Do It With Joy

Written March 11, 2013

Earlier this year as I was revamping my work life and getting back on my creative track, I attended a workshop called Making It Happen presented by a dear friend of mine, Cheryl Spieth Gardiner. Cheryl is a life coach, an artist, and a teacher, but even as I write that I realize these roles don’t quite give you a good summary of her. To be more descriptive, Cheryl’s one of those people who livens you – she warms the space you’re in, makes you feel like you’re the most interesting person she’s ever met, and pulls thoughts and ideas out of you with such ease you don’t even know it happened until you’re back at home and you say, “Hey, wait a minute. Where did that come from?” I never ever leave her without learning something new and that’s whether we’re laughing over coffee, chatting about serious stuff, or formally studying.

Thus, it’s no big surprise that my workshop with her offered me a big awareness that shifted things immediately. Her teaching centered on the tools needed to make happen those things that you claim to really want in life. She started with her guiding list of things she’d learned such as focusing on what you want, making choices that support that focus, setting clear intentions to work toward it, and actually taking action and moving forward. That all sounds so simple, but of course, Cheryl was teaching all of this colorfully with stories and drawings and I was dutifully listening and taking it all in and I thought to myself, “Yeah, Ellen, you got this. You’re already doing all of this stuff. Great workshop but nothing new for me. Let’s just consider it a nice affirmation that you’re on the right track.”

(For the record, a simple truth that will keep you attentive and humble in life is that whenever you think you have it all figured out and there’s nothing to learn, that’s exactly when you really don’t have a clue and you need to hush it up and listen or you’re going to miss something big. This applies to everything. There’s nobody you can’t learn from, no situation that isn’t there to teach, no trauma or happiness that isn’t a gift. I never learned more about my profession or myself than when I was considered an expert in the field and was teaching others. I’m just saying…stay alert and humble, folks.)

But let’s return to my assured arrogance that I had nothing to learn. Remember at that point I had been spending tons of time in 2013 getting clear and sorting out. I had a focus that I was really intent on with all sorts of goals and ideas in place on how to manifest them. I had realized the need for my choices to reflect the tasks at hand and thus restructured my days to include work – real work with set hours – that allowed me to have daily and weekly intentions manifest. And I was taking the needed steps to get the ball rolling such as calling upon my resources – seen and unseen. My ducks were all in their proverbial row.

Then Cheryl pulled out the last piece of Making It Happen – a positive attitude. JOY. We were supposed to also do all of the above with joy. Honestly, I think I audibly gasped a little bit. I had forgotten the joy! Dang it, not again. You see, I have a tendency to plan the living crap out of things and get immersed in the doing. I’ve gotten much MUCH better at this than I used to be and consider myself in the final stages of recovery, but every once in awhile, Boom! It seeps in often with a new endeavor and this new endeavor for me was all about work – working differently, working to see resources in a new way, shifting my approach to work as less of ‘when the spirit moves me’ to more of ‘the spirit needs to visit me every day’. The key word in all of those angles is ‘work’ and work isn’t necessarily supposed to be joyful.

But here’s the Cheryl wisdom that I thankfully opened to that day – joyful work not only makes it all more fun, but it also increases the productivity, the flow, and the creative output. Work without joy then, as you can deduce, decreases productivity, shuts down the flow, and slows creative output. I’ve heard this before and applied it many times over, but sometimes those old patterns slip in and we need to stay open to the prevailing wisdom to help us see and shift them.

Now there’s all sorts of spinoffs from this sentiment that are swirling through my brain that I’d like to clarify like what if you really don’t like your work, or isn’t the beginning of any endeavor always more about work and less about fun, and what kind of Pollyanna world do you live in where work is fun? You were thinking at least one of those, weren’t you? Without getting too wordy (who am I kidding?) let me just say that doing something joyfully doesn’t mean that there’s laughter and champagne popping at every turn. Rather it means having an attitude that sees the value in each step of the goal, mindfully completing those steps, and then relishing the learning and shifting that occurs from that mindful work. And for me it includes being excited about where I’m going rather than so darn serious or worried about it.

Since that day, an extra line has been added to my daily mantra right below ‘this is an experience, not a performance’. It is ‘this will require hard work – work that is different than what I’ve done before – do that work joyfully!

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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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