Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I Choose Joy

Several years ago I sought the advice of a life coach to help me with some changes I'd been going through. She was a great sounding board and a huge help to me. I wanted to share one of the ways in which she helped me find balance in my life.

One of the exercises she took me through was to analyze all the different areas of my life through a circle. Her circle had 16 slices; I cannot remember all of the slices that we talked about. In hindsight I think she was a little too detailed in all the different areas that impact a person's life. But I put into this circle the ones that I remembered us talking about.

The point of the exercise was to evaluate your happiness with each of the areas, and to score each area based on that happiness. If you were pleased with it, you gave it a 12.5 so that you had 8 balanced areas of your life. If you weren't pleased score it lower, and score something else higher, then think about what could you do to change it. This wasn't about where you spent your time, but where you spent your energy, be it positive or negative. (For example, if you spend half the winter complaining about how cold it is, maybe you should choose to live in a different climate.)

When she and I began working together, my chart looked something like this:

I was very happy with what was happening at work -- I loved what I did, who I worked with, felt very fulfilled and challenged at the same time. I also spent a lot of energy on work -- not just hours in the day, but time when I should have been sleeping or spending time with family that I instead spent thinking about work.

I scored "friends" low not because I don't enjoy my friends, but because I didn't get to spend enough time with them.

I scored low on "family" for the same reason.

Ditto on "community." Community? What the hell is that, anyway, and who has time for it? Certainly not me.

What's the question mark in the middle of the circle, you ask? I asked the same question. Once we'd gone through the entire exercise and I'd scored and drawn all my slices of my life's pie, she told me to put in the center of the circle, in a single word, the thing that I wanted to center my life on. It could be anything. Some people would put "power," or "God," or "wealth." She told me to take my time, that it would take a while to determine what I wanted to center my life on.

Oh, that's easy, I said, I already know.

I choose joy.

Joy. It's such a simple thing. Everything I wanted in my life I wanted not just to bring myself joy, but to bring joy to others.

And once I said it, I realized that I really needed to work this circle. I needed to find time to develop my friendships, to spend time with my family, to get connected to my community. And that meant one particular piece of this pie had to get smaller.

That was when I began a new job search in earnest, to leave a job I loved and try something utterly new and unknown. It was terrifying to think about, much less act upon.

Nearly 3 years later, I can say that my circle looks very close to the last one. I have wonderful, dear friends whom I actually get to spend time with. I have made every recital, field trip, teacher conference that I've wanted to attend. I enjoy my job, learning new things while playing to my strengths and having fun with my co-workers. My husband and I have re-connected and are a team, raising our girls together. I'm volunteering at my children's school, participating in our community through the PTA and volunteering for local nonprofits. And I recently embarked upon a fitness journey to improve my health, something I hadn't scored myself low on but I knew I could improve.

At this time in my life I feel like I have achieved joy.

So I ask of you the same question: If you had to go through this exercise, how would you rate these slices of your pie chart? What would you put in the center of your life?

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