I was in my favorite used book store this week and saw “The Joy of Sex.” You know, I’ve always been too embarrassed to even pick that thing up in public but I did start thinking about this element of “joy.”  That’s a word that has been a big part of my life but it hasn’t always been that way.  With the fresh start of a new year upon us, I thought this story might give you some energy and inspiration …

About 14 years ago, I was fortunate to attend a masters degree program for applied behavioral sciences led by a wonderful man named Robert Crosby. He is the closest thing to a human Yoda I have known.

Although I loved the program, it was just one more thing piled onto an overwhelming schedule.  I was raising two active kids, surviving an intense career overseeing global brand initiatives, and was being consumed by a charity project that had under-delivered on the resources I had been promised.  Now I had to deal with classwork and a thesis too. The stress and anxiety were taking a toll mentally and physically. Even getting away didn’t seem to help. It would take me at least two days to start to wind down.

Somehow this situation came up in a lunch conversation with Bob.  He just shook his head and looked disappointed in me. I felt a little defensive. “Well,” I said,, “Isn’t being stressed part of life these days? If you aren’t feeling anxiety all of the time, then what DO you feel?”  He looked at me with his wise blue eyes and without hesitation replied, “joy.”

This really knocked me off center.  I didn’t know how to respond because I had never even considered this as a possibility before. What would it be like to live a life where your predominant feeling is joy? From that moment on, I wanted to find out.

This one conversation inspired me to re-evaluate what I was doing — and why I was doing it — on a daily basis. To live in joy.  Isn’t that a wonderful possibility?

As I approached new decisions in my life, I would filter options based on whether they would create more joy or less joy.  I discovered that many of my decisions had been toxic. Something had to change.

The biggest challenge was learning how to say “no,” even if it hurt my career or was politically unpopular. You can probably relate! How much stress in your life is caused by getting into responsibilities you really don’t have the time or passion to achieve?

I reflected that my life was dominated by sucking up to unethical people I didn’t respect, spending time in endless meetings, and squeezing into the middle seat of one more delayed cross-country flight.  I had a hard time approaching these activities with a joyful attitude. I wanted to have more balance with activities that brought real meaning — not just status — to my life.

So I made some changes. By trying to live in a way that enables joy, over time I have created a much simpler, centered, and probably healthier lifestyle. I’m a work in progress and still have my irritable days like everyone else (even Bob!) but at least I’m self-aware and mindfully self-correcting.

Here is something that creates an incredible amount of joy: blogging.  If you have been a regular reader here you probably already sense that.

Sometimes I KNOW something I write is going to make you think and delight you. I can’t wait to publish, can’t wait to see what you have to say about it. Writing for you, tending your comments and really getting to know you is the best job I have ever had. Even when you disagree — maybe even take me on – I just smile and think, “Yeah, you tell ‘em. Way to be strong.”

We’re all in this together. Yes, we want to {grow} but maybe we can also do it in a way that leans toward joy. Thank you for being a very, very big part of the joy in my life!

Now … maybe I should go back and buy that book when nobody’s looking : )

Tell me now … how are focusing on joy in your life?

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