Let’s Talk About Joy

 

 

Close Up Of Soap BubbleIn my line of work, I often meet people who feel like their job needs to be… well, work.

It’s supposed to be hard, a challenge, a trial, wearying.

It has to be a difficult challenge, a burden, a slog.

So, when I say to them, “Let’s find a way to base your career on joy”, they look at me as if I just got off the last train from OutThereville.

For these dear, harried souls, “joy” and “work” are never used in the same sentence. Never. Ever.

Of course, until they meet me.

Because I know that when you base your career in something that’s joyful, work doesn’t feel like work - it feels like a pleasure. Like an adventure. Like the most exhilarating learning you’ve ever experienced.

When you can find the joy in what you do, then stuff like toxic people, or unexpected roadblocks, or other setbacks become simply Things That Happen. When you’re operating from a true, deep love of what you’re doing, Things That Happen…happen. And so you deal with them and get back to doing what you love.

Sure, maybe wiser and more experienced, but still deeply joyful.

You want a real world example, don’t you?

So, recently, I had a colonoscopy. Immediately, you’re thinking “joy!”, aren’t you?

When I met with the doctor before the procedure, he told me that he had learned how to do colonoscopies when he was in the Army in Vietnam. I said, “Wow, you must have seen the technology change so much between then and now.”

He looked at me curiously, then said, “I sure have!” and went on to tell me, with a lot of enthusiasm, what’s changed. In that moment, I saw that my doctor loves his work. Loves it. Finds it fascinating. Appreciates the work he does. Feels joy.

And he does colonoscopies for a living.

Someone asked me yesterday how they could have a “bigger” career. How could they push past the barriers and boundaries they encounter and live large?

I replied with: “Start with joy.” Because with joy as your foundation, things come so easily. People find you a pleasure to be around and want to do business with you. Opportunities come. Doors open.

Life gets rich and full.

So, maybe it’s time for you to take a close look at your life. Where are you on joy? How can you get more if you don’t have enough?

How can you shift from the limiting idea that a life worth living is by definition a hard-fought battle, and move toward the bounteous idea that the best life is one founded on pure, unadulterated joy?

Because if you can, everything will break wide open for you.

 

Believe Your Way Forward

 

Slack line in the city park.

Time after time, a huge truth is revealed to me:

Whatever you believe becomes your reality.

About six months ago, a woman came to me for coaching. A Vice President in a Fortune 50 company, she was worried because someone was promoted over her.

Someone younger.

Someone male.

And, in her late 50s, she wondered if she was getting sent a message. Perhaps she was getting sunsetted. Maybe they were getting ready to let her go. Maybe this was her terminal job and she’d never ever get hired again.

After all, who hires someone who’s 57 years old?

As a result of these assumptions, she worked extremely hard and went above and beyond to deliver results. Early mornings, late evenings, travel, conference calls, meetings and paperwork. She did it all.

And it felt like no one noticed. And it was never enough.

When we first met, her stress level was through the roof. I mean, stratospheric.

I knew what she needed – she needed  to rebuild her confidence and develop a strategy to manage the worry. She also had to figure out what was true about her work situation.

Because what you believe becomes your reality.

And she surely believed things were pretty terrible.

Long story short, among the things we did was to create a strategy for her to become more visible – in the office and out of the office. So, when offered a speaking role at a big conference, she said yes.

No, wait a minute. She said, “Yes!!”

Afterwards, people gave her amazing feedback about her presentation and she felt really good about how the whole conference went.

Then, one day, her phone rang. It was the CEO of a boutique-y company that excels in her area of expertise. In fact, they are more highly regarded than her company in this particular area.

The CEO said, “I’ve had my eye on you. Will you come work for me?”

Would she? Let’s see – more money, better title, solid-line reporting to the CEO.

And suddenly the assumption that no one hires a 57-year old woman went out the door.

And a new truth was unveiled:

“I am appreciated for what I do.”

Which is something pretty wonderful to believe.

So let me ask you: What reality are you believing into existence?

 

The Burnout Remedy

 

 

 

Tropical IslandOne day someone just might ask you, “So…what do you really want?” And in that moment, deep within your particular answer, there’s so much to learn.

Because if you quickly blurt out an answer, it could be your heart’s desire making itself clear. Which is a good thing.

But, you might pause and make a very calculated response – the response you know the asker is dying to hear – and you’ll learn something about how far you are willing to go to please others. Rather than yourself.

And if, when asked what you really want, you completely draw a blank – a stone cold, deer in the headlights head scratcher – well, then, you may have uncovered an incontrovertible truth.

It’s very likely you are burned out. 

Roasted, toasted, fried crispy burned out.

Sapped of every ounce of your imagination by the grind of the relentless, day-to-day busyness that is your life.

Gah, I am exhausted just thinking about it.

Aren’t you?

So what do you do when you are a walking tortilla chip, unable to even identify one thing you really want?

First, take a break. I’m not saying it has to be a month in Fiji, but that would be cool if you could pull it off.

But I bet you can find a single day.

One whole day for yourself. And just in case you aren’t clear, “for yourself” translates into: no chores, no work, no obligations. 

(Now some of you are starting to hyperventilate because that seems so lazy. So indulgent. So “not me”.)

(Others are anxious because there’s so much to be done. There’s always so much to do. Got to keep doing!)

(Still, one or two of you are frantic because you fear that if you step away for even one day, someone might jump in and take your place and then where will you be? Living in a van down by the river, that’s where, mumbling about Gantt charts and pivot tables.)

(And, if you don’t mind me saying so, it’s exactly this type of do-do-do, fear-based drama that has drained you, my darling.)

On this For Yourself Day, you are to find something that restores your energy. Something to block out the noise and haste and allow you to reconnect with the Essential You.

Because your Essential You is really pretty fantastic. You may have forgotten just how fantastic, but with a little time and attention, you can find You again.

For yours truly, I find myself when taking a walk in nature, reading a great book, seeing art, doing a little writing, and preparing a tasty meal.

(As you can see, I have faced burn out once, twice or a zillion times in my life.)

At the end of a day such as this, a day when you’ve attended to your own self and your own energy, it’s entirely possible that you will have found an answer to the question, “So…what do you really want?”

And whatever it is, it will be your answer.

Yours.

And it will be exactly the right one. Which will feel both totally exciting and utterly relieving.

So, let me ask you… when are you taking that day for yourself?

 

[Editor's Note: My office will be closed on Wednesday.]

 

 

 

The Moral Of The Story

 

 

 

Inside a cardboard box concept for moving house, creativity or t

Let me tell you a story.

It’s a story about bravely facing fear – a big, lifetime kind of fear – and emerging stronger than you ever thought you could be.

Let me tell you a story about quitting a job.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who we’ll call Diane. For a long time, Diane had a dream – she wanted to have her own consulting and coaching business. She studied and learned and grew, but the reality of being a single mom and getting her kids launched weighed heavily on her mind. Money and security worries haunted her every moment.

So, like a lot of people, Diane put aside her dream in service to her family and their needs.

She commited to a corporate job with a big, international powerhouse.

Now, Diane was good at her corporate work and became a Vice President who consistently found herself at the ear of the CEO talking about strategy, vision and big picture issues. In response to one of the Big Vision Items, she developed a ground-breaking program that became widely implemented throughout the organization.

Diane routinely traveled the world from Asia to Europe. She was on so many conference calls that she almost forgot what it was like to meet with people face-to-face. Don’t even think about the quantity of email she managed.

Her pace was frenetic and challenging, but she was contributing, and excelling, and that felt very good.

And her children were becoming purposeful young adults and moving into their own lives, and that also felt very good.

She had a little nest egg, and that felt very good, too.

But then, suddenly, some things began to feel less good.

The CEO left and was replaced by someone who didn’t see Diane in the same light. She found herself shuffled around, and excluded, and reporting to someone she wasn’t so sure about.

It was confusing and unsettling.

Then one day her boss said that Diane would be let go at the end of the next quarter.

So Diane did what many of us in that situation would do – she worked like the devil to make sure no one would ever say that she left the place worse off than she found it.

A little voice began in her head – the little voice so many single moms hear, “What am I going to do about money? How can I ever replace my corporate salary in my own business?” – and Diane began to panic a little.

At the end of that quarter, Diane fully expected to be let go. She was prepared for it. Instead, her supervisor said, “Will you stay through the next quarter just so we can get everything really buttoned up?” And Diane, feeling the worry of pending financial doom, said “Sure!” and again worked like the devil to produce.

One quarter led to another with yet another extension, a flurry of production from Diane, more money into her savings, and a stressful future.

And then one day Diane took a deep breath. She stepped back. She got very still and reflected. She called a friend who asked:

What did she really want?

What was holding her back?

Was it true she didn’t have enough money to start her own business?

Was she going to wait any longer to do what she really wanted to do? Or was she going to allow the company to continue to string her along?

How long was she going to continue to jump to meet the demands of others?

How long was she willing to postpone her dream?

She sat down, right there, and composed her resignation letter. Because she’s who she is, she sent it to an employment lawyer friend who tweaked it and sent it back.

Diane submitted it.

She waited.

Until the HR head called to say, “We’re not accepting your resignation.”

What?

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the HR woman said. “The conversations around this were so interesting.”

Diane felt herself getting mad.

Until the HR head said, “You see, you are so well-regarded and so appreciated around her that we’re not going to accept your resignation – we’re going to fire you and give you a severance package of six months of full pay plus your full bonus plus pay you for all of your unused vacation days.”

(That’s a big bonus and 270 unused vacation days, by the way.)

Diane laughed out loud. 

Her future now looked very different. Now, she could take the leap into self-employment without fear.

Now, she could finally live her dream.

It had only taken saying, “No. Enough. No more. Here is where I stop” to get exactly what she needed. 

And that, friends, is the moral of the story.

 

Working Hard Is Pointless

Construction Worker Silhouette At Work

 

I know you. You throw yourself into everything you do, all the time.

There is no halfway for you –  it’s all the way, and once you’re there, maybe you do just a little bit more.

There is no “all-or-nothing”, there’s just full tilt, up-past-your-eyeballs “all-in”.

You, my friend, are a machine.

You’re the first one there and the last one to leave.

You work hard and give 110% to everything you do.

You certainly don’t believe in shortcuts.

(Is this starting to resonate yet?)

There are people around you who love that you work so hard and so much, especially those who do a whole lot less because you’re doing it all.

Those folks, in fact, rather adore you.

You work, and work, and work, and accomplish, and accomplish, and accomplish, and – tell the truth – you sort of look down on people who aren’t as fully committed as you are. And you pretty much define yourself by how much time you put in.

It’s resonating now, huh?

And I’m not going to tell you to stop working so hard, or so much. I’m not going to tell you to change one thing about yourself.

I’m just going to raise one little idea – something I’ve learned from the many people I’ve coached over the years who’ve come to the point where a light bulb goes off over their heads.

I’ve even had this same light bulb go off over my own noggin.

It’s this: Today, you can work somewhere for ten, fifteen, twenty years and work hard, give it your all, miss your kids’ birthdays, your spouse’s birthdays, your friends’ funerals,  your anniversaries, the soccer game, the Broadway show, that trip to Europe – all of it – and still lose your job in a reorganization.

It’s a hollow feeling to realize that you’ve put so much on hold in service of your work, and it ultimately matters not a whit when the big change comes down. Like when the company is acquired. Or donations fall off. Or there’s new leadership. Hell, there are a hundred crazy reasons why things change and almost none of them can be changed by you working harder.

It’s entirely possible to work so intently that you raise your head one day and realize you forgot to see the Great Wall of China. Or visit the dentist. Or get married.

People over-focus on work for a lot of reasons. Might be because you work in a place where folks define themselves by their office hours and you want to fit in. Could be because you’re terrified of being seen as wrong, and standing out in a bad way. Maybe you have a deep, internal conviction that you are deeply flawed and it’s only a matter of time before everyone figures that out. Maybe your daddy always told you that winners never quit and quitters never win.

And what’s the common denominator? 

It’s all about other people’s reaction to you. It’s all about external validation.

So many folks scurry and perform for others so they can get the gold star, the pat on the back, the approval. They strive for hearing ”well done”, “that’s a good girl”, “that’s my boy” because that’s the kind of external affirmation they’ve come to rely upon.

Which sometimes, despite our Herculean effort, remains tantalizingly out of reach.

(And if they ever do get it, they sort of don’t believe it, anyway.)

Friends, it’s the work of a lifetime to shift from a place of seeking external validation to being driven by internal acceptance.

You see, the most happy and well-adjusted people – whether they are adult executives, teenaged soccer players, young at-home parents or retirees – have this in common: They do what they do because it feels good and satisfies their values.

These people are not whipsawed by the vagaries of the crowd. If they put in a lot of hours, it’s not because they hope to fit in, or to be accepted, or to create a barrage of flak so no one can see the impostor lurking within.

No, if they work hard, they work hard because their integrity calls them to it.

And if they find a shortcut that’s in line with their values, they take it.

And if they want to leave on Friday at 3pm, they do.

And they take their vacation days.

And their sick days.

They live in balance with themselves and their choices. So in the event they get laid off, it doesn’t crush their sense of self and leave them paralyzed with anguish and worry. The most successful know who they are, they know what they bring, and they are comfortable in their own skin.

Rather than living for the approval of others, they affirm themselves.

So, I’m not going to tell you to change how you are. I’m just going to raise the possibility with you that there may be a better way to do what you do.

It boils down to this: Do what you can. Love what you do. And make space for the idea that maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to do it all.