You started out optimistic and full of life, but now your heart isn’t in it anymore. What do you do when you feel exhausted by what you used to love?
It’s been a fairly reflective season for most people lately. I guess December does that to you. I mean, it’s already the end of the year! Christmas is but a few weeks away, and 2016 is on the horizon. Everyone seems to be being that little bit more introspective about their lives. Along these lines, I was talking with a friend earlier today about some feelings he’s been having about something he has been involved with for quite a number of years. It’s something he started out absolutely loving, but is now starting to question how much longer he should continue down this path.
Can you relate?
I’ve talked to hundreds of people before about this very phenomenon. Either it’s been where I have felt this way about a situation or commitment in my life, or where others have felt this way about situations in their lives.
You know how the story goes. This is an opportunity you have dreamed about. Perhaps it’s something that’s been a goal of yours for your entire life. Maybe it was something you had a sincere sense of calling and purpose and drive about. It could have been something several people encouraged you towards.
But as life has gone on, you now find yourself at a crossroads where you have this thing in your life you used to love, and now you don’t seem to feel the same way as you used to.
What do you do when your heart isn’t in it anymore?
The signs of change… maybe
The most common approach, and the big question we face when our feelings shift in this direction, is whether or not this is something I should continue doing. I’ve been involved in this job for X years, I’ve been studying this course for a few months, I’ve been with this girl or this guy for 3 years, I volunteer in this capacity doing such and such. Now I’ve started feeling disconnected from this task or this person. Maybe that means it’s time for a change of scenery.
And this is a very valid train of thought. There are often seasons in our lives that begin, and there are those that come to an end. Seedtime and harvest, from now until forevermore. A time for building up, and a time for tearing down.
But I think we need to be a bit more intentional and a bit more structured in our approach to this sensation in our lives. Because while there are many times where this is the right move, I have seen many change course from what they were doing only to still find themselves tired, dissatisfied, and still feeling like their zest for life is flat.
There’s more to this feeling than meets the eye. Let’s make sure we give proper consideration to all the factors in play here.
The deception of the heart
The first is that feelings are often an unreliable indicator of where I’m at. A place I’ve seen this often in my life is going through personal seasons of loneliness or uncertainty. In my heart I feel and “just know” that I am cut off and alone. However, this isn’t even the case at all, and I am surrounded by dozens of people – friends, family, co-workers, pastors – all of whom have a vested interest in my life, and if I ask them, they would drop everything to be there for me. So which is it that was correct in this situation? My sense of loneliness, or the reality of my friends?
Or how about the notion of falling in love? Whether it be with a person or occupation, we can often experience a moment where we decide wow hey, this is something I can’t imagine not being in my life. And so, you commit to the job, or you commit to the person, you get married, you become the CEO, and all of a sudden, reality strikes. She’s not actually that great in how she talks to you, he actually has no idea what you’re saying half the time and doesn’t seem to show understanding, this company is constantly beset by hardships and I’m always needing to make tough decisions. The fluffy feelings are what we call the “infatuation” period, which can be induced again by considering greener pastures elsewhere. We fall in love with the idea of someone else while committed to a loving husband or wife, because they have what we feel we’re missing. We long for the ideals of another company’s top spot, only to neglect that exactly the same pressures and challenges will exist in a new location, too.
Our feelings can be so fleeting, and often inaccurate. I can feel great about myself one minute, and hate myself the next. If I used my feelings as my source of truth, I would be wanting to build a statue in my own honour, and then the next minute wanting to neck myself. I need something stronger. I need something more.
King Solomon wrote that the heart is deceptive above all things. How true this is.
But what gives with the feelings then? A few things to consider.
Do I have a flat tyre?
An honest question to ask ourselves – am I running on a flat tyre? Is there a whole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza? Should I fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry?
I think the sense that our heart isn’t in it anymore arises because we’ve left things unaddressed for too long. Like when you’ve been driving and run over a nail – slowly slowly, the air starts to deflate. Little by little, steering becomes more challenging. Acceleration starts to slow down. Your movement is more weighted towards the troubled wheel. Continuing to drive on a flat tyre can lead to an explosion on the road, and seriously derail the car, hurting the passengers on board, as well as potentially anyone else around the car at the time.
Perhaps it’s time to stop the car and do a spot check. Changing a tyre doesn’t actually take too long, but neglecting the “flat tyres” in our lives can come at a much larger cost further down the road.
If you’re starting to feel this way, or have been feeling this way for a while, check your heart. Is there resentment or hurt? Is there distraction or a feeling of being ignored or looked over? Is there a dream that has been too long neglected in your life? Are their giftings that are tired of waiting their turn to be used? Did I get hurt trying to live out my calling? Is it disappointment that keeps me awake at night?
I think the street term for this one is “check yo self before you wreck yo self”. Astute thought.
Will you have this problem somewhere else?
I had a few friends this year in longer term relationships, male and female, different ages and relationship situations, starting to question whether or not this relationship was the right one for them earlier this year. All of them believed this person they were dating/married to was great, had all the qualities they looked for in a spouse and a father or mother, but they were just feeling like they couldn’t go any further inside of themselves. A simple question helped bring lots of clarity.
The feelings and questions you’re wrestling with now – would they change if you ended up with someone else?
I’ve seen this happen in many volunteer and work related situations also – we encounter challenges or a lack of drive induced by problems or difficulties, but we fail to recognize that perhaps these issues are going to follow us wherever we go.
This is the realm where we have to be brave and look at ourselves and ask – is there an insecurity, a lack of communication, a misunderstanding of expectation, or an uncertainty in how I’m supposed to feel in this situation? Will I encounter this situation again somewhere else because the issues are actually internal?
Who am I and what should I be doing?
Ultimately, everything we do comes back to two things – who am I, and what is my purpose in this world?
One of the main reasons why our heart stop being in things is because we’ve neglected or lost sight of who we are, and of what we’re called to do. We become dissatisfied by our empty forward motion, and cry out for the reason why.
If you’re not sure, it’s time to ask and find out. And really, find out. Life’s too short for us to still be trying to tick boxes and make decisions without a sense of identity. Why waste time with idle activity when we could take a little bit of time out to really get the big questions answered in our lives? It seems like we’d rather spend our lives in empty activity avoiding the question of “Who Am I?” than we would to take the few hours it takes to really make some solid progress in discovering or remembering the answers.
Your identity is so important. Don’t lose it in your pursuits in life.
And hey… have you prayed about it? Really? Often the most overlooked tool in our arsenal is the one that brings all the clarity our hearts have been crying out for.
Doing it with your whole heart
So, back to the original question we wonder when we’re in this situation – should I change course if my heart isn’t in it anymore? The answer is…
I don’t know.
I don’t actually. It’s gonna depend on your own case. I just think the above considerations can help us form wiser decisions about what we decide to do. We should never rush the big decisions. If actually what has been causing these things has been one of the above considerations, well then great, maybe that’s something I need to look at addressing before the next step. But if I’ve sorted those things out, maybe my next step is more clear to make a decision about.
And I think that’s important to recognize as well – it’s ultimately down to a decision. Scripture instructs us that in whatever we do, to do it with all our heart. This means I have a choice in what I put my heart into.
TD Jakes spoke a message about commitment last year, stating that many of us never truly see the fulfillment of things in our lives because we lose heart and never fully give ourselves to anything. Obviously, the decision is ours about what we continue to give our heart to. John Burns talks about the iconic Foo Fighters song, asking “is someone or something getting the best of you? Are you giving your all to what you commit to?”
Food for thought.
If you followed this one through hoping for a concrete “yes” or “no” in what to do about the things you’ve lost heart in, sorry if you haven’t found one. But I think in the big decisions it’s important that we make them for the right reasons.
And one situation I would say is different to the others is if you’re married to someone. The lifelong vows of marriage I don’t think can ever be justified being broken because of a change in feeling. I don’t want to belittle the reality or the pain of situations like that, but these are commitments we need to followthrough. Things like jobs or volunteer positions have much less severity if we change course there.
But hey, that’s just the experiences of one guy. How about you? What do you think you should do when your heart isn’t in it anymore?