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September 11, 2019

How to create a Wholehearted Life with a Joy List.

“It’s good to feel good!” ~ Gabrielle Bernstein

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My New Year’s resolution was to become the happiest person I knew.

And ever since I made that declaration, I’ve been on a mission to create a life I love that brings me joy.

There are so many reasons why being joyful is important to me. I want to cherish my kids, to appreciate my work, to experience the world, to savor life, to be a positive role model, and to show gratitude for the blessings I’ve been given.

But how do I find time in a busy life to step back and enjoy? Isn’t that selfish?

We spend so much time prioritizing what others want from us, and what we think we want, but how often do we prioritize our own joy and happiness? The answer for me? Not often enough.

As a student of A Course in Miracles, it became crystal clear that being in a state of joy should be my normal way of life, not some pipe dream or some self-centered indulgence. Let’s just say I was rather intrigued when I read that joy is normal, not a fleeting moment to be held onto out of fear it won’t return.

I wish I could remember where I heard of this “joy list” idea—I won’t claim it as my own. However, I absolutely will claim the miraculous impact it’s had on my life when putting it into practice.

The great news is that lists are familiar in our culture. There are lists for almost anything: a wine list, a to-do list, a gratitude list, a grocery list, a stop doing list, a dream list. Lists are great tools for creating order, for remembering, for keeping our ideas organized, for fulfilling our commitments. We know how to create a list, but how often do we find that fun, enjoyment, and taking life in for the sake of pleasure really don’t land on a list? And if they do, guilty feelings often accompany them.

Why isn’t creating a joyful life a top priority?

For me, I was the get it done girl. Work first, play later. Work first, rewards later. I was missing out on so many simple things in life because my focus was checking sh*t off my list to get an ”atta-girl” that I attached to accomplishment. Yet somehow, I wasn’t as happy as I thought I’d be once I reached mission accomplished. The rewards weren’t as fulfilling as I expected. The outcome didn’t bring me much joy because the satisfaction lasted only moments. I missed the journey along the way by keeping my eyes on the perceived prize.

Not too long ago, I reread The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. Two of the ten guideposts she writes about to cultivate a wholehearted life really stood out: “Cultivating Gratitude and Joy,” and “Cultivating Play and Rest.” Basically, she says we fear being joyful, and we place exhaustion and work as status symbols.

We’re rooted in fear, so we keep acting fearful instead of being courageous enough to recognize how good things really are.

Since any work by Brené Brown has been revolutionary for me (hello, wholehearted living), and A Course in Miracles completely changed my perspective on what life’s all about (only love is real, all else is a fearful illusion), I decided to create my life around joy.

Here’s what I did and here’s how it changed my life:

  1. I made a joy list. Things that light me up inside. Things that inspire me. Things that fill my heart and soul with love.
  2. Each day begins with things from the list that bring me joy. I adore coffee, so I drink a cup in silence and stillness while watching the sunrise. I savor the quiet and allow my mind to drift and reconnect with my spiritual side. I read a meditation by Richard Rohr to stimulate my heart to put love into action.
  3. I look at my joy list and add several things to my daily planner that are also on the joy list. Coffee and prayer are joyful experiences, so they’re critical for starting my day off from a place of happiness and gratitude. Yoga and meditation are always included to allow my body, mind, and soul to reconnect with each other.
  4. I ask myself throughout the day what would make me happiest in that moment. I do this especially when I sense I’m stressed or misaligned. What do I need in order to feel the way I want to feel? And…then I do it! Maybe at lunch, maybe after work, maybe immediately, but I honor those intuitive callings and trust they’re what I need. They’ve never disappointed.
  5. I take a moment of gratitude and appreciation afterward. Sometimes, saying thank you. Other times, by writing in my journal what I’m thankful for and why.
  6. I see what may take more time to pull together, such as vacationing in the Caribbean or going on another mission trip, and I start visualizing and creating an idea list of what I’d like to experience while there. I seek out ways to allow it to happen, and I take action by booking a trip.

These are my most consistent ways of creating and staying in joy throughout the day. I’ve relied heavily on these when life gets tough. It doesn’t mean that I ignore the challenges, but it does mean I have choices about whether to stay in the yuck or enjoy life in spite of what’s happening around me.

Life’s way too short to wait for joy and happiness to land in our lap as a result for a job well done. Life is the joy. Moment by moment experiences are what joy is built upon. Appreciating and trusting that good will continue happening whether I recognize it or not. Being grateful for it.

I hope you create your own joy list, put it into action, and become the most joyful person you know.

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author: Sarah Pederson

Image: Florida Memory/Flickr

Image: Author's Own

Editor: Catherine Monkman