Do you ever feel like you’re on a predetermined path, a path someone else (or even our culture) has laid out for you?
Graduate from high school, go to college, maybe even graduate school, get a job and work, work, work, raise children, and retire... It’s like this beautiful scripted life that so many of us buy into wholeheartedly. After all, it’s easier to follow a script than to explore our own paths.
Doing something off script can be risky and will probably mean challenging ourselves to do things we’ve never done. So we choose to continue to stay on script, struggling to squeeze in our exploration and creative time around a life we didn’t create.
Then one day, you realize you’re squeezing the life you truly want to live into these “extra moments.”
Why? Why do we do this?
I believe it’s human nature to long for joy in our lives. The challenge is we’re so distracted by the influences of our parents, siblings, friends, media, culture—you name it, we’re often distracted by it—that many times we don’t even know what true joy feels like to us. It will be different for each of us, which is why the script doesn’t always work. It’s why so many people live a full existence yet are still unhappy.
I don’t have it all figured out, and probably never will, but I think it’s worth the effort to attempt to increase the amount of joy in my life. This is not a journey I started this year; indeed, it’s a journey I’ve been on for the past couple of years and will be on for the rest of my life. What you’ll read below is not a quick fix; rather, it’s a lifelong attempt at changing how we live our lives.
It All Starts with A Vision
For me, it all began when Adeline was stillborn. I was sent into a tailspin of questioning everything I’d ever known. I desperately needed to believe there would come a time and a place where I could live with a sense of peace. Four months after losing her, I created my vision board. Now you don’t have to wait for a life-altering expereince to create your vision board. In fact, I’d encourage you not to wait. When we take the time to visualize what we want, it becomes a beacon, a virtual lighthouse that we can steer our course towards.
Imagine what life would be like if you could live in peaceful harmony with the world and then draw it, cut out magazine pictures, or go online and find pictures that match your vision. There are quite a few “recipes” for how to create a vision board. Make it uniquely yours, and hang that sucker on the wall, front and center!!!
Notice What Brings You Joy
Next, focus on exploring and discovering what makes you smile. I’m not talking about noticing your smile when you get a compliment or hear a funny story, although those are good to notice too. I’m talking about the kind of smile that comes from deep within your soul. Those moments when you’re creating something you love, sharing a moment with another person, or doing something to take care of yourself. Whatever it might be for you, notice.
I’ve personally struggled to find presence in my life and notice these moments as they happened, so I took a different approach this year. If you’re finding it hard to slow down enough to notice these moments as they happen, try asking yourself before you go to bed, “What moments captured my heart today?” Write them down in your journal, or keep a small notepad next to the bed and jot them down.
This is a process of creating awareness. It isn't about living perfection or judging yourself if you didn’t do anything today that captured your heart. This is a time of discovery and at the end of each week, month, or year you’ll have a notebook full of things that bring you happiness and true joy.
Do More of What Brings You Joy
Now comes the moment when life will forever change. This is where I’m at right now.
After spending a year of noticing, I’ve discovered a good list of things I love. This year I’m learning to not squeeze those into those "extra moments" but to spread them throughout my entire life. For example, if you love one-on-one, deep, meaningful conversation, like me, work that into your daily life. Make it a priority. It’s doesn’t have to be a two-hour conversation (although I love those too). It can be a quick ten-minute exchange that changes your mindset or challenges you and/or the other person to consider new possibilities.
I KNOW, to the core of me being, that life can be filled with more joy. Go now and find your joy, then spread it throughout your life.