“Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk
December is a cusp month. It’s the ending of this year and the lead into next year. That alone is anxiety provoking; it’s the last opportunity to meet your yearly goals, it’s a time to reflect and measure your success, and it’s reminder that time is passing quickly, whether or not you’ve met your goals or caught the brass ring of success. On top of all that, we pile on some major holidays that ramp up the anxiety with expectations of fun and togetherness, which leads us to overspend, overextend, and over indulge.
Ugh! No wonder many of us dread December. But it doesn’t have to be that way this year. This year you can create a December that is full of joy. How? By meaning to, I mean really getting clear about your intention and using it to guide your actions. Joy doesn’t happen accidentally; you must actively allow it to show up in your life.
So here’s your secret three-step process to creating joy this December.
- Create Intentional Outcomes
“It’s very easy to confuse confident motion with being productive – and they’re not the same thing. Productive to me means measurable outcomes that apply to my most important to-dos that positively affect my life. That’s it.” ~ Timothy Ferriss
Clarity is essential to creation. You must have some concrete idea of what life looks like when joy is present, otherwise you’ll never know if you have it or not. So here’s an easy way to craft what joy looks like in your life.
Get a large index card or a piece of paper. Write these three headings: The World, My Loved Ones, and Myself. Under these three headings write 3-5 bullet points of what joy would look like if it were present.
For example, under The World heading you would list things that feel joyful as it pertains to your activities in your world. So one bullet point could read, I will express appreciation to all the people who wait on me, check me out at the store, or otherwise help me navigate my day. I will do this with a smile, a sincere thank you, and a compliment. Another could be, I will look for at least one opportunity to help someone less fortunate this month, such as visiting someone at a nursing home or helping underprivileged kids. Your third bullet point might be, I will make a donation to Heifer International so some third world family will be able to rise from poverty and change their life.
This heading helps you focus on the positive impact you have in the world. It’s really hard to feel overwhelmed and stressed out when you are sincerely helping someone else. This shift allows joy to be part of your December celebration.
The first heading focuses on action, but the next two headings should focus on feelings. Write down at least three ways you want to feel when you are with your loved ones. Under the Myself heading write down at least three ways you want to feel this month, or about your year, or about some aspect of yourself you are usually critical about.
Once you have your list you are ready for step two.
- Take Intentional Actions
“The right actions undertaken for the right reasons generally lead to good outcomes over time.” ~ John Mackey
This is where people often go off the rails. We all have good intentions for how we want to be, what we want to do, and how we want to show up in the world. Yet, we then often go out and do the exact opposite of what we want and wonder what went wrong! Please dear reader, this seems simple but it’s not easy. This step is designed to keep you on track.
Here’s how this works. If you wrote under your My Loved Ones heading that you wanted to feel more connected, then script out how that might happen. Does that mean you will call them more often? And when you call does that mean you will ask questions about their life and listen without giving your two cents worth? And can you say something encouraging on the call so they feel connected to you?
Maybe under your Myself heading you said you wanted to feel more energized. So does that mean making a commitment to turning off the TV and computer 30 minutes before a reasonable bedtime so you wind down and get a good night’s sleep? Does that mean taking a 10-minute walk at lunch?
When you take the time to intentionally craft actions that support the results you want then you are 100% more likely to reach them. These purposeful actions allow joy to come into your life.
Now that you have crafted the actions needed to reach your intended goals, you are ready to move to step three.
- Intentionally Re-Engage
“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” ~ Vince Lombardi
OK now you have a list of what you want and you’ve brainstormed some actions that will get you to those goals. However, life happens. You got up from the table and went out and did the exact opposite of what you just said you wanted; and you know that because you are experiencing the exact opposite feeling from the one you wanted to create.
So you assess your actions. Keep your list handy, carry it with you so you can pull it out and review it. When you get off track immediately check your list, get back in the mindset of joy, and do something that matches your desired end result. Do something right away; even something small, and you will feel back in the zone. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t dwell on your mistake, just make it right with your next right action. You learn how to ride a bike by getting back on after you fall off; otherwise no learning occurs.
The process works if you work it. Here it is again:
- Create Intentional Outcomes
- Take Intentional Actions
- Intentionally Re-Engage when you get off track
Let this three-step process joyfully guide you through December. I hope your holidays are filled with love, peace, and happiness. Give thanks for 2015 and all she brought with her and I will see you next year!