Three years ago, devoid of joy, I began to wonder what my life would look like if I prioritized the input of joy instead of the outcome of grades, sales metrics, titles that I was relentlessly seeking for joy.
I looked about myself and saw, that in every organization I was in, there were people already doing just that. I called them the Joy Soldiers.
A Joy Soldier is person who does what they can to spread joy in their immediate locus of control.
As a boots-on-the-ground member of an organization, without a special title, a Joy Soldier is compassionate and lifts up the people they interact with each day. I have found that the most powerful tool a joy soldier has is our ability to make someone feel heard and worthy of attention.
The incredible thing about being a joy soldier, is that it doesn’t require huge acts of kindness. Sometimes the most impactful way to create joy for a person is to listen to them, with your whole body, with full attention that says, I see you, I hear you. You matter. The ability to communicate and give someone the reminder of their inherent worthiness is the gift of the joy soldier.
There is an invisible army of Joy Soldiers in any organization. But note, one cannot be a phenomenal joy soldier unless they take care of themselves, so it is essential to practice self-compassion and manage your own energy. An extinguished flame cannot light another.
Reflection and Connection anchor the Joy Soldier purpose, working against Evolution (our naturally negatively primed brain) and our Environmental Conditioning (we believe we need to suffer to earn joy).
Reflection is a tool we have to call attention to the good already in your life without having to change a thing. It works to rebuild our naturally negatively primed brain, rebuilding neural pathways to notice what is going well.
Practices and Tools:
Wins of the Day Practice
Writing down your “small wins of the day.” I use a Google Doc bookmarked to my Google Chrome and a notebook I bring to work.
Asking your friends/parents/coworkers what their Wins of the Day are
Helps others lean into the light and reframes the story you and they are telling themselves about their day.
Personally, I never imagined I would be able to meditate. I have a hyperactive mind and every time I tried I would just end up thinking about a To-Do list or getting even more anxious. But as I continued to practice, I watched as slowly I became able to dive beneath the tossing and turning waves to calmer waters. If you want to try, start with two mins. No more. Just see how it feels for you.
Reminders in your work calendar or school calendar to express gratitude
Connection is the cure to the addiction we have to accolades and titles. When you are talking to someone, in flow, in one of those magical conversations where you forget the time, you don’t care what their salary is or their title at work. You don’t need some external force to tell you what their or your worth is as a human being. You just know.
Practices and Tools:
Connection to Others:
The story that we tell ourselves about our lives is our experienced reality. If you believe your life is crap and you are miserable, you will live a life of misery. But it is hard to just shake yourself out of that mindset
That is why Joy Soldiers can help by asking questions with a positive tilt, making people notice the good in themselves, and their lives.
What do you look like at your best?
What strength do you have that allows you to flourish in this role?
What do you look like when you are thriving?
What gives you energy?
Listening is a powerful tool for giving others a reminder of their inherent worthiness. Full attention to another gives them dignity and makes them feel like they are worthy of being listened to.
I hear you
That is so valid that you feel that way
What I am hearing you say is…..
That must be really hard
How did that make you feel?
What do you think your options are?
Body language like:
Phone out of sight
Chest open and proud
Facing the person directly on
It can be difficult to see our strengths, especially when we are hyper-focused on where we are lacking. Spotting something specific in another person helps them see themselves more clearly, at their best.
Your attention to detail is impeccable. I so appreciate you looking over my work and am amazed at how nothing gets past you. The effort you put into everything inspires me to do better myself.
4. Walking meetings / Meetings w. movement
I love to meet friends and people I am mentoring for a walk or for a yoga class. Movement makes us feel better, and the shared experience of sweating together, moving together, feeling together, can bring people closer together than any 30 min coffee chat can.
Additionally, you are doing something good for yourself AND the other person, so you don’t feel like you are giving up your light for someone else.
5. Thank You Notes
It never fails to surprise me how much thank you notes mean to people. I drag my feet in writing them, but I have found that the benefit to myself (always feel better and more appreciative) and the other person is more than worth it.
But you can only meet others to the extent you have met yourself…
Connection to Self:
In writing, we decide what details to expand on and which to diminish. We choose the tone and thus write the narrative of the experience. The story we tell ourselves about what is happening to us and why is what we experience. There is great power in this. I personally am working on writing more.
Sleep should be a given, but I admit, I have to force myself to get the much-needed amount of sleep we need- still I cut myself short. I remind myself that our brains do not function correctly without sleep. Often times, I just need to tuck myself into bed and the next day, everything is much more manageable.
Music / Poetry / Art
Different mediums help us meet ourselves. There have been songs and poems that put emotions into words that I did not realize I even had. It helps us connect to ourselves in a fundamentally different way, as we notice what sparks in us. Art helps us come in at a slant, getting deeper into ourselves, giving us words and visuals for expressions long unspoken.
I truly believe the way to free is to feel through it. Motion for emotion. Our body holds tension in places we don’t even know we have and affects our emotions more than we know. I have found movement (yoga, running, The Class, walking, spinning) as an incredible outlet for the junk I have repressed.
In my experience, the more uncertainty and unfamiliar situations I immerse myself in, the closer I get to myself.
Eating alone is humbling and jarring but also lets you taste your food fully, and relish in the experience of being by yourself, with yourself.
"Joy's soul lies in the doing" -Shakespeare