Get Excited

Practice of the Week
Get Excited

CATEGORY: SLOGANS TO LIVE BY: These are for everyone. Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by the maxims, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.

from Ancient Greek ἐνθουσιασμός (enthousiasmos),
from ἔνθεος (entheos, “possessed by a god”),
from ἐν (en, “in”) + θεός (theos, “god”).

Excitement is energy plus positive emotion, and it is part of joy, passion, and having fun. It may be mild -- but it still moves your needle. For example, on my personal 0-10 "thrillometer," seeing the stars on a clear night is about a 2 while the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series in 2010 was a 10.

When you consider excitement in this expanded way, what moves your own needle, even a little bit? How about the sound of bagpipes, a child's first steps, traveling someplace new, finishing a project that's gone well, dancing, laughing, finding something you've wanted on super-sale, or hearing a neat idea?

Of course it's hard, if not impossible, to feel excitement if you are ill or psychologically burdened. The inability to get excited is a sign that something's not right.

But under normal conditions, without excitement about something, life feels flat, bland, and inert. Passion helps ignite and sustain creativity, entrepreneurship, political action, and committed relationships. Getting excited about something together is bonding; shared enthusiasm makes a movie, concert, political rally, conversation, or lovemaking a lot more rewarding.

As you grew up, your natural liveliness may have been criticized, dampened, or squelched. In particular, passion is woven into both strong emotions and sex; if either of these has been shamed or numbed, so has excitement. Did any of this happen to you? If it did, then gradually making more room for passion in your life -- more room for delight, eagerness, and energy -- is a joyful way to express yourself more fully.


Find something that excites you, even just a bit. Feel the enjoyment in it. See if you can intensify the experience through a quick inhalation, a sense perhaps of energy ris¬ing in your body. Lift your chest and head, and let more aliveness come into your face. Register this feeling of excitement, and make room for it in your body. Then as you go through your day, notice what moves your own thrillometer, particularly in subtle ways. Look for things to get excited about!

Tell yourself that it's okay to get excited, thrilled, or aroused. Take a stand for a life that's got some juiciness in it. Reflect on your passions as a younger person: What's happened to them? Should you dust one of them off and recommit to it?

Pick a part of your life that's become static, perhaps stale -- such as cooking, a job, housework, repetitive parts of parenting, even sex—and really pursue ways to pep it up. Try new dishes, turn up the music, get goofy, dance with the baby, vary your routines, and so on.

Be aware of how you might be putting a damper on excitement, such as tightening your body, deadening your feelings, or murmuring thoughts like Don't stand out. . . Don't be "too much" for people... Don't be uncool. As you become more mindful of the wet blankets in your own mind, they'll dry out.

Consider some of the practices for raising energy from yoga, martial arts, or other forms of physical training. These include taking multiple deep breaths (not to the point of lightheadedness), sensing energy in the core of your body a few inches below the navel, jumping up and down a few times, making deep guttural sounds (don't try this at work!), or visualizing bright light.

Join with the excitement of others. Focus on something that lights up a friend or your partner, and look for things that could be fun, enlivening, or interesting about it for you. Don't fake anything, but nudge your own energy upwards; get more engaged with the other person's passion, which may ignite your own.

Don't rain on other people's parade—and don't let them rain on yours. Sure, if you're getting too revved up, read the social signals and either dial down your energy or take it elsewhere. But be aware that excitement makes some people uncomfortable—to keep their own passions bottled up, they put a lid on those of others—and honestly, that's their problem, not yours. With this sort of person, you may need to disengage, find others who share your interests, and walk to the beat of your own drummer.

For me, the essence of excitement is enthusiasm -- whose root meaning is quite profound: "moved by something extraordinary, even divine."

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