If you asked me ten years ago what the word success means, I would have thrown out all the predictable answers. Money. Personal achievement. Status. In those days, I had the trappings of what I thought success was: a high—paying corporate job, a nice car, a full social calendar. But you know what? I was still deeply unfulfilled.
To create a new life for myself, I had to get clear about who I was, what I believed and what I thought was important. And I began that process by using a new yardstick, a new measure of what authentic success meant for me. What I discovered: Having joy is authentic success. But to experience joy, I had to first learn what brought me joy—not that fleeting happiness I got when I completed a project, but that deep—down contentment that comes from recognizing my own worth. Then I had to align every part of my life with what brought me joy.
Here's what I know: Every woman deserves joy. If you're willing to ask yourself two key questions—and give truthful answers—you can begin to experience a life free of the anxiety and emptiness that once confounded me. These two questions seem deceptively simple—maybe even obvious—but I promise you that if you really contemplate your responses, you will free up your inner power and unbury your joy. And you'll begin to live the life you desire today.
What Really Brings You Joy?
That's a simple question but one many can't answer. In the "All the Joy You Can Stand" workshops I lead around the country, this is the first thing I ask women to write down—and I watch them stare into space as their blank papers sit before them. Why is this a difficult question to answer? Because when most of us survey our lives, we discover that joy is scarce. Especially for women, joy has been displaced by stress, constant motion and taking care of everyone else's lives: washing clothes, preparing meals, paying bills, dealing with children. We are often completely disconnected from what we feel—and we certainly don't know what makes us feel joyous. Most days we're happy just to get some sleep.
Having more joy does not necessarily require a life overhaul—you may just need to create more space in your life for moments of joy. One woman told me that on her way home from one of my workshops, she drove by a park—one she'd passed many times. But this time she stopped and treated herself to ten minutes on the swings—swinging had been on her joy list. She had always justified not stopping to swing because she didn't have time. Out of the 16 waking hours in her day, she hadn't been able to invest even ten minutes in something from that list.
Right now grab a journal, a pen and at least a half hour away from your mate, children, roommates and friends. Ask yourself, What brings me joy? And when was the last time I experienced it? Don't edit yourself, and don't stop writing until you've listed at least three things for each area of your life: family, work, friendships, finances, health. Be specific. Put the journal away and, a few days later, revisit your responses. This time ask yourself, What do I believe about myself that could be robbing me of joy? Does Your Life Reflect What Brings You Happiness? When I first took an inventory, the area that was most out of alignment was work. At the time, I was the sales manager for a high—tech communications company. Yes, there were parts of my job that brought me joy, but they were small parts. When I stacked up the parts of the job that brought me joy against the parts that didn't, I discovered I was spending less than 20 percent of my time doing things that brought me joy!
When any area of your life—and especially your work, since many working women spend most of their days at the office—is aligned with what you find satisfying, 80 percent of the activities involved should bring you joy. Eighty! Right now ask yourself, When I scan every area of my life, how much of what I do is a reflection of what brings me joy? Tell yourself the truth. Do the things you do bring you joy at least 80 percent of the time? Are there disparities between what you say brings you joy and what you actually do? Starting today, decide how you can change this.