As originally published in Medium’s Publication THE ASCENT.
“It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast
When I was a little girl, so many things made me joyful:
- My mom picking me up after school
- My dad opening the front door to come home after work
- My brother learning to crawl
- The Disney theme music playing on a movie screen
That last one matters. I decided to become a marketer because of Disney. The uncontained sense of happiness and joy I felt, and still feel, every time I hear the Disney theme music made me realize I want to spend my life bringing that joy to the world.
And now, as a marketing executive, I spend a lot of time in meetings discussing feelings — not my feelings, but the feelings of consumers that use my products have versus the feeling we want them to have. It’s during these conversations that the topic of joy comes up. Some people feel joy is fleeting, and not something anyone can feel consistently. I don’t agree, I think joy is a state of mind, but it wasn’t something that I could ever explain well or convince the anyone of — I had no data to share. That changed when I heard Brené Brown speak regarding a common trait she found in her research about people who consider themself joyful: they all practiced gratitude.
As a mother of two, a wife, a daughter, a homeowner, a friend, a board member, and a marketing executive, my life is busy. Finding a balance or staying sane is a constant struggle. Many days, it’s so downright impossible that I’m oblivious to the thought of finding joy and can do little more than zone out on the couch. I realized the more days I let myself do this, the more miserable I became.
I had to realize the joy I found when I was little wasn’t hiding in the moments I listed but was the result of my gratitude for each one of them.
Life is hard, and when you’re struggling to manage too many things (including your own ambition), it’s easy to forget the little moments that matter. It’s even easier to forget to have gratitude for the things you do have. I uncovered a trick to find balance by flirting with a technique I used during times of mourning or sadness — find something, anything at all, to do or enjoy, even if it is just for a moment. It gives you a chance to break free from the darkness. It worked so well I told myself:
“I challenge you to find moments of joy in each day, every day, for the rest of your life.”
At first, I found it to be a silly challenge — just something to do to give myself an escape during too-busy days. I’d stop work in the middle of the day to hold my dog or delight my kids by stopping at the park on the way home from school. If I had a boba craving after a tough meeting, I indulged. And if I wanted to read a chick-lit book in the evening instead of catching up on work, I did. And I loved it.
But then something strange happened. My life felt more balanced without me trying. It isn’t perfect. There are still days that feel a mess. But my attitude towards life is more filled with joy, and I remember (mostly) to appreciate the moments. Playing tea party with my daughter in the afternoons feels like fun, not a distraction or obligation, and I am grateful for the moments I have with her. Walking my dog in the morning feels happy, not rushed, because she gives me so much love, and I am grateful I get to spend time with her every morning.
For the longest time, I thought the only way to find balance was to prioritize, say no, and set boundaries ruthlessly. But my silly challenge to myself forced me to discover this secret: One way to increase balance in your life is to say yes to daily moments of joy — and let your heart be grateful for them.