I was hanging out with a friend from New York City when he suddenly asked me, "What's the one thing that gives you so much joy that you realize, this is what life is all about?"
My answers came easily: Song! Dance! Comedy! Performing, in general.
If he had asked me that question four years ago, I would have struggled to give him an answer.
All my life I've wanted to be successful. I worked hard, attended a good college, and pursued higher education. Though I do not regret these experiences, my successes have been largely measured by what looked good on paper at the expense of a social life and pleasurable activities. I was raised on the motto "no pain, no gain," and that sacrifice of leisure for hard work was admirable. This long-term relationship to success left me feeling empty while I validated myself through fleeting external accomplishments.
At one point, after burning out from working late nights and weekends for years without a hobby or a social life, I felt lost, insecure and deeply unsatisfied. I was doing all the right things. Why wasn't I happy? It took months of painful self-analysis and tearful sessions in the therapist's office for me to realize that achievements don't mean much when you aren't at peace with yourself without them or you are disconnected from what gives you joy.
The introduction of song, dance, and comedy into my life opened up the part of me that I had neglected. I hadn't felt such joy in a long time!
Some people may think, "Why spend time exploring interests when you could be more productive?" What they don't realize is that by cultivating joy, you are more productive! People who regularly engage with joyful activities are naturally more energetic, mentally engaged, and inclined to thrive, rather than just survive, in their jobs, relationships, and general well-being. Experiencing joy also makes one attractive, fascinating, and irresistible.
Reconnecting with joy made me realize that success is living in all parts of who I am. If you are struggling, honestly reflect on how your choices affect you and adjust accordingly to what's true to you. Commit to being at peace with yourself regardless of what you've done. Give priority to expressing who you are and do meaningful activities with people you care about so that you're not just making a living, but also a life.
Catherine Chen, Ph.D., is a Health Coach who supports high-octane women to achieve with ease, have time for what they love and live a balanced life. Prior to launching her wellness practice, she worked in the management consulting industry and at one of the leading cancer research biotechnology companies. Sign-up for a complimentary Stress Relief Session with her at www.catherinechenwellness.com
This post originally appeared on lifebyme.com