Make it a Joy (The Simple Step We Sometimes Forget)

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Sometimes the most radical realisations of life occur at the most mundane of moments. I experienced this just last week.

Imagine the scene:

I am sitting at my desk, engaged in the work I have chosen for my life, wearing the clothes I have chosen to wear, after eating the breakfast I chose to eat (you get the idea).

And suddenly I notice a profoundly uncomfortable truth: I am not enjoying any of it.

Has this ever happened to you?

Have you ever looked around and felt disappointed, or checked in with your body to find only stress and tension and a heavy weight in your limbs as you drag them around completing autopilot tasks?

You’re not alone.

What felt radical about this moment is what subsequently popped into my head: make it a joy.

This is a philosophy I used to live by in my early twenties but that—somewhere in the encroaching obligations of adulthood—appears to have been lost. I picked up from somewhere (where?) that work should be hard and being mature means being serious and that the most vital success-measure of anyone’s day is productivity.

Yet… are these things actually true? I’m not sure.

I am unfathomably privileged to live where I do, at the time that I do, with the means that I have available to me—and so if I cannot glance around and feel a sense of giddy pleasure at what I have going on then something must be amiss.

Psychologists call our casual acclimatisation to the wondrous miracle that life (even humdrum daily life) on Earth represents: hedonic adaptation.

How do we counter this?

My humble advice would be: don’t get so accustomed to the pleasure of your life that you forget to enjoy it. Make it a joy, whatever that means to you. Call it mindfulness, call it savouring, call it spiritual practice, call it awareness… it all boils down to that simple phrase: make it a joy.

And what is the ultimate ‘it’ that we have in our possession to enjoy? Us. Ourselves. The small human package we have arrived in having its mortal experience of the world.

Make it a joy to be you.

Enjoy being you. Huh, now there’s a concept… What if, daily, we found the pleasure and the pride and the passion in our personhood? What if we settled into the cosy armchair of us-ness (welcoming ourselves home from a hard day’s work of self-flagellation)?

We live in an era where Showing Off On the Internet is an Olympic sport, and where we float adrift in the great gulf of social media ricocheting off of the Instagram stories of Other People’s Fabulous Lives until we are dizzy. No wonder we switch out of the apps, put down our phone, look around at our lives and find them… depressingly monochrome in comparison.

Why not, instead, treat taking pleasure in your own existence as a practice; a hobby; a favourite pastime?

Meet the monochrome doldrums head-on by putting down your phone and replacing it with your own proverbial paintbrush—remembering that you are the artist of your own life experience.

Why not make it a joy?

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On Wild Optimism, or the #1 Rule to Getting Everything You Want

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I’ve suffered my fair share of angst.

When I was thirteen I wrote, “I hate everything” on my bedroom wall, in pencil. Yes, pencil. I was so apathetic, even my acts of delinquency were half-hearted.

There was a time when I truly, genuinely, truthfully thought that nothing good would ever happen to me.

Over time, my mind has changed substantially (the other day I actually said to a friend, in all seriousness, “enthusiasm is my religion.” It’s a wonder I have any friends.)

Over time, I began to expect that good things might actually happen. I began to act like good things might happen. And – lo and behold! – they did.

No, I’m not an advocate of The Secret (sorry, Rhonda.) I was merely cultivating optimism; wild optimism. Unrestrained enthusiasm. Wanton chance-taking. Disproportionate dedication.

I began to commit to possibility.

Of course, these good things weren’t always easy, or obvious, or how I expected them to be, but they were very definitely happening. I was just going for it, and in just going for it, I gave things – great things – the opportunity to occur.

Little by little, I began to think that wild optimism was the best chance I had at a life I enjoyed, that was purposeful, & that had meaning; wild optimism was the only way of cajoling myself into going for what I wanted, and of promising myself I’d be okay when things didn’t work out.

What is wild optimism?

Wild optimism is letting yourself believe in all those things you secretly want; and the things you don’t dare want because they’re simply too whimsical to admit to. It’s throwing your hat in the ring. Taking a punt. Placing your bets (and all those other clichés.)

It means you have to participate.

Martin Luther King did not become a trailblazer in the African-American Civil Rights Movement because he thought, what’s the point? Marie Curie didn’t become the first woman to win a Nobel prize because she said to herself, don’t get too big for your boots now, Marie. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t lead India to independence by thinking, meh. No. They took positive action; they were wild optimists. And optimism is empowerment. They came, they conquered.

Reality Check?

Wild optimism is not expecting that nothing bad will ever happen (contrary to a popularly held belief, ‘optimist’ is not a synonym of ‘stupid.’) It is not about devaluing the negative. We all know Marie Curie could have done with a healthy dose of caution. Yet, wild optimism is realising that, by the law of averages alone, eventually you’ll catch a break, and that expecting the best is just as valid as expecting the worst, neither is a more accurate version of “reality.”

We think of a “reality check” as a dose of cynicism; sometimes it can be a dose of wild optimism. [Tweet it!]

Of course, wild optimism is not a magic wand; the difficult stuff still happens. It continues to for me, and I imagine it will do for you, too. Yet, short of pencilling hate memos on our walls, it might be the best chance any of us have got.

You don’t get anything if you don’t participate, but there’s a chance – even if it’s a teeny tiny one – that you’ll get everything if you do.

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Positivity & Why it Matters

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Have you ever considered the real power of Positivity?

Yuck. That sounds pretty glib doesn’t it? ‘Positivity’ and ‘power’ in one sentence, I almost couldn’t bring myself to write it… and yet, it’s actually very considered. Because I don’t simply mean ‘smile and the world smiles with you’ or ‘if you can believe, you can achieve’ or any similar such platitude that might spring to mind.

I mean there really is tremendous power in the positive, specifically in postive action.

How? I hear you cry (okay, you’re probably not crying, but I’ll tell you anyway.)

Let me offer you a scenario. You spot an incredible job offer. This is what you were born to do. The money is great. It seems ideal. But the job description? Well, it’s a bit of a stretch. You don’t exactly have the relevant experience they’re after; even if your biggest strengths are aligned. And it’s being advertised from here to Timbuktu, hundreds of people are bound to apply.

You’ve got two clear choices:

Option One: Don’t apply.
Result: You won’t get it.

Option Two: Apply.
Result: Get it. Wow! Miracle! Can’t believe it!

That’s optimism and pessimism in a nutshell, right?

No, of course not. We all know that wild optimism doesn’t always pay off. Maybe your strengths really aren’t aligned, or one of the other fab applicants who also deserve it gets the role.

But Option Two is still better, and do you know why? One word: ripples.

Consequences.
Aftermath.
Outcomes.
(Yeah, I know that’s four words.)

Look again at Option One. What are the potential consequences of this? Maintain your pristine CV of never failing at anything? Sure. But that’s about it. After that, it’s a highly premature Game Over in ‘The Chronicles of Getting Your Dream Job.’

But look again at Option Two. What are the potential ripples here, even if you don’t get the job? Maybe you’ll:

  • Learn that you need to polish up your relevant experience if you want to get into this industry
  • Meet someone in the waiting room who tells you about another job worth applying for
  • Get offered vital work experience instead of the role itself
  • Realise you’d rather claw your own eyes out than get rejected by another mediocre company and decide you’d really better get serious about self-employment…

I could go on, but I wouldn’t want to labour the point, which is:

Positive action has ripples. [Tweet it!]

Sure, some of those ripples might be bad. You might trip getting off the bus and have to be rushed to hospital with a concussion. But, hey, maybe your doctor will be a stud?

The real power of positivity is that it has push, oomph, dynamism, and – yes – action in it. The power of momentum. You are a force of nature. Act like it.

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