If I were to ask you what motivates you to get up in the morning, would you have some specific answers for me? Would you list your job, your family, some particularly enjoyable activity or a goal you are working toward?
Frequently, my patients tell me they have no reason to get up in the morning. They have no hobbies or interests and sometimes even have no job to get to. Not only does this make me sad, but a lack of interests and goals can spell trouble for life satisfaction and happiness.
Sometimes, the lack of interests and goals is the result of an underlying psychiatric illness like depression or schizophrenia, both of which have this as a symptom. However, other times the lack of motivation does not seem to be the result of any major mental illness. Interests have just never been developed.
While a lack of interests and goals is not the only cause of dissatisfaction in life, I have yet to meet a happy person who has no interests or goals.
Interests can involve anything you find enjoyable or intriguing. This might be your work or a hobby such as a craft or sport, or it might be politics or religion. Really, there are as many possibilities as there are people.
Most importantly, an interest should be something you look forward to throughout the day. A range of different interests to pursue during different seasons, alone and with other people, is best.
Hobbies don’t need to be expensive. A lack of money may certainly influence current activities or narrow the range of possibilities somewhat but is usually not an adequate explanation for a total lack of interests. There are thousands of things to learn and do that require little or no money.
Goals are also very important to achieving success and happiness and living a successful and satisfying life. Goals give us something to work toward and help to keep us motivated. Often, goals are entwined with our interests. For example, a person might have a goal to improve their competency at an enjoyable craft or sport.
Not only are they an important aspect of our hobbies and interests, goals are crucial to most areas of life. For example, many people have career goals, financial goals, family goals or even goals surrounding the next vacation.
When creating realistic goals for any area of life, it is important to decide what you would like the end result to be and then to think of the steps that are required to get there.
If your goal is to run a marathon, but you have not done any running in years, it is not realistic to expect that you will run a full marathon in one month. You will probably have to start with the basics. Run around the block and gradually increasing your endurance over time. You’ll be well on your way to achieving success and happiness.
In this case, your short term goals might be to run and walk for 20 minutes three times a week and your longer term goal could be that in six months you would like to be able to run 10 km.
The same principle applies to most things – you must set realistic steps along the way to reach goals. Of course not every goal will require months of preparation. The length of time and the number of steps depends on the desired end result.
So whatever you do for a living, to achieve success and happiness I encourage you to develop interests and set goals for a more fulfilling and rewarding life.
Dr. Latimer is president of Okanagan Clinical Trials and a Kelowna psychiatrist.