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Are you blocking yourself from joy?

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“I think I’m bad at joy,” said my client Laura at the start of our last coaching call.

She went on to tell me about a mini road trip she and her boyfriend took over the weekend. There was a moment in the car when everything felt right in the world — the sun was shining, the windows were down, her favorite music was blasting, and her boyfriend smiled over at her and put his arm around the back of her seat.

“I literally thought my heart was going to burst, I was so blissed out in that moment,” she said.

But it didn’t last long. Almost immediately, Laura’s mind started to freak out:

“I really shouldn’t have taken this trip. My boss is already annoyed that I took a whole week off earlier this month, and now I’m taking another long weekend?? Ugh, going back to work on Tuesday is going to be fun… And I probably should’ve put the money I spent on this trip toward my student loans. I’m going to be paying those off forever. Maybe I should get a second job. Or a higher paying job. But what kind of job? Do I need a second degree to get a better paying job? But that would mean MORE student loans. And what if I don’t even like that job? I’m never going to figure this out…”

Within 30 seconds, Laura’s joy had evaporated.

She asked me, “What happened? I was so happy, and then I just … wasn’t. It was like all of these crazy anxious thoughts took over my brain. What’s wrong with me?”

There’s nothing wrong with Laura. She just has the same impulse that most people I know have — to rein in her joy.

YOUR IMPULSE WILL BE TO RESTRAIN YOUR JOY

As much as we’re all seeking happiness, we can get freaked out once we actually feel it.

Why? Because too much joy feels either …

inappropriate (it’s awkward to be the one laughing until you cry at a work party),

… or dangerous (watch out, all of this happiness could come crashing down at any moment!),

… or naïve (how can you be happy when there’s so much negativity in the world?),

… or unproductive (no time to celebrate — onto the next milestone!).

So you’ll be tempted to restrain your joy. You’ll allow yourself to experience only so much of it, and only in fleeting moments, before you’ll talk yourself out of it.

DO YOU HAVE AN UPPER LIMIT PROBLEM?

The truth is, joy is vulnerable. The happier you feel, the more you’ve got to lose … and that’s freakin’ scary.

Gay Hendricks calls this an “upper limit problem” in his book The Big Leap. Your “upper limit” is the amount of happiness you’re comfortable with, and anything beyond that limit will send your mind into full-on freak-out mode.

For example, many new parents I know tell me that watching their newborn baby sleep is one of the most equally joyful and terrifying experiences they’ve ever had. They’ve never experienced such an extreme level of pure love and joy before, which means they’ve never had more to lose. It can send them into a terrifying “what if?” thought spiral where their brain plays out all of the worst-case scenarios.

When you hit your threshold for happiness, your instinct will be to rein in your joy or self-sabotage to bring you back into your happiness comfort zone.

The point is to protect you from massive disappointment. Because if you weren’t really that happy to begin with, you can’t be but so disappointed if it were to all come crashing down around you, right?

Wrong.

WATERING DOWN YOUR JOY DOESN’T LESSEN LIFE’S DISAPPOINTMENTS

We have this mistaken, subconscious belief that if we tamp down our joy now, then if we wind up disappointed later on it won’t hurt as badly.

But if you ask anyone who’s been through a tragedy or massive disappointment, they’ll be the first to tell you that nothing could have prepared them for the heartbreak.

I’ve known and coached people who have been through divorce, loss of a loved one, a miscarriage, losing their home, and frightening health challenges. Not a single one would tell you, “I’m glad I didn’t let myself be too happy before this happened, because it made going through this experience less painful.”

Nope. Doesn’t work like that. In fact, they’ll tell you the exact opposite.

They’ll say that they regret not fully enjoying every single moment they had with the person who’s no longer in their life, or while they were fully healthy, or generally when life was easier and happier before the tragedy.

The strategy of watering down your joy to make future disappointments easier to bear doesn’t work. It’s a fallacy. If anything, it increases your future pain because it ensures you’ll have lots of missed opportunities to regret.

MAKE YOUR NEW IMPULSE TO FEEL YOUR JOY MORE INTENSELY RIGHT NOW

Instead, I want you to deny the impulse to rein in your joy and do exactly the opposite: lean into it. Let the belly laugh spill out of you unfiltered. Feel the depth of your love for your favorite people in the world without worrying how long they’ll be a part of your life. Bask in the small joys in your day-to-day life.

Milk the moments of joy in your life for all they’re worth.

Here are a few simple ways to feel more joy today:

  • Really enjoy your next meal. Instead of taking a working lunch at your desk, or eating a sandwich in your car, or scarfing down dinner while numbing out to mindless TV, focus on fully enjoying your food. Eat slowly, really taste all of the flavors, and feel it nourishing your body. Eating can be one of the simplest and greatest joys, so don’t numb out when you’re eating!
  • Play your favorite song of the moment, and just listen. For those 3-5 minutes while it’s playing, you’re NOT allowed to wash dishes or respond to emails or scroll through Instagram. You ARE, however, allowed to sing along, dance, cry, lip sync, or play air drums. Just be with the music and feel it move through you.
  • Hold a hug with someone you love for a split second longer. The next hug you give — to your spouse, friend, kid, mom, dog — make it slightly longer than you’d normally be comfortable with. It’ll spike your feel-good hormones and make you feel especially connected and loved.
  • Find something — anything! — to be grateful for right now. Even if it feels like your life isn’t going the way you want, ask yourself, “What am I going to miss about this moment or this phase of my life when it’s over?” Even at the worst of times, there’s always something to feel grateful for. Once you pick something, don’t just think about it; really feel the gratitude wash over you.

As I said, these are just a few very small things you can do immediately to increase your joy threshold. I could go on and on with this list, but I think you’re probably seeing a pattern.

What all of these things have in common is they force you to be fully present in the moment. You can’t experience joy if your mind replaying moments from your past or worrying about the future.

True happiness happens in the present moment, so do whatever it takes to bring yourself into right now, and look for the joy, appreciation, and fun.

Where in your life are you limiting yourself from feeling joy? What other suggestions do you have for feeling even slightly more joy right now? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and personal stories in the comments!

IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE …

Our free downloadable e-book:

Are happy people for real? What it takes to live a happy, contented life in a world where that sometimes feels impossible

Much Love,

Kristen (& Rachel)


FREE ONLINE WORKSHOP NEXT TUESDAY!

In case you missed the announcement on Monday, we’re having a {free!} live online workshop on Tuesday, September 19th, at 1pm Eastern.

How to find your passion (when you’re overwhelmed and tired of trying to figure it out)

We’ve been hearing from a lot of people, over the course of many years, about how finding their passion feels hard, overwhelming, and full of pressure.

So, we’re going to make things easier for you! We’re going to be talking about …

  • The 3 big pieces you need (and probably don’t know) to find your passion.
  • How you can instantly dial back the pressure and confusion you feel about what you should be doing.
  • How to have a career and a whole life that feels fulfilling, because one without the other makes no sense.
  • … as well as plenty of personal stories, client stories, and golden nuggets of wisdom.

workshop

If you know for certain you can’t be there live, that’s cool. Just RSVP, anyway. You will get a replay emailed to you … but you’ll only have 3 days to tune in before it expires.  

RSVP here, and you’ll get a confirmation email letting you know you’re in.

Know someone who needs to see this workshop? We’d love for you to invite them by forwarding the registration link!

See you there!

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Free Virtual Workshop! How to find your passion (when you’re overwhelmed & tired of trying to figure it out)

workshop

For those of you who don’t want or need to read the longer story, here’s the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front):

  • We’re having a free online workshop next Tuesday, September 19th, at 1pm Eastern.
  • It’s called How to find your passion (when you’re overwhelmed and tired of trying to figure it out).
  • RSVP for the workshop here.

And for those of you who like the longer version, keep reading!

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again:

It’s really annoying when people say things to you like, “Just follow your passion and everything will be fine!”

*Eyeroll.* Yeah, thanks for the really helpful advice! I’ll get right on that.

The whole concept of “finding your passion” is heavy and loaded. People tend to treat “passion” like it’s this miraculous, mystical object — something that will solve all of your problems and grant all of your happiness — if only you could find it.

And honestly, that’s a lot of pressure. Not only on you, the person who’s supposed to do the finding, but also on your passion itself to provide so much fulfillment.

Do you know what happens when people feel that kind of pressure? We tend to shut down, go into avoidance mode, and stay rooted in our day-to-day grind. We get too overwhelmed to do anything.

If passion is that critical to your happiness and fulfillment … then it feels like you can’t mess up. You’ve got to get it right. Which spurs all sorts of fears:

  • It’s hard to start because where would I even begin?
  • Is there any “one way” to go about finding passion? What if there are multiple ways?
  • And if there are multiple ways, which way is right for me?
  • Is there a process to this whole thing? Steps to be taking? How do I know what they are or if I’m taking the “right” steps?
  • What if I never find my passion?? … What if I do find it? What’s my life going to look like then?
  • What if I don’t even have a passion?!

Cue instant overwhelm.

At this point, it might not be better to shut down and avoid the whole issue … but it certainly feels easier than trying to answer those HUGE questions on your own.

WE DON’T THINK “PASSION” HAS TO BE SO HARD

This whole “helping people find their passion” thing? It’s what we do.

And we don’t just think — we know — that it doesn’t have to be as hard, confusing, and overwhelming as it feels.

We’re having a free live workshop (online, that is) on Tuesday, September 19th, at 1pm Eastern.

We’re going to demystify the whole “finding your passion” thing, and we want you to be there. We’re going to share:

  • The 3 big pieces you need (and probably don’t know) to find your passion.
  • How you can instantly dial back the pressure and confusion you feel about what you should be doing.
  • How to have career and a whole life that feels fulfilling, because one without the other makes no sense.
  • … as well as plenty of personal stories, client stories, and golden nuggets of wisdom.

THIS IS THE KIND OF THING THAT’S BEST TO BE AT LIVE

Here’s why we want you to be there in real time:

  • Because people who actually “show up” — at events, and in life in general — are the ones who always find success. Seriously, just showing up makes a huge statement about your dedication and what you’re willing to do to make changes.
  • The replay will only be around for 3 days. We’re both guilty of registering for events, getting the replay … and never listening. So we’re nixing the opportunity to do that. If you want to listen in, you’ve only got a small window to do so.
  • Because it’s fun to be a rebel. Yeah, it’s during the workday for most of you. So close the office door. Go out to lunch. Pop in your headphones and just listen; no watching required. A little rebellion, especially when you’ve been feeling stuck, can be a very good thing.

If you know for certain you can’t be there live, that’s cool. Just RSVP, anyway. You will get a replay emailed to you … but you’ll only have 3 days to tune in before it’s gone.

We’re really looking forward to seeing who shows up. It’s always fun to hang out with you live, on video … it’s something we rarely do with this many people.

Breathe a sigh of relief, because this doesn’t have to be so hard. We’re excited to show you how.

RSVP here, and feel free to invite your friends and colleagues!

See you soon,

Rachel & Kristen

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