Stop Following ‘The Rules’ Of Your Life And Bring Back The Joy

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I realized a few days back that I have to think pretty darn hard about when the last time I experienced true, unbridled joy was. Pretty sad, huh?

I’m not talking about happiness, or content, although those emotions are certainly part of being joyful. I’m talking about that feeling of total exuberance born out of doing or experiencing something that makes us feel truly free. Something that not only lifts us up but allows us to be, well, more. More creative perhaps, or more at peace. With a greater sense of belonging. More happy, for sure. And maybe even more childlike. Do you know what I mean? Can you think back to the last time you felt that way?

If you can’t remember the last time you laughed out loud, or at least walked around with a big ole’ grin on your face for a moment or two, then you may have fallen into the same trap as me –

Too much living by the rules.

Your own rules, maybe, but still – rules. Structure. Lists. You know what I mean. I’m not saying you don’t experience satisfaction, content, and even happiness, but how often is it spontaneous? How often do you do something just for the heck of it – because you really want to, not because you know it will lead to a certain outcome? For example – I say going to the gym makes me happy, which it does because I know it keeps me healthy, but I don’t think I can really say going to the gym is a joyful experience. Aside from the time I saw a guy catapulted off a treadmill because he was trying to run and talk on the phone. That was pretty laugh out loud!

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda sick of having happiness or excitement exist as just another checkpoint on my road through emails, admin, and status updates. What do you think? Could it be time for us to loosen the reigns of life from time to time? To indulge in a pastime just because we feel like it? To say the hell with the lists, and the musts and the shoulds and just start tuning in to what makes us feel so good we can’t help but smile?

It could be something simple –

  • A few minutes spent amongst nature
  • Watching a crappy sitcom
  • Reading a trashy magazine
  • Going to stand-up comedy
  • Having coffee with a friend (because you really want to, not because it’s about time you caught up)
  • Saying no to something you ‘should’ do but really don’t want to

Or something more detailed –

  • Planning a special day out just for you, or with a friend
  • Daydreaming about your next holiday and then making steps to book it
  • Creating a vision board with images of all the things you’d like to attract into your life
  • Taking a mental health day from work and just doing whatever you damn well please instead

It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I found it really difficult to come up with ways to bring more joy into my life – even writing those short lists was challenging. As silly as it sounds, I just couldn’t think of what I could do on a daily basis purely for happiness sake. I’ve become so used to living by my lists, to adhering to (my own) expectations, to following the ‘should-dos’ rather than the ‘want-tos’.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with living that way – I guess it’s kind of like following a strict diet. It can work really well, give you excellent results as well as the intrinsic satisfaction that comes from any achievement, but it’s just – boring. A little bland. Devoid of spontaneity. And even though it was probably necessary for a while (to create good habits or break ones you weren’t happy with), who wants to live that way day in and day out? Not me! I mean, it’s okay for a while but surely at some point we can feel confident enough to stop living life in a join-the-dots sort of manner and to start trusting in our intrinsic ability to know what’s best and most fulfilling. Can’t we? And even if the concept seems a little scary at first (I balk at the idea of living without my lists, and – yes this is awful – even put things as obvious as ‘read a book to my daughter’ on them), I think it’s well worthwhile. I’d rather start living life without a harness from time to time than risk losing the ability to recognize my own fears and desires anymore. Wouldn’t you?

PS – my new ‘joy’ activity has been to purchase a brand new and truly beautiful leather bound A4 journal and to start using it as a dream book through writing and collage. Even the idea of that journal makes me smile! What is your joy? Let us know in the comments!

Written on 1/20/2010 by Kat Eden. Kat is a Personal Trainer from Australia. Visit her blog Body Incredible to be inspired with the latest nutrition tips, weight loss advice, and motivational thinking. . Photo Credit: spaceamoeba

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