Life can be hectic.
We get ourselves on the treadmill of over-commitment and it’s not uncommon to wake up and realize that we have squeezed all the joy out of life. And what feels worse is that you replaced the joy with only obligations and to-do lists.
That was me not too long ago. And the only joy I had in my life many days was eating sugary foods to reward myself for over-working and drinking wine to relax at the end of a long day. Neither of those were good for my health. And as my own coach says, if eating is the most joy you get each day, then your life sucks!
So I spent the last 12 months creating more joy in my life. In fact, Joy was my word of the year last year and I’ve been focused on rediscovering or creating new joys all year long. It’s a daily practice. But believe me, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There are dozens of reasons every day that zap your joy if you aren’t vigilant about managing your thoughts and your habits.
One place where it can be especially challenging for many people to find joy is in our work. Most of us spend more time each day at work than doing anything else. With that much time focused in this one area, it’s imperative to our happiness and well-being to make sure that our job brings us joy many more hours of the day than not.
All of us have had times when the joy of what we do is drained right out of our workdays thanks to deadlines and stress. It can be hard to get motivated enough to get out of bed or stop binge-watching Netflix or quit wasting time on Facebook when your work isn’t inspiring you. And even though I am passionate about the work I do, I can’t tell you the number of times over my 19 years in business when I’ve thrown my hands up in the air and said, “that’s it, I QUIT! Just shut the doors, we’re done!” And when we add on top of our work obligations, our responsibilities at home, things can really feel overwhelming. But the good news is I have a solution.
If you are feeling burned out, drained or overworked, or if you can’t remember the last time you felt like you were working and living in your “sweet spot”, then it’s time for you to commit to finding more joy in your life and your work, and that starts with your thoughts.
Sometimes it feels as if the problem is that your job or industry has changed due to factors outside of your control. And those may be the circumstances, but circumstances aren’t problems. In fact, they are neutral. How do we know that? Because not everyone will agree those circumstances are bad. Some people will be thrilled that your industry is changing because maybe it opened up a very lucrative financial opportunity for them. You see, circumstances don’t bring you joy or pain, only your thoughts about the circumstances do.
You may start to ask yourself why you continue to do this job every day even with all the changes and pressures. And believe it or not, asking this question can be a good thing. When anything in your life results in thoughts that are so painful that you are motivated to make a change, that’s exactly when something amazing is going to happen!
So what steps do we take to put the joy back in our life and our work, or maybe find it for the first time? It all starts with managing our minds. It starts with becoming aware of our thoughts about our work, about our life and about what we want. Now let’s start managing your thoughts for more joy today. Here’s how.
First, stop everything for 10 minutes today. If you can, do it right now. I want you to turn off your phone and your email and shut your door. Then I want you to get out a piece of paper and a pen, and do what I call a “thought download”. This means I want you to write down your thoughts about the following questions…Why did I get into this business in the first place?, What do I love about it? What don’t I love so much about it? and What in my life at this moment (work or other things) brings me the most joy? Do not get up until you have several answers to these questions.
Next, look at your answers and see how each answer makes you feel when you think about it and write that feeling down.
The reason you got in the business may be that “I want to make a lot of money.” And that’s a great reason. It’s not superficial, so don’t judge yourself here. Money can be amazing and can afford us and our families exciting and wonderful things like time freedom, and rich life experiences. So when you think the thought “I want to make a lot of money”, how does that make you feel? And then what action does that make you take? And when you take that action, what result do you get? And does that result bring you the joy you are after?
What I want you to see here is, you could do a lot of different things to make money. And some of those things could make you money faster and quicker than the way you are going about your work right now. And some of those ways of doing business are going to bring you joy because of your thoughts about it, and some won’t.
If you want more joy in your life, you want to find the thoughts that lead to feelings of joy and that also lead to the results you are after, like more money.
I also want you to see that if you hate your current business, it’s because of your thoughts about that business. So changing to a new business won’t necessarily fix those issues or bring you more joy if you bring your old negative thoughts with you to the new job.
So let’s go back to your list. What was the reason you got in this business in the first place? It’s important to know what those motivating and inspiring thoughts were, whether you stay in this business or move on to a new passion. Because you want to think those thoughts or similar thoughts that really serve you in finding more joy.
You may also want to remember what positives you get from your current business. What 2 or 3 things do you love about your business? Maybe you love helping people. Maybe you love creating beauty. Maybe you like the freedom your schedule allows. Maybe you like not answering to a “boss.” Or maybe you like working from home, or being in charge of your destiny – whatever it is, you need to write those down too.
Until you are happy and finding joy in your current business by managing your thoughts, it’s really not helpful to change businesses. Be happy where you are first. Find joy where you are and then if you still want to make a change to a new job, go for it!
Our thoughts can be the real enemy of finding joy and happiness every day in our job and in our life. We can just as easily choose a thought that serves us as one that brings us down. We can just as easily choose to think a to-do items is fun or rewarding or exciting, as we can think it’s stressful, or tiring or overwhelming. Yes, that’s right. Stress and overwhelm are also caused by our thoughts. When we find ourselves constantly in overwhelm, we must ask ourselves what we are thinking to feel that way.
When I am overwhelmed, I am typically thinking “I have too much to do and not enough time to do it in”. And I have to realize that’s just a thought. There are plenty of people with way more to do than me and they are getting it done in the same 24 hour period. And the more I think that thought, the less I am getting done and the more I am stealing my joy. If I had just focused and gotten my to-do’s completed, I could already be relaxing by now doing my favorite joy-inducing activity. It’s crazy, isn’t it?
Although I wasn’t aware at the time, overwhelm is an indulgent emotional state I have practiced for years as a form of procrastination. As long as I was “overwhelmed”, I didn’t have to do the hard work of actually sticking to my schedule or completing the things on my to do list. As long as I was overwhelmed, I didn’t have to be an emotional adult and do the work I said I wanted to do. I could have a meltdown instead. And you know what? Practicing overwhelm was one of the key factors keeping me from more joy.
So stopping the practice of overwhelm was key for staying on my joy train. Another thing that helped, reminding myself of my successes in business and life! I’m often guilty of not doing this. I get so caught up in grinding away at everything that I “have” to do, or just thinking about all that is a problem or a pain in my work or life, that I forget to stop and say “Hey, I just did a BIG thing there!”
Maybe you want to make a list of your successes on a white board where you can see it all the time. Or maybe you want to even set a reminder to have a glass of champagne (or green juice) at the end of each week to toast all you accomplished that week. However you have to do it, set a routine to celebrate all of your accomplishments and all your joys, from small ones to really big ones! This type of thinking really leads to the feelings and actions that get us the results we want.
And finally, be sure you are finding inspiration for yourself.
And notice, inspiration isn’t usually found on the never-ending treadmill of life. It’s found in the whitespace. So if you are overcommitted, overbooked and overwhelmed, inspiration could be all around you and you won’t notice it.
Inspiration really does lead to joy! So plan time in your schedule for inspiration. If you need to go to a museum, or read a book, or take a day trip somewhere, or go to the spa (when you think should be working) so you can relax enough to be inspired, then do it! I suspect that inspiration and creativity were some of the reasons you listed for why you got into your business in the first place, so find ways to bring them back into both your personal and your work life. Inspiration leads to thoughts that lead to joy.
And as problematic as it can seem to watch all those fabulous photos, amazing destinations, and incredible projects everyone is posting on social media, because it makes us envious or think that we’re doing something wrong, it can also be inspiring and thus motivating. Yes, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, but it can also light a fire under you to make your life what you dream it can be. If every time you see the “picture perfect” version of someone else’s life or work online, ask yourself what it makes you think? And how that makes you feel? And what that makes you do?
The results you are getting in your life, are directly related to your thoughts.
And if you think your life is miserable, it will be. If you think you have no joy each day, you won’t.
I turn to Instagram often for inspiration, including ideas for what I want in my life especially in the way of travel and experiences with my family. And I have trained myself to be aware of what thoughts come up when I see inspiring things. If I think negative and limiting thoughts like “why do they have that and not me?” I know that won’t serve me. But if I think, “what would I have to do to get that result in my life?”, now that’s major motivation! And this works for business goals and personal or life goals too.
See it all really is about creating habits and experiences and ultimately thoughts that bring us more of the feeling of joy. So what habits, experiences or thoughts do you need to practice more of to get more joy this year? Great! Now go do it!
Cheers to us all having more joyful days in our “sweet spot” this year!