As is common at this time of year, I’m reflecting on the twelve months just passed. What did I achieve? Where did I fail? What did I learn?
Even though I work really hard to move forward in many areas of my life, I generally reach this point in the year feeling as though I’ve wasted another year because I’ve failed to make the big leaps I imagined at the start of the year.
But this year I’m thinking about it slightly differently.
Making it about joy
Every year I’ve done the same thing – set goals and gone about achieving them. A few years ago I realised the pursuit of goals had nothing to do with my ability to live a joyful or happy life. I realised the only way to experience joy and happiness linked to goal pursuit was to make the WORK an opportunity for joy and happiness.
That revelation slowed my pace and, to some extent, led me to take less action or even quit on some my goals.
Sometimes the old voice in my head comes back temporarily to berate me about this.
“Look what she’s achieved! You could have done that if you’d worked harder!”
“Sure! You can prattle on about joy but you’re not exactly the epitome of joy are you?! And what do you have to show for it anyway?”
In these moments, I judge myself for my failure to pull all-nighters, work weekends and say no to everything that isn’t goal-related.
But then what?
After all, we only chase these goals because we believe them to be the gateways to feelings of happiness, contentment, satisfaction, and joy anyway.
For me, the big lesson of 2023 has been about remembering this fact and learning how to live with gratitude and joy. Over the last 77 days I’ve also learned that chasing joy with my mind and trying to capture it in words often takes me further away from the experience of it.
The answer to living with joy may be so simple it defies our human need to nail it down, name it and explain it.
So I guess the big thing I’ve learned this year is to move beyond my words and thoughts, to find stillness in my breath and quiet within myself. From there, gratitude and joy come naturally, as all the self-created barriers to those feelings fall away and I’m left with peace, simplicity and ease, and a sense of connection to something bigger than myself that paradoxically also seems to reside within me. It blows my mind how much freedom I have to experience joy and how easily I imprison myself with worry, stress and the need to control the world around me and make specific things happen.
Seeing this hasn’t made me less ambitious. I still have goals for 2024. If you’re goal-driven too, you probably know the feeling of possibility knocking on the door of your heart, opening your imagination and whispering to you that your potential is waiting for you to catch up. NOT answering this call would close off an avenue to the deepest, most joyful living I can imagine – but chasing these goals as though my life was worth nothing in the absence of their manifestation has been a mistake too.
I’m excited about 2024 and all that might happen but I realise the only gift I have is this moment and my only REAL goal for the rest of my life is to increase my appreciation of this fact and live these moments with gratitude and recognition of the fullness each one offers.
Happy New Year!! May 2024 be a year of joy, love, belonging and connection for you and everyone you love. xx