I’ve been called relentlessly positive. I’ve been called Polyanna-esque. I have a default, deeply engrained ability to look on the bright side and see the best or the good in a given situation.
Admittedly, there are some challenges associated with this attitude. This positive outlook sometimes requires me to bring others alongside me during planning efforts or risk identification so that I’m not quite so “puppies-and-sunshine” and end up overlooking the negative realities in front of me.
But these challenges are not what I want to tell you about. Instead, in this blog post, I am offering ideas on how to find the positive, the joy, the puppies and sunshine in a given situation.
I am going to offer ideas and tips from three different perspectives.
I'll start with finding joy in life's little moments...
Especially, in the moments where joy is hardest to find. As my uncle use to say, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes it rains.” When we are losing and when it is raining, it is hard sometimes to find the joy.
Of course, life will hand us tragedies that rob us of our joy: The loss of loved ones, injury, crime, or natural disasters. For this really big stuff, one of the ways we can find our joy again is to allow ourselves grief in the moment.
But for the stuff that’s not so big, putting the moment into perspective can help us to not lose sight of our joy. Sometimes other people “bump up” against us in a way that feels destructive, harmful, disrespectful, inconsiderate, inconvenient, frustrating, or a whole slew of other ways. It’s easy to lose joy over these minor run-ins. I offer 4 questions that get at different aspects of our joy and help us not lose sight of it.
1. “Will this matter 5 years from now?”
Sometimes we allow something negative to ruin our day, our attitude, or our interactions with others. If we stopped and asked ourselves “Will this matter 5 years from now?” we would probably find that frustration will not matter even a little bit. But, the storming, the stomping, the irritation, and the disrespect towards others that comes as a result of our loss of joy, CAN still matter deeply 5 years from now. So, when something starts to rob me of my joy in a moment, I ask myself this question. If it won’t matter 5 years from now, then perhaps I can muster up the energy to get over it.
2. “Is there humor here?”
So many comedians find joy in their own life’s misery, and it allows us, as audience members, to stop and laugh along with them. We laugh because the stories are familiar. We laugh because they happen to us too. We laugh at the ability of the comedian to step out of their pain for a second and find humor in it. Why can’t we do the same when we start to lose our joy?
3. “Where’s the other 96%?”
There was a study not long ago, that indicated if 96 good things happened, but 4 bad things happened, there’s something about our human nature that will causes us to dwell on those 4 crap-tastic things that just took place. When I find a moment robbing me of my joy, I stop and ask “Is this part of the 4%? And if so, do I really need to give it that much weight? Where is the other 96%?” Over the course of the day, I might have been irritated by running late for a given thing, but I also accomplished three things that needed to be done, I have a husband who loves me and two healthy daughters, I had a safe drive home, and I caught all the green lights. There is the other 96%.
4. “Am I going to grant this moment the ability to have that kind of control over me?”
Mom always taught us that we don’t have much control over much in our lives, but we do have control over our attitudes. Our attitudes are a choice, so why not choose a good one? When you are feeling like your joy is being taken from you, choose to take it back. Demonstrate a choice to gain control of the moment, to gain control of your thoughts. Do not allow that inconsiderate person, that thoughtless driver, or that lid that just came off the coffee cup leaving the contents in your lap, to control you. Take back the power by taking back your joy.
The second perspective specifically address how to find joy at work.
We spend way too much of our lives at work to not enjoy it. So, amidst the busy seasons and the difficult projects, I am sharing three places to look for your joy when you have lost it at work.
The first place you might look for your joy at work is in your purpose. As Simon Sinek reminds us, start with they why. Our why, or our purpose, is what drives us. It is the reason we do what we do every day. When looking for our joy at work, it is often helpful to look at the purpose we hold for ourselves and the purpose of our organization. Even in the crappy, stress-filled, irritating, exhausting long days and weeks, when we remember the why for our organizations and ourselves, we are able to shift our focus to what really matters. Our purpose, our mission, the greater good for which the we stand, knowing we are part of something bigger and that we are making a difference somewhere… that can help us find our joy.
The second place you might look for joy is in people. Admittedly, it’s possible people are exactly what’s making the situation less joyful than it could be. But, it’s probably not all of the people. Gartner released a study, some time ago that stated 99.9% of us come to work wanting to do a good job. If 99.9% of us here in north America come to work wanting to do a good job, there is something there to be joyful about. We can find joy in the people who are similar to us. We can find joy in the people who are different from us. We can find joy in the people who are relentlessly positive. We can find joy in the people who seems to always know just what to say. Everyone comes to the table with their own story, their own history, their own journey. And in that there is joy to be found.
The third place to look for joy is progress. You may know by now that one of my catchphrases is “even better.” I’m in relentless pursuit of even better. Every day brings an opportunity to be even better than I was yesterday. In his book Drive: The Amazing Truths About What Motivate Us, Dan Pink highlights several concepts, two of which are autonomy and mastery. Autonomy is the right or condition of self-government. Mastery is comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment. When we take both of these into consideration, it becomes easy to find joy the things we’ve learned, or the things we’ve gained, or the way we have contributed, or the way we’ve made someone else’s life better. Taking autonomy and mastery into consideration, we can look at our work on a spectrum and easily find joy in how today was better than yesterday. And yesterday was better than a year ago, or five years ago, or ten. When we stop for a moment and look back at our work it is easy to find joy in the progress.
One more thought.
We all go through particularly busy seasons and trials at work. We all experience those projects, or those clients, or those situations that, frankly, stretch us to our limits. However, if this describes your work day every single day, perhaps finding your joy at work may mean finding different work to be joyful about
The final perspective I want to share is on finding joy in the other aspects of life.
Not all that many months ago, I was teaching a class for a group of people, and we were talking about the ability to treat someone else with grace even when in the midst of a difficult moment.
As I was describing how I’m able to do so, the joy I continue to feel for those around me, and the unconditional positive regard that I continue to view others with, someone in the class responded “Good heavens, Sinikka, how do you do it? How do you find that joy in the morning when you get out of bed?” I’m delighted to share with you, that my joy does not come from within.
Admittedly, your joy may not be my joy. You may have a different life journey, and a different source of joy. But, if you’re interested, I am happy to tell you about the source of my joy. (Hint: my real “secret” is below the third tip). What follows are three tips for finding joy.
There is something that deeply links gratitude and joy. Our gratitude for those who brought us into this world, those who raised us, or those who helped us arrive where we are in life or in our careers can bring us joy. A parent, a grandparent, a friend, a mentor, a boss…uncovering joy can start with uncovering gratitude. Start by expressing gratitude to someone who sacrificed something so that you could be where you are. Realizing that someone cared enough about you to put your needs ahead of theirs is a great way to find joy.
Joy can also be experienced, or at least glimpsed, by putting your own needs aside to help someone else. Tearing our eyes away from our own selves to look fully at someone else with care, compassion (dare I say love?), and service can bring us joy. Start by thinking of someone in your immediate circle whom you can help, even if it’s inconvenient for you. Then think of someone outside your immediate circle, to whom you can give back or “pay it forward”. Meeting someone else’s needs is a great way to find joy.
Joy can be found in being connected to something bigger than ourselves, such as connection to a mission or a purpose. In a project or work environment, we can find joy in being connected to an act of service for our customers, for the community, for the environment, for our future. In our life journey, we can find joy in a belief in a higher calling or being connected to a higher power, and in having a reason for being. Having a purpose can bring joy.
Some will say this is not the time or place for it, and you’re welcome to disregard if you so choose. But since I’ve been asked, I thought I’d answer truthfully.
My joy comes from being a child of God. Knowing that He created me, with a purpose, and that He has a plan for my life. My joy comes from knowing that I serve a risen Savior who paid for my sins with His life and who’s love will never leave me. My joy does not come from within. I have joy because it comes from God.
Please know that if you do not espouse this same perspective, that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. It doesn’t change how much I appreciate you and value you. Nor does it mean I can’t enjoy working alongside you.
And knowing this about me doesn’t change any of the other things that you have known to be true about me since we met. I am just convinced that my personal answer to the question “where do you find joy” is incomplete without this piece.
One last thought.
Joy looks incredibly different for all of us, and at times, it might be harder for some of us to find than others. We know there are things in this world that can unfairly steal our joy, especially within the reality of a mental illness. That is not something we take lightly. We encourage you take a look at some of these resources to see how you can help, or be helped.