Five Reasons Your Life Feels Shallow (And What You Can Do About It)
This concept doesn’t only apply to information, but also to the way we relate to ourselves and others. If we want to have a deep and meaningful relationship with someone, it must go beyond text messages. The convenience of our modern world is useful and can also be addictive. We no longer have to put in the extra effort it takes to create a deeper bond with people, or understand a topic more deeply, or create something artistic or useful. We can get away with just getting quick fixes of social interactions or information or creativity.
5 Reasons You Feel Shallow
- You are not exposed to new ideas. Because there are so many options to obtain information, we often choose the one we agree with the most. We choose TV shows, and news channels, and games that we like, and we don’t have to deal with what we don’t like or what we disagree with. Social media does this for us automatically. It tracks what we like behind the scenes and gives us more information that supports what we already know and believe.
- You don’t examine things deeply enough. Instead of reading a 400 page book about a topic, we read 1000 word blog posts. We may read 10 or even 100 of these short articles about the topic over the months and years. But that is not the same as knowing it deeply. We end up being exposed to the bullet point outline of a topic without really knowing all that much about the subject. We only know the talking points. Most of us want more, whether we know it or not. It takes more energy to read a book, but it is also more rewarding. And in the same amount of time we spend reading hundreds of tweets or Facebook posts, we could digest a few chunks of really in-depth information that would make us feel nourished. It’s like eating vegetables vs eating potato chips. When we snack on information we don’t really tend to feel as nourished by it.
- We lack discipline, so we lack fulfillment. The most gratifying things in life require us to work hard. This may seem obvious but it is often overlooked. When you work really hard at something, it feels really satisfying. By challenging ourselves, we become stronger. An easy example is physical fitness. When we work out, it takes energy and we have to face some discomfort, but in the end we feel stronger and healthier. The same is true for activities like mindfulness, relationships, or studying new information. You get out of life what you put into it, so discipline is your friend.
- Being entertained or being of service. Many of us would like to make a difference in the world. We would like to have a meaningful life in which we are doing something that is having an impact. But even if you are clear about this, it is easy to spend lots of time on entertainment. Many of us are into movies, video games, drinking and eating good food. And there is nothing wrong with these things, but after a while if that’s your main focus it begins to lose its luster. When you spend all of your free time on entertainment, life starts to feel meaningless pretty quickly. If you want to feel really great about yourself, do something useful to help the world or to help people. Create something.
- There’s too much clutter. If you really want to be inspired, you have to spend time with nothing going on. There is an entire landscape that goes on inside of you. Carl Jung, one of the great psychological thinkers, said that our inner world is as vast and expansive as the outer world. But most of us don’t explore our inner world. How you feel about your life and what you do with it depend on that inner world, whether you are aware of it or not. Even if you don’t do any major personal growth work, it is important to have time to not do anything but hang out and think about things. Or even better yet, not think about anything at all. It is in the space between our thoughts and activities that we find inspiration.
Shifting the Pattern
- Pay attention to how you are using your time. If you are spending a ton of time on entertainment or areas of your life that are not doing anything to get you what you really want, work on reducing those activities. This will free you up to dedicate that time to activities that will create more depth in your life.
- Favor depth of information over shallow information. Limit social media time and time browsing headlines, and use that time to go into things more deeply. Read articles about topics that are longer than 5000 words and notice what it feels like after reading something like this. Compare this to the way you feel after browsing Facebook for an hour.
- Practice deeper connection with people. Your intimate relationships and friendships can be a great place to start. Other options include various therapy or process groups. Look for ways to engage more deeply with your community. When you view relationships as something you can practice and develop, you will start to open up a whole new way of relating.
- Leave yourself some unstructured time. Spend some time each day doing nothing. Give yourself time to think, by going for a walk, or relaxing without the TV or internet on. If you leave space for it, depth will find you. But it requires slowing down and unplugging from our distractions and responsibility. Better yet, practice mindfulness to really give yourself some focused attention and see what you discover.
- Counseling is another great way to really be challenged in your life. Usually the areas where we are most blocked are invisible to us. In order to really transform and realize our potential, we need to have guides that can help us see past our hangups and challenge us to face what is most difficult in ourselves. This is the ultimate way to create more meaning in your life—by facing the stuck places that keep you feeling shallow. Therapy is helpful to nearly everyone, not just those who have a “problem” of some kind.
There are of course many other ways to go deeper in your life. To live a rich life that is full of meaning, you have to be challenged and working toward actualizing your potential. The tips I have offered here are just a start. I hope you find the path that leads you to an extraordinary life. Feel free to write about your experiences with finding depth in the comments section of this blog!