In January 2021 I launched a new business. I was overwhelmed by the advice out there on how to run the most successful business and everything I absolute ‘had to do’ to ensure it'd thrive. After hitting my head against a wall (don’t worry, I only mean metaphorically), I made a decision to only engage in projects, and run my business in a way, that brought me joy. After all, I didn’t start as self-employed to dread going to work. I wanted to wake up and feel excited about the day ahead of me and make my job as joyous and satisfying as possible.
And it worked!
I got my business up and running, I was happy in the process and it was some really successful months.
Then, my world got ever so slightly turned upside down as my boyfriend of 8 years ended things very suddenly and I didn’t just lose my relationship but my home too. I decided to leave behind my 18 years abroad and the 12 in Scotland and move back to my native country Denmark.
That was quite the journey! And what a learning curve on all fronts!
But as January 2022 came to an end I found myself stuck once again. I felt pulled in so many directions and wasn’t sure what was the ‘right’ thing to do and I felt overwhelmed and confused. That’s when I remembered my old business mantra: Follow the joy.
What if I applied that to my private life too? It seemed such a simple concept – almost silly that I hadn’t already thought of it. And just like that, making decisions became easy: Did I go on a date with X? Well, did the thought give me joy or not? Easy, peasy decision. Did I want to go out tonight? Well, did the thought give me joy or fill me with dread? Easy-peasy decision! Did the thought of going to the gym bring me more joy than the thought of watching a movie? Decision made! And so on.
I’m naturally quite a joyful person. Even through some of the darker times of my life, when depression had me in its grasp, I knew I was wrapped in a heavy cloak that didn’t belong to me. Knew that underneath it, I was bubbling with joy and mischief and wonder. I’ve confused my exes many a time by cracking jokes and making them belly-laugh mid-argument because I couldn’t keep the joy down, even when angry. I smile at most things and even get into trouble for all the things I find amusing.
And it’s kind of easy because there’s so much that bring me joy that is so easily accessible: Sunshine, books, flowers, the sea, cosy blankets and a good movie, my soft bed, sleep, freshly baked buns, dogs - well, most animals really - writing, music (oh, wonderful, magical music!), the open road, a beautiful sunset, fireworks, my job, other people smiling, walks, good company, kissing, cuddles, sex, travelling, a good cup of coffee…. You get the picture. Lots of things bring me joy and some are really easy to come by.
So, when I found myself without joy in July, I was puzzled. But as joyless July became Average August, I took pause, and when Sad September became Oddly Unmotivated October, I started to get scared.
What the fuck was wrong with me? Where was joy? I’d tried looking for her so many places and in so many ways and then a dear friend said something profound which led me to write this.
She said, what if, instead of waiting for or searching for joy, you take Joy by the hand and lead her instead. Do - try things, practice, live life, go back to doing things you used to find joyful and eventually Joy might join you.
It made me think of Seth Godin who doesn't believe in 'writer's block'. He believes people might suffer from 'quality writing block'. He encourages you to practice - just keep at something and eventually you'll get better.
It’s not about waiting for inspiration to strike; it’s not about waiting till you ‘feel like it’; it’s not about waiting for joy. It’s doing it and doing it and doing it (whatever ‘it’ may be) and if you practice long enough, flow will return, creativity will return, satisfaction will return.
Kind of like a bad Nike advert – just do it! (but do it with kindness, compassion and patience!)
The day after, as I shared this story with another friend, she said: Well, perhaps ‘joy’ is a very high standard to set for yourself. We’re all chasing joy all the time – it’s exhausting. Can’t we just settle for something a bit less?
It gave me more to think about… Indeed, I used to teach a whole happiness course about the misfortunate of chasing happiness instead of finding it in the here and now. If we’re caught underneath the dark cloak of depression, or some other form or low mood, like grief, stress, overwhelm, heartbreak – we can hurt ourselves more by chasing or striving for joy, instead of learning to live with and be in the hard and dark feelings while they’re there. They need our attention and love too. Without them, joy simply cannot exist either.
But to settle, as my friend suggested… Oh, I’m not much one for settling.
For me, it became a Nice November (I turned 40 and had the most brilliant time) but a bit of a Dreary December and mostly a Joyless January. But that's OK. There have been pockets of joy and creativity and there's been overwhelm. I'm not good in the cold and dark but I'm done fighting that part of me. I'm done trying to motivate me to change. I'm OK with feeling the way I do, while being mindful of those who wants me to change because they're projecting their own discomfort of not always being productive and positive on to me. And there's a lot of joy in that too. It might not feel like butterfly-exciting kind of joy but it's a warming, calming kind of joy to give back to others what doesn't belong to you (such as projected feelings and unwanted advice - if you want to know more about that I've written a super cheap e-book called From Drama to Freedom that will be published soon).
Adding to my manual of how to human: Follow the Joy when you can but when it doesn’t show, practice the joy and it’ll eventually show. In the meantime, it’s OK to feel all your feelings.
What will you add to The Manual of You™?
The Manual of You™ is a one-stop-shop business run by international Teri Kansted, offering 1-2-1 psychology-informed, therapeutic coaching, workshops, courses, private and corporate programmes, free resources and much more.
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This monthly journal entry was brought to you by the flawsome, dyslexic Teri Kansted - take what you like from it and leave the rest. After all, it's your life and, therefore, your choice what you consume and do with the information offered to you.
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On the 1st of each month, I'll write a meandering journal entry about my biggest take-away from the previous month and what I'll add to my own manual of how to human.