After more than 20 years working in high-stress environments with diverse groups of people and even close to home with family and friends, I realized just how many people are searching for, have started to lose, or perhaps are not in active pursuit of joy.
I was no exception. I can vividly remember starting out my leadership career, young, fresh with wide eyes and big expectations to bring about change and positively impact those around me. I had the awesome privilege of doing what I loved as an Occupational Therapist, while simultaneously growing my leadership abilities.
I felt joyful. I was learning, growing, and helping others all at the same time. I was making contributions that made a difference, I felt inspired and a sense of fulfillment.
As the years passed and I sat at the same desk, satisfying the same expectations of the job, my joy started to fade. Eventually, I lost my spark. Worse still, it became palpable to others and I felt it in my soul. That is when I knew it was time for a change.
How could the joy I felt from my job just go away?
I realized that I was allowing a system that was out of my control, or so it seemed at the time, to eat away at my joy.
It was then that I made the conscious decision to return to finding my joy in what I did. All of those things that excited me as a new leader were still in front of me. It was my perception of the situation that had to change.
What is Joy, Really?
What is joy and how does one find it? As a company whose mission is to spread joy, it was only natural to dig a bit deeper and gain a better understanding. These elusive questions remain widely unstudied in the realm of positive psychology as compared to their often-interchanged counterparts, happiness, and the pursuit thereof. So, what’s the difference?
When we think about happiness, it’s usually in relation to a specific event in our external environment, a beautiful flower, a baby’s laugh, a hug from a dear friend, a favorite meal or television show, completing a difficult assignment, etc. These external stimuli bring about the feeling of happiness; however, the effects are fleeting.
Joy, on the other hand, is thought to be internal, residing in one’s heart and spirit. It is due to this innate nature that joy is able to persist even when one is faced with adversity, suffering, and heartache.
When joy is present, it is in those darkest moments where one can still find a sense of peace and contentment, looking through the lens of optimism and gratitude.
Can We Cultivate Joy?
If joy is something within the person, it begs the same question that is often asked in relation to leaders: Are people born leaders or can leadership be learned and developed? Are people hardwired with joy or is it something that can be developed?
Thankfully, for both questions, the answer is both!
While some may be genetically hardwired with capacities towards leadership and joy respectively, both can also be learned and developed, as well.
What if I told you that you have the ability to feel joy in all of your current relationships? Those that you have with family and close friends, significant others, colleagues, and with teams or organizations of which you may be a part. Would you believe me?
What if I told you that it would take a “Journey Onto Yourself” to find it. Would you be willing to take that trip?
If You’re Willing to Seek After It, Yes
When I realized I was lacking joy in my own work life, I didn’t change my position; I changed my thought process. Becoming more devoted with practicing gratitude, learning the art of meditation, and reframing how I looked at challenges – as opportunities for growth and learning versus frustration and anxiety – I was able to rediscover the spark I needed to reclaim joy in my day-to-day work.
I also realized that I was so much more than the role that I played within my job. I had other ways that I could share my gifts with the world and for me, where altruism is my main motivator, that was exciting. A leap of faith for sure to branch out from the security of my routine, but it was exciting. My joy was back!
Many people work in teams where they love what they do, but they don’t find joy among their colleagues.
For instance, we all seem to have that one coworker who can inexplicably suck the life out of a room in 10 seconds flat. So, naturally, we point blame at the soul-sucker and we go on, gritting our teeth day in and day out, assuming we can’t do anything about it.
After all, it’s a problem with them, not us, right?
To find joy, we must be committed to contributing to the well that joy springs from, even when we think we have no power to affect change.
When we better understand ourselves, we can better empathize with that person and what makes them tick. When we have joy, it allows us to not take the negative energy into our spirit.
When this epiphany struck me and I figured out there was so much of me that I could offer the world that was being stifled, I began to see monumental shifts in those around me and in my own circumstances. Suddenly, where I once thought I had no power, now I found that I could still have a positive impact and cultivate joy in myself and others.
Struggling to Find the Spark of Joy?
For some people, a simple reframe of their surroundings, their challenges, and their priorities can be enough to reignite the spark of joy in their lives. But for others – myself included – we need to go deeper. Oftentimes, it requires outside tools that help us see what is within ourselves to finally recognize the true source of joy in our lives again.
Along my journey back to joy, I took time to re-examine what natural talents I had, what my strongest drivers were, and how I preferred to use them. I discovered a tool called the Attributes Assessment that gives practical and surprisingly adept insights into how you see the world currently and how you can best interact with the world to live a more fulfilling life.
Using this tool, I made a commitment to take this journey to rediscover myself. Now, my joy is there in all that I do.
Sure, I have my good days and bad days like anyone else, but that flame deep in my soul doesn’t go away. I realized through some tough life experiences, in some of my darkest moments, the joy was still there. I was still able to see the positives in the situation and still had hope for the future.
Surely, if it was there in these moments, there would never be a situation where I would allow another to chip away at my joy. It is mine to nourish and protect and only I have the ability to let it slip away.
I look forward to the journey – yours and mine.