A lot of you may remember that I sing in a church choir. It’s one of the most joyful things I do. But every year, during Lent, I’m gritting my teeth. To put it very, very mildly, I do not like Lent. It tends to turn into a lot of hairshirt-wearing, about seeing who can give up the hardest thing. And often, posting about it on Facebook. A spiritual competition, oxymoron that THAT is.
From a coaching point of view, hairshirt-wearing is toxic because people spend a lot of time focusing on their shortcomings and beating themselves up about them. And I know from years of experience, both personally and with clients, that where your focus and energy goes, so goes your life.
People who feel awful about themselves rarely accomplish anything close to what they’re capable of, and (bonus!) they’re really unpleasant to be around. They drag everyone down with them, whether they mean to or not.
So when, during Easter Vigil, Mother Tracy said we should spend the 50 days of Eastertide before Pentecost being joyful, I was all ears.
The Kind of Joy That Counts
Lawyers, for lots of reasons, tend to overlook, dismiss, or minimize the little joys in life. For something to count as truly joyful, it has to be BIG. Overlooking the Grand Canyon, rather than a creek that wanders through the park. A big, dramatic marriage proposal, staged somewhere gorgeous and memorable, rather than a simple surge of emotion and moment of vulnerability while walking down the sidewalk together. Chairing the event that raises thousands of dollars for a good cause, rather than simply giving $20 to the homeless man every few days.
I’m not suggesting that there’s something wrong with those really massive moments of joy. But they’re not the only game in town. Joy doesn’t need to be big, expansive and headline-worthy to profoundly change your life. The time you spend enjoying your dog or cat is just as important.
So from now until June 8 (if you’re reading this in 2014), celebrate joy in your life every single day. Even if you don’t think you have joy in your life, you probably do. Do you have, or see:
- Flowers blooming?
- Sunrises and sunsets?
- Full moons and stars?
- A comfy bed to sleep in?
- Delicious meals?
- A wonderful cup of coffee or tea in the morning?
- A hand to hold?
- A book to savor?
All of these, and many, many more things, bring little moments of joy. And they all count.
So right now, rate the joy level in your life, and how you feel about your life and work. Then, spend the next 50 or so days noticing big and little joys, savoring them, and recording them. Then on June 8, reassess your joy level, and also how you feel about your life and work. If you don’t feel better, let me know, and I’ll help you do something about that.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who finds joy in strange places, like weeding in the garden and buying $2 rolls of washi tape for friends. If you need help tapping into your joy, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a discounted sample coaching session.