It seems to me that the big idea that lots of people are advocating this year is a "word of the year". Like I said in last year's New Year post - goals and resolutions get my inner perfectionist and inner critic working together for a spiral of shame. I used to set myself something huge to do each year - often incompatible with the realities of my lifestyle, energy levels and other commitments - and then I'd beat myself up for not achieving them.
A "word of the year" sidesteps that with its breadth - it's pretty impossible to make a single word into a SMART target after all. But how do we choose one? Is it what we want? What we need? A commitment to an action or an endpoint?
My wonderful mentor, coach and friend Lisa Wynn had this wisdom on the subject: "the key for me is that the word or phrase we choose reflects what we want by the end of the year and is the "being" element of what you truly desire." She prompted me to think about the way of being that will get me where I want to go - the magic that makes the big dreams possible.
The word that jumped out to me, again and again, is JOY.
How do you find joy in unprecedented times?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that joy is "the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires" and to be honest - I find that description kind of blah. I don't believe that joy should only be reserved for the good times (or anticipation of them) - that would leave us waiting for joy and seeing it as outside of our control.
I prefer where the word comes from - from Latin to English via France - joie means "to rejoice".
So personally, I don’t think it’s about drastic changes or waiting for a mythical someday when life is good and success has arrived. It’s about doing more of what lights me up and finding the joy in everyday events as well. Being present to life in all its complicated magic.
This distinction matters - in my opinion - because of one of the sneaky tricks our brains use on us every day. The confirmation bias. Put simply, our brains are always on the look out for evidence that supports our worldview. It's ticking away in the background, looking for things that fit with what we beliefs and ignoring the things that don't match. Psychology research says that its effect is strongest when the beliefs are about ourselves and our future.
Now this bias isn't all bad - it helps us process the avalanche of information we are taking in every second we are awake and sifting through it for the important bits. It can sometimes even help with self-esteem: if we don't take notice of the things that don't match our worldview, we don't have to consciously consider that we make mistakes, believe illogical things and don't always get the right answer.
When it comes to joy - you can see the importance of the meaning. If we believe that joy is for "some day" and we just have to wait for that golden day to come, our brains won't be registering the moments of joy that crop up every day. The little brilliant moments that happen even on our darkest days will pass us by.
So, as part of my yearlong quest for more joyful living, I'm going to be setting weekly challenges over on my Facebook page. They'll help you notice these small moments consciously, and create more opportunities for them to occur. We'll look for the good in our lives, in our people and in the world.
Imagine what it would be like to experience joy every day... then let's make it happen.