The thing with New Year's resolutions is this: We're destined to fail.
So for 2014, I'm doing something radical. I'm ditching the resolutions and going for joy-filled-ness instead.
Okay, I might have made that word up. But what could be greater than spending an entire year pursuing JOY instead of things that may or may not happen and only offer temporary satisfaction anyway? Because I'm talking BIG happiness here... the kind that shoots tingles up and down the spine and allows grace to flow in the midst of challenge. And don't confuse joyfulness that's finicky and fleeting depending on circumstance. Joy-filled-ness is a way of being that oozes aliveness, infusing all our experiences with a certain spark.
The ancient Greeks and the French knew all about that. Joy has its roots in Greek, meaning "to rejoice," and the Old French word, joie, to experience pleasure or delight. I don't know about you, but I sure could use a dash of delight about now. Because as the world literally and metaphorically comes apart at the seams, where a loss of innocence has proliferated the collective space and at a time in history when none of us can say we're guaranteed "x" (our jobs, our marriage, our kids going to college, our rain forests surviving) -- a commitment to joy-filled-ness seems not only a surefire way to build contentment from inside out but a solution for creating a more sustainable, peaceful planet.
Sure, I'm still a goal chaser and want to be a better person, to make more money and to find the man of my dreams (still hoping for a tall, long-haired Italian if anyone's asking). But joy is the journey I'm focusing on and the lens I will look through, during the highs and lows.
If you're game to cultivate Joy-filled-ness, here are some tips to jump start the process:
1. Stay Present When People Give You Their Time:
Truly be there and actively listen. No matter whether it's family, a lover or the transient on the park bench. Everyone is a teacher, and if we're checking our iPhones, worrying about a promotion or preparing our next responses, we miss the magic. Being present in every moment allows surprises to appear, unexpressed sentiments to unfold and possibilities for deeper connection -- on both sides.
2. Invest in the Art of You:
Invest some time, every day, in doing something that fills the soul and lifts the spirit. Give yourself permission to express the silly, outrageous, totally irrational art that is You. Not because you want to perform or make a few bucks or improve your dating resume. Simply because you love the way it makes you feel -- all warm and connected and lost in time. I'm taking Italian opera lessons and writing poetry a la Pablo Neruda. Sometimes I can even slip between the lines and find love itself. So here's my advice: Forget the end result and dissolve into the dance of creation. That's where you'll find the true juice of joy.
3. Be Authentic and Watch Miracles Unfold:
Our society urges us to impress people with how perfect our lives are, how we've got it all together and how we never struggle with identity, pain or meaning. Just look at today's posts on Facebook, if you don't believe me. Being authentic and raw with our wounds, however, is downright courageous. Recently, I found myself telling a store clerk, a complete stranger, about my heartbreak over a tumor in my uterus. I watched in awe as her eyes welled up with tears and her story unfolded: At age 26, she'd just had a hysterectomy and mere hours before I arrived, she'd had a meltdown. "It just hit me. I'll live the rest of my life and never have a baby of my own." There are no coincidences. When we show up as who are, others can do the same. It's in that openhearted space where miracles blossom.
4. Have Gratitude for the Ups and Downs:
If we're grateful for the chance to love, to risk, to hurt and to heal through our relationships, we carve a path for joy even in the depths of sorrow. Kahlil Gibran says in The Prophet that they come from the self-same well: The deeper our sorrow, the deeper our capacity for joy. Usually our worst sobbing-on-the-floor, "life has no meaning," gut-wrenching disappointments in our partners stem from our inability to take responsibility for our own happiness.
5. Check Out and Tune In:
As Dr. John Welwood so brilliantly points out in Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, we're looking for consistency and completion from people equally wounded as we are! So if we want unconditional love, we need to change the channel to the divinity network. For me, meditation is the fast track to get there. It's in that quiet space where "knowing" is waiting, where intuition, wholeness and truth reside. Purists will tell you meditation must be for a certain length of time, in a certain position, using certain mantras. Don't listen. Start with five or 10 minutes a day. Put on some cool gong music or wind chimes. Focus on taking deep breaths. Or better yet, go sit by the ocean or hug a tree. The how doesn't matter. What's important is to check out of the madness and plug into a bigger connection. You'll tap into the universal grid of joy-filled-ness and 2014 may just be the best year of your life.