09/06/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What Are Your Joy Cravings?


How often do we identify and really think about the good stuff? We seem to focus an incredible amount of our energy on things that don't make us feel joyful--like the things that are missing from our lives. We wonder what we have done wrong, why we aren't accomplishing more, and, well, the list seems endless.

Yet, we typically spend much less time contemplating the positive aspects of our lives; the things that really make us happy and that bring joy into our lives. So why do we do this? I believe that these positive questions are accompanied by feelings of guilt and other negative, self-related thoughts. Because of this, the positive questions are confronted--and often overtaken--by the negative questions. It's sort of a 2-for-1 deal. As such, focusing on the positive requires more energy than simply choosing to accept the negative, an action that we all realize is typically not accompanied by feelings of positivity. Thus, negativity has become our norm.

Joy Cravings

I crave joy and guess that many others do as well. But these cravings aren't usually translated into an objective form. Instead, they remain shapeless; they never quite materialize. Have you ever noticed how much time we take to create to-do lists for ourselves? More precisely, have you noticed how few of those items are associated with extreme joy? So why don't we begin creating to-enjoy lists instead? One of my main reasons is that it's easiest (in terms of guilt) to disappoint myself rather than someone else. And while that statement may seem true, it certainly isn't rational. In fact, what that statement translates into is that I don't deserve joy. Others come before me. Clearly, that is nowhere near my personal manifesto.

There is still another point to consider in this whole doubting of joy experience. When you're lacking joy in your life, the deficit certainly impacts your ability to give joy to others.

And for the real doubters, think about the words of Mother Teresa:

"Joy is love - a joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love, for she gives most who gives with joy."

Turn Knowledge into Action

1) Identify Your Joy Cravings

You already know of many things that bring you joy, and you realize as well that you're craving to add more of those into your life. Alternatively, you may have absolutely no clue about what brings you joy. Regardless of where you are in identifying these cravings, you should still begin to note them. Just use a simple piece of paper, a journal, an electronic document, paper notes put in a little container (great for spur of the moment joy cravings!), or any method that works best for you. Here, the goal is to acknowledge these cravings and turn them into concrete knowledge.

Some examples of Joy Cravings can include: yoga, a project you want to do, or an activity/special event that sounds exciting.

When you think: Oh, I wish I had the time/the money/ [insert any other reason here] for that..., work quickly to capture that joy craving!

2) Translate These Cravings into "Real" Items

Now that you have the knowledge, take heart; you've succeeded in identifying some of your joy cravings. Now, it's time to take action!

Go through your joy cravings and decide how you're going to take action on at least one item. If you placed them into a container, think about randomly pulling one out. As long as you resolve that you're going to take the knowledge contained on that slip of paper and put it into action, you're set to go.

Be careful not to overwhelm yourself; in other words, don't subtract the joy from your joy cravings. If you're not accustomed to "you" time, start slowly. Set a goal for the week, something like spending 15 minutes working on that first action step.

Of course, the hardest part is starting, so create a goal that you can accomplish. From there, you can gradually work towards adding more of those to-enjoy items to your daily schedule.

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