This is a resend of last week’s Life Adventure Notes. My apologies for the image corruption last week and I think we have the problem fixed. Please enjoy this issue now in its entirety.
It’s been a serious and severe winter in lots of the United States and Canada this year. I have a funny relationship to winter. I grew up in Maine and so expect to see winter weather every year even though I get disappointed a lot here in North Carolina.
I don’t like the cold – at all. But I really love snow. For me, it’s beautiful and it’s fun. I enjoy playing in it and I even like shoveling it. (Not that I want to deal with repeated 2 foot snowfalls like many of you have been…) This year in the mountains of North Carolina where I live there has been no snow, but I’m still hoping.
Despite the inconvenience and work involved with snow fall, it is one of the facts of life. When it snows enough (the amount depends on where you are) the world slows down and you can get time for reflection. That always make me remember that life is good.
Have you seen the tee shirts that say Life Is Good with the smiling stick figure guy on them? They never fail to make me smile. And I love the goal of that company which is to “spread optimism”. Wearing a shirt like that is a little example of having zest for life which is the topic of our main article this month. Zest is an approach to life that is the acting out of optimism.
Enjoy the article and let me know how you express zest in your life.
PS – Have you been to the Life Adventure website lately? The website has undergone a complete redesign in the past year and now there is a wealth of information on the site about approaching life as an adventure. I’m adding new blog posts every week as well so I hope you’ll find information that interests you!
A Zest For Life
For those who grew up in the 50s and 60s, you might remember the Zest soap commercials. In a green-tiled shower, a close up showed a gleefully grinning woman enthusiastically lathering up with Zest soap. Her excitement made me think that this kind of zest could carry one through the day, if not the week. Personally, I envied her as I washed with the plain Ivory soap my mother diligently purchased.
Cleanliness aside, zest is a character strength that makes life positive – for you as well as for others. Zest shows a keen enjoyment or gusto, a vitality, liveliness or animating energy. Zest is directly related to physical and psychological wellness. And this trait is contagious: when you are enthusiastic about something, often those who are with you become enthusiastic, too. The word zest comes from the French zeste which is the peel of citrus fruits used as flavoring. No wonder zest adds relish to and enhances the flavor of life.
Do you remember the last time you were full of zest, when you could barely contain your excitement and just had to share it with others? Perhaps it was a new job, a new home, or a new child or grandchild.
How did you feel, inside and out? Full of vigor and vitality, interested in exploring and learning and observing everything about the situation/person?
This vim and vigor is attractive to others. You know this: you, too, are drawn to those who have an excitement about their life adventure:
The ones who raise the level of energy in a room just by walking into it. They often have a smile and positive response to any salutation. They can’t spell “half-hearted”. You look forward to seeing and being with them. They make you feel more enthusiasm because of their own.
Positive psychologists say that zest is one of the five character strengths (as well as curiosity, gratitude, optimism, and the ability to love and be loved) that contributes most to a sense of overall life satisfaction, fulfillment and engagement. If you’re looking for a way to increase your happiness, add some zest to your life.
Social scientists state that “acting as if” is one way to increase your zest. You’ve all had days when you feel as though you can’t sit through another boring meeting. But “acting as if” you are excited to be there can actually help you to feel that excitement.
“Acting as if” is about believing in things that don’t currently exist and for which there may not be much evidence. When you choose to live with a strong faith in things not seen, not proven, and not guaranteed – and this is not solely connected with religious topics – you tap into the power of the possible and rise beyond the literal and predictable.
Wayne Dyer wrote a book entitled “You’ll See It When You Believe It”, a clever play on the prevalent mantra of “I’ll believe it when I see it”. Dyer maintains that by practicing the all-too-familiar refrain, you hold yourself back, limit what’s possible, and negate the power of your mind, imagination, and intention to create more positive outcomes.
But “acting as if” is more than attitude. The key word in the phrase is “acting,” and it is your physical behaviors – your actions – that signal your zest both to others and to yourself. Like any of the character strengths, you can build zest by practicing it. In fact, it’s one of the easiest strengths to build using the “act as if” method.
Kathy Delaney-Smith, Harvard women’s basketball coach, used “act as if” to lead her team to championship status. “Fake it ’til you make it,” she said. She also used it to overcome breast cancer. That’s the kind of power it has.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy stated, “Fake it until you become it.” In her TED talk, “How your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”, she shared research that shows how different body positions alter the chemistry that produces our mental attitudes. Then our attitudes shape the behaviors that produce our lives’ outcomes. By adopting what Cuddy calls a “power pose” for as little as two minutes, you generate an aura of “presence” which is “authentic, passionate, enthusiastic, captivating, comfortable, and confident.” In other words, presence is zest embodied. “Acting as if” by practicing the power poses that Cuddy demonstrates not only impacts how others see you us, but also changes how you see yourself.
Need more examples of zest? Observe toddlers, who live with zest every moment and show you how it looks, moves, thinks, and speaks. Toddlers are full of interest and curiosity about the world around them, and they trust that life is a great adventure, a place to play as often as possible, a setting to explore everything and make it fun in the process. Is there anything more animating than a toddler turning an empty toothpaste box into a telescope?
How can you increase your feeling of zest? Practice. Belt out a favorite song, contact an old friend and reminisce about adventures, watch a favorite sport, pursue a hobby, investigate an interest. Move and dance to a favorite song. Watch Matt Harding as he shares his zest for dance and people on this video (if your smile muscles can take it, watch both the 2006 and the 2012 versions!). I bet you can’t watch either without grinning.
Questions From Janet
How likely is it that others can see your zest for life?
In what areas of your life would you like to feel more zestful?
Where and in what ways are you willing to try “acting as if” you had zest?
I Love to Laugh from Mary Poppins Written by Robert and Richard ShermanUncle Albert: I love to laugh Loud and long and clear I love to laugh It’s getting worse ev’ry year The more I laugh The more I’m filled with glee And the more the glee The more I’m a merrier me It’s embarrassing! The more I’m a merrier me!Mary Poppins: Some people laugh through their noses Sounding something like this “Mmm…” dreadful! Some people laugh through their teeth goodness sake Hissing and fizzing like snakes “ssssssss” Not at all attractive to my way of thinking!Bert: Some laugh too fast Some only blast – “baaaaaah!” Others, they twitter like birds Then there’s the kind Who can’t make up their mind
Uncle Albert: When things strike me as funny I can’t hide it inside And squeak – as the squeakelers do I’ve got to let go with a ho-ho-ho… And a ha-ha-ha…too!
All: We love to laugh Loud and long and clear We love to laugh So ev’rybody can hear The more you laugh The more you fill with glee And the more the glee The more we’re a merrier we!
Be sure to watch the video here – especially if you do not know this movie!
Individual Coaching by Phone
Want to stop that feeling that life is passing you by?
Would you like to able to experience your life as an exciting series of adventures?
Would you like to feel more joy and achieve more success?
That is what I help my clients develop in their own lives. Working with a coach helps you overcome the challenges that can keep you from a successful life. Coaching gives you a companion on the journey; someone with whom to discuss events as they unfold and to help you move toward joy in the adventure. Developing clear goals, focusing intently and staying committed become possible.
If you aren’t sure and would like to explore whether coaching is right for you, please send an email to Janet@lifeadventurecoaching.com or call me at 828-691-4655 for a complimentary consultation.
Janet Slack is a professional coach and therapist living in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. From there, she maintains an office in Hendersonville for her local coaching and therapy clients and works by telephone with others from all over the United States and several foreign countries.