Are You Driven By Guilt? 5 Ways To Live With Joy And Passion

I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling guilty about things.

Guilty for saying no to the get-together or party invite, guilty for wanting to leave a job I hate, guilty for spending money I probably shouldn’t spend, guilty for lying on the couch when I should go workout, guilty for eating the cupcake when I could've said no to dessert, guilty for taking the time needed to take care of myself.

It’s exhausting!

Often, the guilt has won out; I give in and say yes to the party, go do the workout, stay at the miserable job for a little longer, or mope around feeling like a lazy fat-ass (totally politically correct, I know, but this is what I call myself in my head). It's not pleasant.

Lately, I’ve really been trying to examine my guilt: Why do I feel guilty when I don’t workout for a day? Do I think I don’t deserve a day off? Do I think I’m a bad person?

Why do I feel bad when I say no to an event—is it because I honestly worry about hurting another person’s feelings, or does it come from my own internal pressure and expectations about what I “should” be doing?

I’ve come to realize that I’m a total should-er. I believe there are so many things that I “should” be doing that I miss out on the things that I want to do, the things that are happening right now, the moments that are gone in the blink of an eye.

When did we become such a guilty society? When did we decide that guilt was a good motivator? I’m on the lookout for a new internal source of motivation, and have narrowed the search down to a few front-runners.

Here are some things to think about the next time that you make a decision and feel guilt creeping in, trying to persuade you in one direction over another:

Passion. When making a decision, think about whether or not saying yes incites passion within your being. Will you grow, learn, or be moved in some way by buying the item, going to the event, saying yes to the job? If so, do it! If not, say no.

Listening to your body. What if you let your body decide what you did, and not your mind (which is often run by guilt)? If your body tells you that you are too tired to run today, take a nap and let go of any “shoulds.” It’s that simple.

Thinking big-picture. When you start to feel guilty about something, try looking at it through a wider lens. Is this situation really important in the grand scheme of your life? Your purpose? Your journey? If you say no to ____, or eat ______, will it really matter in a few months? If not, let go of the guilt and make a decision based on whatever will benefit your life the most in the long run.

Paying attention to your energy levels. Since most of our guilt comes from saying no to something that we think we “should” do, try thinking about what will be best for your current energy levels. For example, if someone asks you to commit to something on a Monday night, but you know that going out on Monday nights throws off your sleep schedule for the entire week, say no to honor your energy level. No doesn’t have to be harsh, but often when we set healthy boundaries, we give others permission to do the same. (How refreshing!)

Inspiration. Ask yourself whether or not the event/task/item/activity will bring more inspiration into your life. If yes, then go for it, if not, let it be. In my book, inspiration is greater than guilt.

Because really, think about it: What if you led with passion instead of guilt? What if you said no to the things that leave you feeling depleted, and yes to the things that energize you? What if you thought big-picture before making decisions, and allowed the purpose of your life journey to guide you, instead of feelings of unworthiness or negativity?

That’s the kind of life that I want to lead; That’s the kind of motivation that I want in my daily existence. I want to stop shoulding on everything, and instead, learn to experience what is and allow that to be my compass.

Will you join me in kicking guilt to the curb? You totally should.

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