Joy Is Worth Fighting For

The topic of joy has been coming up a number of times lately in coaching sessions with leadership clients and also in personal conversations with loved ones. The theme seems to be the absence of joy in the face of stress, exhaustion, and overwhelm. I know this experience first hand as it wasn’t that long ago that I felt the same way. 

When life is humming, when we are healthy, the sun is shining, we are experiencing success in enough areas of our lives, joy just seems to show up without any work; however, when our spirits are low, when we feel disappointed, anxious, or just overdoing our automatic pilot mode, we may feel an absence of joy.

Joy means different things to different people, but generally speaking I think we can agree that it’s a feeling of pleasure and happiness. Joy feeds resilience because it’s an energy source; however, oftentimes when we need our resilience most, our sense of joy is elusive.

This makes me wonder if it’s possible when joy is low, to build a scaffold of sorts, while we intentionally cultivate and nurture joy. A scaffold is a temporary structure, which is constructed on an as needed basis, and is built over time.  

Here are some scaffolding suggestions to use as needed, and to practice over time:


There is no question that the fastest way to feel joy is a deep laugh. Who are the people around you (family, friends, colleagues) who make you laugh deeply?  Find them and spend time with them. And if that isn’t possible, listen or watch some good comedy. It’s not hard to find.

Practice Gratitude

There is so much we can be grateful for; however, when joy is low we often aren’t paying attention to gratitude. The key here is to move beyond conceptual gratitude or knowing in your head what you are grateful for, to embodied gratitude, which is actually feeling the sensations in your body. Right now, think about one specific thing you are grateful for. Bring that thing/person/experience to mind, breath in deeply all the way to your toes, and FEEL it. Turn up the volume of the feeling, and notice what happens.

Appreciate the Micro-Moments

When joy is low we can feel flat, and nothing stands out. Everything is gray. Cultivating mindful attention and strengthening our capacity to be present, helps us to notice the beauty in the ordinary. Micro-moments are always around us, and when we are able to notice them we can leverage the joy that they bring. A personal micro-moment might be truly tasting your coffee in the morning, pausing to breath in the fresh morning air, hearing the birds when you leave the house, and appreciating the small wins at work.

And finally….

Be Kind To Yourself

When joy is low, we are often quite critical of ourselves and/or our circumstances. It’s precisely at this time that we must turn the compassion we might offer someone else, inward to ourselves. Something is difficult in your current context, and it’s helpful to say to yourself “no wonder” I feel this way. Joy cannot start to percolate when we have no space for our humanity.

Just as individuals can lose their connection to joy, so can our teams, especially in the face of the increasing uncertainty and ambiguity of work. When navigating the challenges of today’s world, it’s critical that we notice our level of joy and do what we can to restore it. We need to tap into all energy sources to uplift, expand, motivate, and inspire us, and our teams. 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash