I was inspired this month by a conversation with a female physician I talked with at a recent reception. She appears to have it all – several biomedical start up firms, thriving research projects, three well adjusted children, and a happy marriage to the CEO of a world famous med center institution. I saw her alone at the buffet line. Ah, perfect time to approach her. I picked up my plate and asked the big question, “How do you do it? How do you hold it together? Playing so many roles and succeeding at all of them?”
Let’s face it. It’s obvious she has worked hard for her success. But she seems to have something else going on. What was her guiding principle?
Surprisingly, she took my question seriously and responded thoughtfully as we stood there with white plates empty in our hands. “You think I have it all? All I can tell you is that I wake up every day and I consider everything ahead of me. I think about it all. And then I only do what gives me joy. If I feel no joy about an activity ahead of me, I cut it out of my day. I don’t do it. Life is short. Life is meant for joy. I don’t do anything that doesn’t give me joy.”
Hmmmm. I thanked her. I filled my plate. I moved on. I am a duty-bound, honorable country girl myself, so this was a lot to absorb. “Joy?” A motivating force? It’s all I can do to navigate through a single day of my every growing list of obligations.
During the next week, I thought about all the reasons this world view was unsustainable and selfish and unrealistic. Then it clicked. I started to pay attention to all the things I do in a day. I realized I am committed to a lot of things that are are filling up my life. But they are not fulfilling. And certainly not bringing me joy.
I challenge you to try this yourself. List all the things you think you need to do today. Then highlight only the important tasks, ones that bring you joy. The rest can get done later, be delegated to someone else, or left undone.
To bring joy into our lives, we need to let go of the idea that we should be able to do it all. Choose what you put your attention on and learn to let go of the rest. Give yourself permission to purposely choose joy. You will soon be more effective in all areas of your life.
I have started my journey towards joy. I am beginning to look forward to each day. I feel more energetic as I make choices.
Please join me. This is a fun exercise!