The outdoors called to me yesterday. I had this weird desire to go out walking in the 40 degree mist and fog. I thought the path through Hidden Falls Regional Park would be plowed, making it easy to navigate.
It wasn’t plowed. The park wasn’t even open. I had to park above the entrance and walk down. And the second I arrived, the fog lifted and the mist cleared. The sun even came out for a few minutes.
So basically, this walk was nothing I expected.
And it was perfect.
It was perfect because the closed gate over the entrance kept almost everyone out, so I walked in peace for an hour and only saw four people.
It was perfect because the sun shone through the clouds and created layers of gray on gray on gray over the river and it was spectacularly beautiful.
It was perfect because the unplowed path was just slushy enough to make me slip and slide and make it all silly and playful, but not so much that I actually fell down.
It was perfect because I realized in the moment just how perfect it was and then I got to think of all the reasons it was perfect and better than any of the expectations that had gotten me outside in the first place.
My biggest lesson of 2019, maybe of my life as a whole, is to create expectations and then hold to them lightly. Set goals and get clear on your dreams and then be open to completely different possibilities along the way.
Suffering happens when you expect something has to be a SINGLE way. You have to meet that goal or else you’ve failed. That experience or relationship or person better be how you envisioned or it’s terrible.
Joy happens when you dream and plan and scheme and then let yourself be a part of the journey. When you let go of the expectations of what happiness was supposed to look like and embrace the joy that is already here in this present moment.
Do you feel like you’ve lost some of your joy? You’re not necessarily truly unhappy, but you don’t have that same joie de vivre that you had earlier in life?
I felt this way several years ago as well. Somewhere in process of becoming a “real” adult with a corporate job and freeway commute and gym membership, I had lost some of my joy. When I was younger I regularly lost complete control of my laughter – to the point where it was a joke among my friends that I had reached my own personal “happy hour” when I just couldn’t stop laughing. In my sixth grade yearbook there were two things listed next to my name. “Good at math” and “Laughing”. But those belly laughs weren’t coming as regularly as I entered my 30’s. I still had fun, but it wasn’t the same.
Two big things gave me joy back – slowing down and giving myself permission to be unproductive. For me, they go hand in hand. I had to give myself permission to be unproductive in order to slow down and I had to slow down to be able to give myself permission to be unproductive. How’s that for a mouthful of a sentence?!? But it’s true! I knew I needed to slow down, but the achiever in me felt like I always needed to be productive – even in my free time. So I rushed around getting everything done on my to-do list, feeling like a wheel was constantly revving inside my chest. Even when I allowed myself a 20-minute nap it was in the name of productivity!
I’m happy to tell you that my joy has returned full force. There are regular moments now when I feel completely overwhelmed with joy and wonder in the best way ever. Friends that have known me for years comment on how happy I am. A few have even said I look younger! A nice side benefit 🙂
You too can get your joy back. I created this guide just for you – The Five Steps To Reclaim Your Joy. Just follow the link, enter your name and email, and you’ll be directed to the guide immediately. You’ll see that slowing down and giving yourself permission to be unproductive are the first two steps in the guide, but there are three more that you can start using today!
I promise you haven’t lost your joy. It is sitting inside of you, just waiting for you to reclaim it.
Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to stop the hustle so they can reclaim their life and focus on what’s really important. Click here to learn more about coaching.
Two weeks ago I shared an activity I used to create timelines and tasks from the vision I have for my business. It was a practical tool to achieve concrete goals. But there’s another important goal in my life that I don’t want to put on a timeline – creating space for the activities that are guaranteed to bring me joy.
I’m lucky to have great relationships and a lot of fun in my life. Joy is the next level beyond fun. Joy is all encompassing happiness that seeps into my soul. For me, greater joy means amping up:
Live music. In November I saw Har Mar Superstar at the Turf Club. It was amazing. The beats pulsed through my entire body. I danced. I laughed. I turned to my friends in the middle and said, “I’m so happy.” I love how music instantly creates the feeling of community among strangers. I need more of this.
Really getting outside. I’m great an organizing outdoorsy activities in the city. Want to go biking to breweries? Walk around Lake of the Isles? Cross-country ski at Theodore Wirth? I’ll plan the route, send out the invite, and show up with bells on. But it’s been years since I went camping or hiked the North Shore. I want to go on a 10-mile hike, build a campfire, and see the Milky Way.
Community and real conversation. I have wonderful friends. We have a ton of fun cooking, traveling, and playing games. But I felt like there was a different aspect of community that I was seeking. In December I started attending Intertwine, a community designed to share stories, listen, reflect, and participate in meaningful conversation. It was exactly the gap I’d been looking to fill.
Mini-adventures. I tend to think of adventure in grand terms. It usually involves getting on a plane for at least 8 hours. This kind of adventure is really important to me, but it can only happen occasionally. I need that quick hit of energy from exploring new places, activities, and events closer to home. Two summers ago my mom and I took a day trip to Stockholm and Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. We ate quiche in a bakery, shopped in a cute boutique, wandered art galleries, had a great lunch, and sampled cider at Maiden Rock Winery and Cidery. I felt like I had a vacation! And I was gone for a total of 8 hours.
What will it take to make this happen? First and foremost, I will have to make it a priority to proactively get these activities on the calendar and round up people to join me (because a big part of my joy is the people!). I have already planned an overnight to Duluth in February. Intertwine events are a priority in my schedule. I’ll organize a camping trip once the weather is warmer and I’m keeping my eyes open for live music opportunities. I’m sure I will also have to say no to a few things in order to create room for these joy-filled activities.
Do you want to create more joy in your life? Consider the following:
What activities and environments bring you true joy? Think about moments where you lose track of time and revel in being alive in this world. When your body feels awake and your heart is free. It does not have to be grandiose. It might be playing the guitar, doing art projects with your kids, or biking around the lake.
What do you need to eliminate to make room for joy? Perhaps you need to stop participating in that book club that feels more like an obligation than fun. Trade 30 minutes on the elliptical for a dance class. Clear your calendar one weekend in June to make time for a family camping trip.
What is your mindset towards joy? Do you allow yourself to let go and experience joy? There’s a certain freedom and release in experiencing joy, but joy is also vulnerable. If you experience fear and hold back when joy creeps into your life, I recommend reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly or watching her Ted Talk on vulnerability. She has great ideas and reflections on the topic.
Cheers to creating more joy in 2018!
Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.