to do the trick. We shop, we eat, we drink, we medicate, we gamble, we hang out online, and we do all of this at unsafe and unhealthy levels. We become as frantic and addicted as Skinner’s rats seeking another reward at the push of a pedal, instead of learning how to cultivate that sense of reward from within.
2) We become sick.
Our bodies experience a massive load of stress and anxiety when we are discontent and the repercussions of living with chronic stress are much more dire than the occasional sleepless night. Some of the health issues attributed to stress are depression, heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, auto-immune disease, and premature death. If that last one didn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will.
3) We are lonely.
Because we’ve become untethered from our sense of self, thereby resulting in anemic levels of self-worth, we retract from society and find we are only able to engage on a surface level. When we deny ourselves, we build a wall between ourselves and intimacy. So instead, we hold up a mask and play the part, but deep down we crave the kind of depth of relationship that only truth and vulnerability allow.
4) Finally, we live in a constant state of regret.
In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, palliative nurse Bronnie Ware recorded the epiphanies of the dying. At the top of the list was the wish to have lived a life true to oneself instead of what others had expected of them. She explains,
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”
Unfortunately, many of us have become the walking dead, already steeped and committed to a lifetime of regret.
Time To Change Course?
The good news is that this condition is reversible. Each day presents the opportunity to make new choices. We can veer off the societal path of mainstream and into the wilderness of our own mind, body, and soul where pursuing one’s passion is not only acceptable, it’s mandatory.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving weekend, let’s be grateful but also look back and see what we have not yet accomplished. Get clear on what you are passionate about and the dreams that have yet gone unfulfilled then sketch out the next six months to a year and draw out a plan. Look at each week, each month, each quarter and determine what milestones need to be achieved in order to build a bridge from where you are to where you would ultimately like to be. Then, every day, take a step toward your goal.
The amount of self-worth you will begin to generate simply by taking action on behalf of yourself each day will pull the tides in your favor – allowing a deep sense of fulfillment to wash over you. And instead of becoming yet another tick mark in the column of the dying and unfulfilled, you can rest knowing that you lived fully right here, right now.
Halley Bock is the founder and CEO of Life, Incorporated–an organization that fosters mindful connection in all areas of life as the means to experience a wholehearted, fulfilling, and joyful life. More information about her January 2017 release Life, Incorporated: A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living can be found at http://halleybock.com/lifeincorporated/