Last week, the only thing I could think to make for dinner was tacos.
Seriously, in this vast world of culinary opportunities, I had nothing. Not a single idea. Nothing inspired me or sounded good.
Everything seemed exhausting and hard and boring. Blah. And, I just didn’t have the bandwidth to come up with anything else except tacos. Again. We eat them. All. The. Time.
We have a partnership here. Everybody pitches in, so I have a lot of support with the dishes and shopping and laundry, but cooking is on me. And last week, the pressure of coming up with another meal on another day just felt like too much. I was plumb out of ideas, bored by all of them. It was a little thing, sure, but it illustrates how I was feeling about work and quarantine and the daily routine. I was drained, exhausted, and worn.
This isn’t a new feeling. Been stuck before. Will be again. Even wrote a book about how to recharge and get unstuck in early pandemic season. I live by the principles, knowing that the energy of life ebbs and flows. It doesn’t have to be scary or lead to sickness or upset. When we recognize that fatigue, those feelings of burnout that come from doing so much for so long and holding so much stress, we can cope and move beyond them.
Get Curious to Get Going
Instead of making tacos–again–I put one of my favorite recharge practices in place that day and did the easiest thing I could do in that moment. I got curious.
Curiosity allows us to engage with the moments of our lives, to invite novelty in. It moves us to a place of participation and experience, and in the process, research shows curious people tend to be happier, more, empathetic, healthier.
But here’s the big thing for me: Curiosity inspires learning. Motivates us to look at the old, mundane routines in new ways. And new perspectives are energizing.
Wanting to know more about something pushes us toward that rabbit hole of associations and ideas. New people and places. Growth. And the discovery of things that are helpful, funny, surprising, or unexpected.
So how, when we are seated firmly on the couch tired and complaining, can we invoke this curious feeling and use it to inspire our lives?
Start with a question.
And if you aren’t sincerely interested in, say, what to make for dinner—again—fake it.
To solve the “what-can-I-make-for-dinner problem,” for example, I decided to surround myself with some inspiration and I pulled down my mother-in-law’s old cookbook. Yes, like any good cookbook, it was filled with recipe ideas. But it was filled with a lot more.
She had written notes, in her diligent cursive, adapting recipes to her boys’ tastes. There were recipes passed down from her mother. Insights into the family.
I cooked Spanish rice. But the conversations at the dinner table with my husband and daughter that night were more important than any food. My husband told stories, shared things I’d never heard before. The tales were fascinating and fun and added novelty and intrigue to our regular dinnertime ritual.
My husband, who I’ve been with for nearly 20 years, and I had new things to talk about. We learned about each other. And it deepened our connection. Research shows curiosity, aside from boosting happiness and health, also builds empathy and enhances relationships. I felt it that night.
Take time to question your ideas, to wonder about your feelings and experience, to challenge the familiar. And ask about others too and then listen well to their answers. That curiosity will help you connect in a new way and lead you out of that stuck place.
Four Ways to Ignite Your Curiosity
There are many ways to ignite curiosity. Here are a few you can use to get unstuck.
Add something fun to the dullest job. First, you have to get curious about what that would be, right? When I had a series of business reports to write, I left my ukulele on my desk. And after each page I completed, I’d strum the uke for a few minutes. I didn’t get good, but I did get curious about playing a tune and that prompted me to learn a short song, which I could play by the end of the day. This was satisfying and fun and eased my stress by making it easier to work through the reports.
Mix it up. I’m a fan of writing and true crime podcasts, but yesterday I listened to one about music, and another about pop culture. Which spurred another project idea and had me totally engaged. Often, we become stuck because we become so familiar with our own lives. Our work, our routines, our houses, and our relationships. We tend to overlook their nuances, this leaves us feeling dull and burned out.
Recharge by doing the same old things differently. I love to read mystery books, but I recently popped an interesting memoir into my reading list and it sparked a whole new line of thinking. I write nonfiction but have also started sketching just a few minutes a day. I won’t show anyone my art, but that’s not the point.
It was something I’d never done and wanted to learn. That’s a good question to ask yourself when you are stymied. “What is something I’ve always wanted to learn to do?”
Then take a step toward that thing.
When I asked myself that question I realized I wanted to be able to draw simple sketches to accompany my journal entries. I was surprised by that realization. Immediately watched a beginning drawers video on YouTube, and got sucked into something fun and new.
Our energy and physical and emotional resources are going to fluctuate throughout our lives, but we don’t have to stay stuck in the doldrums. By nurturing our curiosity, by deliberately calling on this quality, we also build greater resilience. Curiosity motivates us to learn, adapt, explore new ways of living, coping, surviving, thriving.
This means, we can all recharge, we can overcome burnout and manage our stress and feeling inspired and engaged again no matter what we face in life.
Curious about how you can do it in your own life? Well, then, that’s a start.