and it’s all in your head.
Literally. The difference between joy and stress is totally under your control. You cannot decide what will happen, but you can decide how you will handle it. As I mentioned in a previous post, I tried to do a lesson in my painting class (still life of a bowl) while in a stressed-out state. It didn’t go well:
I was in a hurry, I was thinking about other things, and I was looking at the task as something to get done, rather than as something I could enjoy. I guess what I’m saying is I was not being mindful of my activity. I was letting everything else get in the way, and I was letting stress dictate my outcome. As you can see it wasn’t a really good outcome. I was disappointed not only in the painting, but also in myself. This was not was I was going for in painting, or in life. This was not joyful.
Thankfully I was able to learn from the situation. I saw where I went wrong, and over the weekend I tried again. This time I decided to paint MINDFULLY. When it was time to paint I made a conscious decision that that was all I was going to think about. I set aside the other things I was worrying about and I gave myself permission to take my time and make mistakes. I was much calmer, and even though the end result was not perfect, I actually enjoyed myself. And I think it shows:
And this while my two daughters were painting with me. They each needed help and interrupted me often, but I decided to roll with it rather than get upset by it. I knew what I needed to do and I worked around their issues so I could help them and do what I needed, all while keeping a joyful outlook.
So I learned that I can chose my outcome. I can choose between joy and stress, and I have to say, I prefer joy. But like my painting it’s still a work in progress. I’m not perfect and I don’t choose joy every time, but I’m learning that it’s an option. I’m remembering more often that I can take a breath and decide how I want to proceed, rather than just reacting to an unpleasant situation. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely more joyful!
Do you have any examples of times you consciously chose joy over stress? Please share!
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Joy to you all!
But maybe not the way you think…
- First, when I do everything myself I get crabby. I start to feel like I’m the only one who does anything around the house and I get resentful because no one else is pulling their weight. And I feel this way even though I’m the one who took the chore off of them in the first place! It’s irrational behavior, and takes away my joy.
- Second, when I take over everything I start to feel like I’m responsible for everything. Like if I didn’t keep track of this stuff, it wouldn’t get done. So my to-do list grows and grows until I feel totally overwhelmed. Again, no joy.
- Third, when I do other people’s work for them I’m doing them a disservice. I’m effectively telling them I don’t think they can do it themselves. This steals some of their self-confidence, but the theft doesn’t stop there. I’m robbing my husband of a chance to feel he’s helping out around the house, that he’s contributing. I’m robbing my children of future independence because I’m telling them when things get tough, I’ll step in and fix it. And I’m stealing the chance for all of them to feel proud of themselves for accomplishing something. So not only am I sabotaging my joy when I take over, I’m sabotaging theirs.
Ok, I was going to write about how difficult it is to take the next step and write a second post, then I was going to write about our trip to Seneca Lake this weekend, and maybe I’ll do both later on, but I’ve been hit with something this morning and I want to write about that.
But first a bit of background:
Over the weekend my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary (Yay us!, story of the trip for another time). Unfortunately I woke up with a sore throat and congestion the morning of the trip. We made it anyway and had fun, but now I’m home nursing a cup of tea and feeling miserable. Here’s the important part. The tea I’m drinking (Traditional Medicinals Gyspy Cold Care, for anyone who’s interested) has inspirational little sayings on the teabag tabs. The one on my tea bag this morning said this:
“The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgement.” – unknown
And this just kinda floored me. I mean, we’ve all heard this before, usually as “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” But this seemed more personal; less about stuff and more about me. And I got to thinking, “Am I flower or a weed? And who gets to decide?”
And the answer, of course, is: ME. I get to decide if I’m a flower or a weed. Even if everyone around me calls me a weed or treats me like a weed, I’m still a flower if I say so. If I believe so. And that’s the important bit – I have to BELIEVE it. I have to believe in myself. And that’s hard to do sometimes. Sometime it feels like the whole world is telling me I’m a weed, that I’m stuck where I am and will never be anything more. Those times it’s easy to slip into weed mentality, to just say, “It is what it is,” and stop trying. Unfortunately I think I’ve been living my life this way for a long time. But I want to be a flower and I now know I have to fight for that.
So, step one to being a flower: You have to believe you’re a flower. If you don’t, no one else will.
Step two: if you’re planted among weeds, or people who call you a weed, plant yourself somewhere else. We’ve all heard about toxic personalities: people who bring other people down, or suck the life out of you. Sometimes they’re unavoidable, but limit your contact with them as much as possible because it’s really hard to believe you’re a flower when all you can see are weeds.
Step three: show your petals. Don’t be a flower alone, spread the love. Be a person who complements others, who lifts them up and brightens their day. Don’t judge – that just creates more weeds.
In other words, act like a flower. That’s the easiest way to feel like a flower. I guess it’s hand in hand with the “fake it til you make it” mentality. And hopefully, as you’re showing your petals off, others around you will catch your spirit and rise up to be flowers, too.
Hope this helps on a Monday morning. This flower is going to finish her tea and get some rest, then who knows what I’ll be able to do?
Hello out there in cyberspace! This is my first blog post and I’m excited, but also a little scared. I’m always a little scared, but we’ll get into that later. For now, welcome to my new blog! In case you haven’t noticed, it’s called The Joy of Effort. Sounds strange, right? What’s so joyful about working hard? Not a whole lot, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about work – I’m talking about effort, and there’s a difference. Work is work is work. It often doesn’t take much thought – it’s something you can do on autopilot a lot of the time, like digging a hole. And that is where I found myself, and why I started this blog. I noticed I was living my life on autopilot, and not really enjoying it much.
I want to change that.
I’m tired of living the status quo. I’m tired of the wash – rinse – repeat cycle my life has taken on where I get up, go to work, come home, gripe at the family, go to bed, and do it all again the next day. This is not a recipe for happiness. To quote Eep from The Croods, “That wasn’t living! That was just, not dying! There’s a difference.” I want the difference. I want to enjoy my life, and I want to start now. I think I spent most of my life up until this point thinking that happiness was just around the corner. It would come with the next grade, the next house, the next job. It was something I thought would happen to me.
But I was wrong. Happiness doesn’t just happen, not unless you’re living in a fairy tale. Happiness is something you have to pursue. Happiness takes effort, and effort requires mindfulness. Remember the difference between work and effort? This is it: mindfulness. Work can be done on autopilot but effort requires mindfulness.
Why are you digging a hole? Because the boss told you to and you need a paycheck = mindless, unfulfilling, unhappy.
Why are you digging a hole? So I can plant this beautiful rosebush and enjoy the scents of roses all summer = mindful behavior I choose to do to fulfill a goal and achieve joy.
Even if your job is to dig holes you can find fulfillment in it if you remember to be mindful. If you remember that your paycheck feeds your kids, or funds your passion, or helps you build a savings.
At least I hope so.
I am going to try to live my life more mindfully. I am going to actively pursue happiness. Not just pursue it, but hunt it down, corner it, and beat it into submission. I am going to find joy in the little things in life and lose the perpetual fear. You know what I’m talking about: the fear of failure, the fear of what others will think, the fear of not living up to standards, the fear to try. Other people’s standards are not mine and I’m tired of trying to live up to them. I’m going to live up to me. I’m going to be the best me I can be, and in the process I hope I can spread some of my happiness around.
I don’t claim to be perfect. If fact, I don’t WANT to be perfect. Fear of imperfection kept me from starting this blog for more than a year! So I’m taking up Nike’s banner: Just Do It. Even if it’s not perfect. Even if other people will laugh at me, or criticize me. I won’t be great at this at first, and that’s ok. I’m going to be all over the place until I find my stride. But I’ll keep going, and I’ll get better.
I’m tired of letting fear stop me. I’m in pursuit of joy, and I hope you’ll join me.