A few weeks ago I was presenting a lunch and learn to a corporate client on the subject of ZEST! It is not something you probably think about on a regular basis, and I likely wouldn’t either, except for the fact that it is one of the 24 Character Strengths included in the VIA Character Strengths Survey (via character.org) and we have been taking an in-depth tour of each strength, one by one, over the past two years.
Having zest can lead you to adventure, if not feelings of adventure, and that is how it fits into my theme for the month of December. I was reminded this morning of what Victor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning: ” To choose one’s attitude is the one thing that no one can take from us, as long as our lives have meaning.” (I heard this, not read it, so it might not be exactly as it appears in the book!) He advocates for the fact that in good times and what we see as not so good, we still have the choice to endure and make our own experience of whatever is happening.
He doesn’t say that it is easy. And when things do seem “easy” I believe it is a good time to be training- building up a positive reserve so that when you meet an obstacle, you have the zest, energy, mindset to get you through it along with the ability to reap the rewards, lessons and positives to what ever it is you go through.
Zest is a choice of attitude, more natural to some than others, and can be cultivated by anyone who chooses, on purpose to do so.
What is ZEST anyway? It is described as approaching life with excitement and energy. ENERGY! Not doing things halfway or half heartedly. Living life as an adventure- feeling alive and activated.
The essence of zest is enthusiasm for life. Of the twenty four character strengths, it shows of on average around the world as one of the lowest strengths. Meaning, not many people have this as a top strength. In fact, a few weeks ago I met the first person I have ever known with zest as her number one strength. So it is something that most of us have to work on, on purpose.
I am not thinking of adventure in the way that we all need to get out climbing a mountain or bunging jumping- it is a state of mind to bring to every day, normal things. The holiday season is one of the best times to practice this. We have plenty of opportunities. This year, if you, like me, are not running around as much, you have the space in your schedule to dedicate to some thinking and planning. Maybe more space to pause before acting to think about how to bring zest into the daily situations you encounter.
Zesty people create and energy around them that benefits others. It is a great time to think about how you show up and the impact you have and want to have on those around you.
Why is this worth considering? Zest is one of the top 2 strengths most associated with life satisfaction. And, according to Ryan Niemic- who has written several books on the Character Strengths and is the expert behind VIAcharacter.org- Zest is highly connected with engagement, meaning, viewing work as a calling, positive health behavior and work satisfaction.
Questions to consider this week- write your thoughts in a journal for even greater impact:
-How could cultivating more zest in your life benefit you? Others around you?
-What gets in the way of your zest? What can you do to get it out of the way?
-What daily activities fill you with energy and which deplete you? (make a list of each)
-How can you borrow on the zest you feel for some activities to boost the others?
-And here is one from Ryan which I think is really important:
How do good health habits set the stage for your zest?
Hope, gratitude, curiosity, perseverance and humor are all strengths that can help you to strengthen zest- which one of those do you most identify with and how could you use it to become even more zesty?
Enjoy thinking about this in the following week- look for the opportunities to view something as an adventure, to bring some zest to it- to create more enjoyable days and therefore an even more enjoyable life.