"Wanna fly, you got to give up the s**t that weighs you down."
As any travel-lover knows, once the tickets are bought, the hotel booked and the itinerary set, we face what feels like the hardest part of the journey: packing. Is it going to be cold? Hot? What if it rains? Any travel blog worth their salt will tell you tried and true advice: be prepared for anything, pack light and build your wardrobe around core essentials.
We don't always know the final destination when we’re navigating life transitions such as divorce, a promotion, career change, or loss of a loved one. But how we “pack” for a transition forces us to consider not only what we need to let go, but more importantly, what we need to keep. “Traveling light” through transition sometimes means that the only thing we can pack in our trunk as we prepare for our “flight” to the next stage is our JOY.
1: Jot down the facts.
If you’re not really feeling any joy at this moment, but know you need to move forward in your journey, take a moment to ask yourself some critical questions:
What is most important to you?
How have your priorities shifted in the past year?
Is your health more important than having that big house?
Is climbing to the top of your field and achieving the pinnacle of professional status a priority over spending time with family?
Do you have a number in your mind of a net worth that will give you peace of mind?
All of the answers to these questions can help to define your own personal road map. They might even cause you to shift your perspective on what brings you that true feeling of happiness.
2. Organize your measures of success.
It’s extremely difficult to chart a course to success if you don't measure your progress through goals or targets. In the world of business, companies track success by developing Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. Companies choose certain metrics to accurately capture if they’re meeting a desired performance level. Good business leaders add, adjust or revise those performance indicators as they receive new information and respond to volatility.
Regardless of whether or not we have a well-defined outcome in our personal transitions, what’s important is to stay open to joy not only in the calm but also during times of turbulence. As we learn and grow, we may change our own personal metrics for joy as well.
Joy KPIs can be as simple as noting the feelings you experience after taking a walk in nature or preparing a healthy home cooked meal. It could also entail creating a list of values that are important to you professionally after walking away from a stressful career to pursue your dreams, or personally as you save money to purchase your new home. As acclaimed management consultant Peter Drucker says, “What gets measured gets done.”
Being honest with yourself about what is most important to you will help you to revise, redefine or recommit to those joy KPIs. The feeling we experience in hitting those small targets will multiply over time.
3. You are always in the driver’s seat of creating joy.
Often, we don’t feel in control of our joy.
An unexpected change in our lives such as a corporate downsizing, a health scare or a sudden need to care for a loved one can create deep distress. The result: feeling far removed from that feeling of joy.
When you feel disconnected from your happiness, remember that joy is contagious. Brightening someone else’s day allows that feeling to ricochet back to us. The other day, when I was stressed out from a disappointing morning, I ran into my dog’s veterinarian’s assistant. We ended up chatting and I told him how grateful I was for their help in keeping my pet healthy.
As I passed by his office on my way to another appointment, I stopped in to give the assistant a coffee and a croissant, for no other reason but to express my gratitude at a higher level. His surprise and joy at the gesture palatably filled the room. Needless to say, my day took a rather unexpected turn for the better and doors that were closed to me for a project opened up with one unexpected phone call later in the afternoon. It doesn't always work that way, but when it does the feeling is indescribable!
When working through the emotions of change and growth in our lives we sometimes bring all that baggage of overwhelm, frustration, anger and anxiety. However, as Toni Morrison says, if we want to fly high we have to consciously choose to let go of those emotions because they can drag us down, preventing us from doing the hard work of learning to experience the joy in our experiences.
As we head into this holiday season, let’s not lose sight of the belief that that joy is the highest expression of happiness we can experience in this lifetime. Wherever your road takes you, I wish you JOY on your journey!