Rediscovering Joy in Life and Work
I just spent Thanksgiving weekend with family at our mountain cabin. For the first time in 12 years, we actually had a blessing of SNOW for the occasion. Now, in our part of Virginia, snow is not a usual winter occurrence, so it brings a sense of magic and exhilaration when it happens! We were not expecting this snowfall (it only occurred at elevations above 1500 feet) and were amazed by the sight that greeted us as we rounded the final switchback to our place.
My husband and I had a full day to ourselves before anyone else arrived and once we had the pies made and other preparations for our feast done, we decided to go out in the snow and play! We stomped up the trail to the stream to savor its beauty! We threw snowballs. We made snow people to greet our guests as they entered the driveway. After spying them, one of our neighbors stopped by and asked where our grandchildren were. When we told him that WE had created them, he just laughed and said, “Well, maybe you aren’t so old after all”.
When our family arrived, the wintry scene also enchanted them. For two days, we all played in the snow. We packed down runs for the sled, rode them in wildly and rolled off at the last minute to avoid the woods. We had a real snowball fight. We made snow creatures (Check out the Olaf from Frozen that our grandkids built)! We built a big bonfire to warm ourselves. At one point, our granddaughter was so joyful, she exclaimed, “Is this a dream?”
When it was finally time to pack, all were reluctant to leave. I don’t think it was due to the turkey, the trimmings or the shared family time. I think it was because no one wanted to break the aura of joy that had surrounded our little gathering of young and old. I had to ask myself two questions: 1) Why do we lose the joy that we once experienced so often as children? 2) Why is it so exhilarating to rediscover it, even if only for brief moments?
I think the answers lie in how we approach our life and our life’s work. We get so caught up in our hectic schedules and to-do lists that we don’t make the time to just be! It’s easy to feel burdened by responsibilities and the expectation that we are adults and need to act appropriately.
I suggest that we need to intentionally find ways to experience joy in our lives. We might start by flying a kite, stomping though mud puddles, or having a pillow fight. In my consulting work on coalition building, I’ll ask workshop participants to humor me by engaging in a fun activity. It may be a role-play on meeting dynamics where folks assume the various roles and personalities that they experience in their real meetings. It may be singing the first couple of lines of a song that exemplifies their collaborative work (For example, “A Hard Day’s Night”; “The Long and Winding Road”). It may be creating a headline that they’d want to see in 10 years about the success their coalition has achieved. Whatever the activity, once people let go of inhibitions, they rediscover joyfulness! It energizes the room and everyone in it!
I’d love to hear about your reactions to this idea and learn about how you create joy in your life and work!