Z is for Zest

Well we’ve made it! We’ve reached the last letter of the alphabet. I didn’t think we’d take quite so long to get here, but we have. And I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve decided that Z will be for Zest for Life. As someone who wakes up smiley and full of energy each day, I thought it would be wasteful not to examine ‘zest’ in more detail. Looking at its dictionary definitions, zest is great enthusiasm and energy, eagerness, keen, passion, love as well as the outer coloured part of the peel for use in flavouring. Zest has been defined as one of the character strengths key to living a happy and fulfilling life. And I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that cultivating optimism is a sure way to being zestful, along with a good diet, sleep and exercise.

Talking of optimism, did you know that March is the month of optimism? I hope you did and that you’ve been setting yourself some great challenges for the rest of the year. I’m also hoping that this won’t stop on Saturday as I wouldn’t want you to wake up on Sunday morning feeling less optimistic!! Perhaps I have my parents to thank for bringing me into the world in March as I’m a great one for focusing on what is possible. In fact, I think I probably drive a few people around me a little mad with my upbeat and positive view on life. I don’t have that ‘glass half full’ mindset for the sake of it though as I’m aware that when I’m feeling optimistic it has a positive impact on me, for example:

  • I work with a purpose and commitment
  • I feel more energised
  • It enhances my resilience
  • I am much more productive
  • I have more interest in what is happening around me – I feel more engaged
  • My curiosity levels increase
  • I’m more fun to be around
  • My stressors seem to evaporate and I’m happier with life

When I looked at this list I thought, wow, what a positive set of characteristics and a real reason for cultivating optimism and being hopeful for what can be. It also set me wondering whether it was the same for everyone else? Having finished Martin Seligman’s book, Flourish, I now know, that with practise and replacing your limiting beliefs with updated ones, everyone can achieve these results plus some really positive health benefits too.

Of course there are times when we all get overwhelmed and perhaps don’t have the same drive to kick the duvet off in the morning. It probably happens to me twice a year but when I feel this way, music is a great way of buoying me up. I find my favourite songs on my playlist and turn the volume up loud and either dance around my office or go into my own happy world on the train. If I’m by myself, I may even sing along. It just gets the music flowing through my veins and helps me to focus on something entirely different. I shared this technique with my brother a few months ago when we were both rushing out of the door to work and he wasn’t feeling in the best frame of mind. Although he gave me a look of scepticism as he pulled out of the driveway, I was delighted to receive his phone call 40 minutes later to say that he’d sang at the top of his voice all the way to work and was feeling set up for the day! You probably have something in your life that makes you smile, or even laugh out loud. The best thing to do is to bring it into your daily routine so that you can turn it into a really positive and uplifting habit.

Another technique I use to cultivate my optimism is to find the silver lining in everything I do, especially if the job is mundane. Shredding is a boring and thankless task, but I now use that time to break up my day and help me clear some of the mind fog. Not only does it get rid of the pile of paper, but it also gives my ‘thinking’ brain a rest and I come back to my tasks refreshed and ready to start with renewed energy. At home ironing may feel like a bit of a drag if I’ve got a list as long as my arm of other things to achieve, but I love having a stack of clothes neatly folded in the airing cupboard and space on my dining room table to invite friends around for dinner! I also use the opposite tack if I’m trying to break a bad habit and will concentrate on all the negative things associated with it. In the process I will blow those aspects out of proportion so that it makes me want to change the habit. I’m currently using this technique with my love for chocolate!!!

When you have a zest for life, you throw yourself into it whole heartedly. I can remember times in the past when I haven’t done this as I’ve been too worried about making a fool of myself in front of others. I suppose when I first started out on my own, I felt that I had to demonstrate that I knew my stuff and spouted about this model and that. However, I now realise that people don’t need to be caught up in all the theory and it’s more about the results we achieve together. When I started reading Carol Dweck’s work about fixed and growth mindsets, I became concerned that I was starting to cultivate a fixed mindset, so in the last few years I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to take myself less seriously. This doesn’t mean to say that I don’t take my work seriously. I absolutely love what I do and can’t imagine following a different line of work. However I am a great believer that if I’m not having fun, no-one else is! And in my line of work, people are much more open to trying new things and developing themselves if they’re enjoying what they do.

Of course zest isn’t just linked to happiness, it’s also linked to being fully absorbed in whatever you do on a regular basis. I really do believe that if you don’t love what you do, you need to look at how you change what you’re doing. It’s such a great quality to be excited and interested in your day to day and this rubs off on everyone around you. So on the note of lemon zest, if it’s all about bringing flavour into what you do, how do you bring zest into your life?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Let me leave you with this lovely quote that I found, although don’t know who said it  …”Your smile is your logo, your personality your business card and how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark”.

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