The goal for this year is to live intentionally. To pursue great things, live in the present, and evolve as our ideas about life shift. Since we are all learning what living with intention means, I reached out to Angela from Setting My Intention to help us learn another piece of the journey. Today, Angela is going to share with us how to pursue a joy-filled life full of intention and purpose. After all, the reason for living with intention is to be joyous and passionate about life, right?
I have followed Angela for about two years, and I really connect with her message. Often times, we focus on the task we have to do day in and day out, but when I get an update from Angela’s blog, I am reminded that there is more to live than checking tasks off a list. Hopefully, what she shares with you will inspire you as much as it has myself.
The 3 Rs for a Joy-Filled Life
I remember it vividly. We were sitting at the dinner table eating and talking. My sons were joking and speaking in silly voices and I was laughing with them.
It wasn’t a polite “I’m half listening” laugh, nor was it a polite “I have no idea what you’re referring to” laugh. I genuinely thought my son’s impressions were funny and reacted with joy.
Here’s the thing – he looked surprised and confused.
It hit me that my children don’t see their mom joyful or lighthearted. It is such a rare thing that they react with surprise and wonder what’s happening when I do. It saddened me.
As the more detail oriented parent of the family I’m often thinking of the many things that need to get done for the day or the week. I’m working on being mindful and present, but frequently I am preoccupied. I know this sounds familiar to you mamas out there.
So in 2017 my word for the year was “spark joy.” It was a reminder to me to:
- make decisions through the lens of joy.
- do things that spark joy in me.
- spark joy in other people around me.
If you also feel like joy is lacking in your life, here are the lessons I’ve learned from a year focused on joy.
The First R for a Joy-Filled Life: Remember
I know this might sound incredibly simple and maybe even unnecessary to you; but take some time to remember the last time you were filled with joy.
- What were you doing?
- Who was with you?
- What did joy feel like in your body?
If you’re like me on a busy day, you’re just doing the next thing required. You’re not checking in with your body, you’re not noticing how you feel about how an event or person makes you feel – you’re gettin’ things done.
Gettin’ things done feels great in the short run. In the long run though, when we motor around in this way, we soon find that we’ve met everyone else’s needs and expectations…and we’re completely depleted.
For those of us who feel like we’ve been going through the motions for a long time and unaware of what we’re actually feeling while we’re doing our daily activities – gentle awareness is going to be our first step.
For those of us with rusty joy meters, we just need to get back to our five senses and grow in awareness of how things feel to us as we do them. This doesn’t have to be lengthy or complicated. I keep a list on my phone in the Notes app and in my paper planner of what brings me joy. Here is part of my list:
- reading fiction in bed late at night and early in the morning
- based on true life movies
- drinking piping hot coffee in the morning while staring out of the window
- the beach
- waking up while it’s still dark
- taking a solo silent retreat once a year
The Second R for a Joy-Filled Life: Release
Here’s a definition of release that I really like: allow (something) to move, act, or flow freely.
The second R to a joy-filled life is to release the boundaries you’ve put on yourself.
Have you ever found yourself saying something like:
“Oh no, I can’t ___________________.”
“Oh, I would be horrible at _____________.”
“I’ve always hated ________________.”
What’s your fill in the blank?
I used to say that I hated running. I hadn’t run regularly since high school. I decided to declutter my negative self talk around running and try it again…at 40 years old.
I started with the Couch to 5K app which gently takes your from zero running to being able to run a 5K, which is 3.1 miles. I ran my first 5K in 2013 with a small group of women from my church. Then in 2015 I ran a 10 miler in Philadelphia – which really challenged me to release my belief that I wasn’t a runner. It turns out I enjoy running.
Take your fill in the blank and ask yourself:
- Are you really horrible at it?
- Do you really hate it?
- Or is it more like you haven’t tried it in a long time?
- Or you haven’t tried it all?
This step asks you to approach things with curiosity and try something again, or try something for the first time. This step requires releasing the labels or limits you’ve consciously or unconsciously placed on yourself.
Start with one thing, and start small. During my year of joy I applied for an international trip to the Dominican Republic for a service trip. One of the limits I had on myself was that I don’t travel internationally (even though it’s something that I want to do). I didn’t get chosen but the process encouraged me to take steps towards my “someday” goals.
I also applied to be a speaker for a local blog conference – and got chosen! I always told myself “I hate public speaking” and this experience taught me that I’m not terrible at public speaking. I discovered that it takes a lot out of me though, and it’s not my favorite way to utilize my energy. It showed me that I can do anything with preparation and practice.
The Third R for a Joy-Filled Life: Remind
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” Henri Nouwen
This last step is so important. If you’ve done the first R, you now have a list of things that bring you joy. How do we choose joy and keep choosing it every day? The simplest and most effective way is to decide ahead of time and schedule it in!
- If getting together with friends brings you joy, make sure to schedule it in your monthly calendar.
- If meditation brings you joy, decide when you will do it in your daily schedule.
- If running or walking brings you joy, schedule it in.
This year I’m doing month long experiments – 30 day long journeys where I’m focusing on one habit that I want to integrate into my life. I started the year with a 30 day yoga journey. In order to succeed, I had to decide ahead of time when I was going to do the 20 minute videos. I decided I would do it right after I got home from work. I changed out of my work clothes, put work out clothes on, and got right on my mat up in my bedroom. Doing something for 30 days in a row helps to decide if it actually brings you joy, and whether you want to add it to your regular routine.
Decide ahead of time what you will schedule in daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly for a joy-filled year – then set reminders for yourself. That might sound overwhelming right now, but work through the three Rs and clarity will come.
Nowadays at dinner time, my sons are much less likely to be surprised when their mom bursts out laughing – and that alone fills me with joy.
What ‘s on your joy list? If something popped into your mind while reading this, tell us in the comments! We’d love to know!
Angela blogs at Setting My Intention where she focuses on intentional change and developing healthy habits in the midst of the daily demands of life. You will find her clearing physical clutter, finding what brings her joy (and doing more of that), and living slow (focusing on the things that really matter…which most of the time aren’t things!) She calls herself an aspiring minimalist, working to create a peaceful home and a slow schedule for her and her family…one step at a time.