5 Simple Ways to Make JOY Your Job This Year

“Don’t wait for joy to find you, because you might end up waiting forever.” ~Unknown

Eight years ago, my husband and I made a pact to make joy our job.

We were in the middle of chasing little kids and careers, had a whole lot of stress (on the edge of burnout), and realized that something needed to change.

The idea started small, with the premise that if we waited for joy to find us, we might wait forever. We figured that life was going to require us to do something different to see a different result. It took us a bit of time to experiment with what brought us joy and what didn’t (because it had been years since we prioritized joy at all), but the juice was worth the squeeze!

There were some small but key things that helped us shift toward a more joyful life, and I’d like to share them with you now in hopes that you can make this your year of JOY!

Here they are.

1. Give yourself permission.

As a good midwestern gal, I have always had the belief that if I work harder, faster, and stronger than others, I will see success. I’m here to tell you that’s true! However, while working toward specific goals (promotions, planning a wedding, buying a house, you insert the thing), joy can fall to the bottom of the heap.

I get it. I always thought that I needed to be one step ahead before I gave myself freedom for fun, but that’s the wrong mindset to take on because life’s a moving target. You will never reach the finish line because life happens in the living of it (cliché but true).

Give yourself permission to prioritize joy! Maybe it’s a date night or an hour to yourself, but whatever it is, you should give yourself permission to enJOY. A burnt-out version of you is no good to anyone else.

2. Make a joy ideas list.

Have you ever planned a night out and looked at your spouse or friend and said, “What are you in the mood for?” Their response: “I don’t care. What are you in the mood for?” Sometimes it takes just as long to decide what to do for fun as actually going out and doing it.

For this reason, we started with a whiteboard in our bedroom (doesn’t everyone have a whiteboard hung up in their bedroom?), and jotted down things we used to do, things we wanted to do, and things we heard others talking about. It took us a few days to get a good joy ideas list going, but little by little we had inspiration for date night and beyond.

Our thought was, with a whiteboard at the ready, we could dream up joyful ideas before we fell asleep and add more right after waking up, when our brains were rested and fresh. It worked!

Some of our ideas included:

  • Go back to the restaurant we got engaged at.
  • Carve out a date night for yummy food.
  • Join a volleyball league to stay active.
  • Play “college”—eat the foods, do the activities, and go to the places we used to visit in college.

Start making a list and checking off your joy items. You’ll be surprised how completing one joy item will spur more ideas and more joy. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Be a tourist in your town. If you have a free afternoon, go out and do the things your town is known for! Try all the “bests”—ice cream, coffee, park, scenic views, you name it.
  • Create joy during meals. Spice up your meals with different types of cuisine and different meal locations (picnic in the living room). Also, a fun or fancy glass can bring joy to any table.
  • If you are short on time, exchange some screen time for a bit of joy and be sure to involve the kids! A few of the things we love to do are go on walks, play games, go on scavenger hunts, and play flashlight hide-and-seek.

3. Carve out time on your calendar.

This sounds easy, but it’s where people fall off the joy wagon.

We’re going to Mexico in February! That’s what I often hear when I ask about joy. People give me the itineraries for their upcoming vacations (never mind that they might be six months away).

If I asked you, “Where can you add joy tomorrow?” would you be able to do it? Or would you say something like, “After my next project at work, I’ll have more joy.” Or “Once my kids sleep through the night, I can have more joy.” Or “I don’t have time for joy tomorrow, I have too much going on.”

Our minds are programmed to solve, achieve, and contribute, and that is a great thing…most of the time.

Make sure you put the joy ideas and activities on the calendar—even if it’s just “take a walk” or “read a book.” Or at least save a block of time specifically for joy. Otherwise, time will slip by, and you will not have anything to show for it.

4. Pick a theme.

Sometimes it can be hard to think of something that is new and exciting yet takes little brain space and energy to put into action. My advice is to pick a theme. We have themed meals, parties, weeks of celebration in our house—you name it, we can theme it!

We once celebrated a travel birthday for our friend’s daughter who took her first plane flight. We blew out candles on a cupcake to celebrate. We’ve had pretend holidays, tailgates for random sporting events, craft days, and even themed parties with friends.

A theme is an easy way to give purpose to an afternoon, an event, or a week. If you are struggling to think of a theme, the internet has some great ideas.

5. Invite other people to join.

Our original joy list moved from bulleted ideas to a joy calendar, and the rest is history! We now create a monthly joy calendar, and our kids contribute ideas. One night a month my husband and I sit back and look at the calendar, almost like consultants to our own lives, and decide if we have enough joy. If we don’t think we have enough joy planned, we add some.

It was a few months after we started to make joy our job when we started sharing the joy with friends and family. They started attending parties and joy activities, and I would get text messages saying, “Started our own joy calendar today! Thanks again.”

Making joy your job will change your life! There will never be a perfect day or a perfect reason for more joy. Today is that day! Just start with permission, make a list, and go!

Be sure to reach out when you create joy. I’d love to celebrate with you!

Bonus tip:

Joy is messy. Just do some small experiments. You will plan joy and it may not turn out the way you thought (kids will act out, sporting events may be cancelled, themes may turn out to be a bust), but be sure to keep going! Some of our funniest joy moments have come from our experiments (think failed cooking experiments and funny date night memories).

Joy is your job!

About Lisa Even

Lisa Even is a speaker, author, and JOY connoisseur. The name of her podcast is Have Good Ripple Effect, the name of her book is Joy is My Job, and that’s her overall approach to life! Lisa helps challenge people to think beyond their backyards, through speaking and coaching, and realize that they happen to the world, not the other way around. To grab more joy and learn more about Lisa, visit lisaeven.com.

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