Accounting for Joy
Several years ago I found myself in a bit of a career funk. I was restless, annoyed, and generally prone to a good deal of whining.
Conveniently, I had given the whole mess a spiritual stamp of approval by filing it under the "God Has Bigger Plans For Me" department. These particular plans happened to include a high-impact leadership position at a different, better company. Also, with a far richer comp package.
After several months of unresolved angst, I decided to consult a trusted friend - an older, wiser mentor - to help navigate this important career decision and discern God’s will more clearly. This friend is a British chap with a great accent and a terrific sense of humor, along with a long list of business accomplishments. Kind of like Monty Python with a briefcase. We agreed to meet at my office.
I shut the door and immediately unloaded my great burden upon him, working myself into a lather over the untapped, underutilized leadership potential that was completely going to waste. He let me rant for a while, and then we sat quietly for a few seconds. Finally, he spoke up, and said: “As we grow older, it becomes more important to find joy in what we are doing rather than what we can achieve. Do you agree?"
"Sure thing,” I replied.
(What I was really thinking): “I don’t want joy, I want a kick-ass career upgrade! I want stock options and an IPO in two years and business trips to Europe and the Caribbean!”
My friend went on to describe how things that seem important when we are young do not provide the same fulfillment later on in life. In order to stay happy and productive, he said, we need to shift the way we look at our lives. “Because when we do things that bring us joy, it will ultimately bring joy to others. And then God opens up His pathways and we can begin to experience His abundance.”
He then gave me a homework assignment. “I want you to spend the next few weeks paying very close attention to the things that bring you joy as you go through your work day. Write it down for me.”
"Well," I thought, "I guess joy isn’t so bad." The truth was, I hadn't really thought much about joy in my life at all lately.
I obediently proceeded to keep track of everything at work that brought me joy, neatly compiled into a spreadsheet file which I entitled, "Joy Inventory." Much to my surprise, the list filled up fairly quickly, with categories such as, "Working on strategy projects," "Organizational change initiatives," and "Mentoring others."
Keeping tabs on my Joy Inventory somehow caused me to gravitate even more towards those activities. I also realized I was tapping into the very strengths and talents that best leveraged my contributions to the organization.
After a while, I forgot about the career angst and the obsession over my next move.
It's funny. I had been so focused on what I didn’t have, or what I thought I should have, that I was completely missing the potential of what was already there.
Joy was always an option.