The final Great Big Dreams retreat of 2007 happened over this past weekend. On Saturday, I was talking with one of the participants. I’ll call her Vanessa. We were talking about her daughter who is famous and successful in the arts. After she told me of her daughter’s many successes, awards, and world travels, I asked Vanessa, “Is your daughter happy?” She scrunched up her face and said matter-of-factly, “Hmmm. No. Not really. Not at all.” We both cracked up. The American Dream.
It’s interesting that so many of us clamor for some vague idea of success or goal-setting without considering our own delight in the process. It would be funny if it weren’t so depressing!
I’ve been guilty of neglecting my own joy, and forgetting the things I most love. Several years ago, I was touring almost constantly. I was working hard just to keep my office, employees and independent record label going. I got into such a rut that my lack of delight began manifesting in unhealthy behaviors – drinking more often, eating crappy food, a perpetual distractedness with my friends and family, and a constant fear of “not enough.” On the outside, you probably wouldn’t have known it. But on the inside my heart was breaking.
Eventually, I hit a serious emotional low and decided to take some time to myself. I took many hikes in the woods. It was hard to do this at first because I couldn’t connect to nature. I was all wrapped up in my head and lost in thoughts and to-do’s.
Then one day, as I passed by a blackberry bush, the wall around my heart cracked open slightly. I absolutely love blackberries. Not for their taste. But for how they look. I stood there and just stared at the blackberries as tears fell down my cheeks. It dawned on me that in my quest to make it as an artist, I had adopted obsession and forgotten delight.
When you adopt obsession, you require hard hits of big things to wake up the you that has become numb. It’s as if food has to be spicier, saltier, and fattier. Music has to be louder and faster. Moments need to be “events” to get you to notice them. It takes more flash to feel good. It takes more bling to be present.
When you remember delight – you taste, you express, and you smile. You remember to feed yourself and be fed. You remember to notice. You cherish.
It’s the difference between a vacation at Disney World, and a week at an old beach house that smells like salt air and ocean spray.
Why is delight important?
Delight is a “now” word. Delight is about living in the moment – but without having to prod yourself to “be present.” Delight shifts your energy so that you become “attractive” and happy. When you are attractive and happy, then effortlessness has a way of delivering your success to you, rather than you having to “work hard” for it all the time. Also, when you are happy and when you allow delight in your life, then “working hard” isn’t so hard. In fact, it’s more fun.
One of Abraham-Hicks’s daily messages in 2007 was this: “A happy life is just a string of happy moments. But most people don’t allow the happy moment, because they’re so busy trying to get a happy life.”
Delight is that moment. Delight shifts your chemistry. It removes the resistance. It teaches you how to allow effortlessness.
We all know that, of course. And we nod and think, “Yea yea – I need to do something about that.” And then we don’t.
But have you ever considered that it might be imperative to make space for delight in your life?
Do you recognize that delight and joy might actually attract more of your goal to you as you take action steps towards it?
I’ve discovered that the more I’ve opened up to delight in my everyday life, the more I allow it in my work life, too. The more I move toward delight in my work, the more unexpected opportunities show up.
Here’s a random example: At the end of 2006, I began teaching creativity to leaders of the Federal Government. This training happened every other month throughout 2007. (And will continue throughout 2008.) In spite of all of the objections in my head (“You’re a songwriter! You can’t do this!” “Who do you think you are? This is just weird!”), I started realizing that I’m good at it – and that I really love doing it.
So I acknowledged that and kept re-designing my class and looking forward to flying to DC every other month. I got two raises during the year. And I’ve now had several businesses and corporations contract me to teach creativity to employees after finding out about my classes. I have yet to advertise or to put up a website about these trainings!
I’m now convinced that delight is one of the best ways to create effortlessness.
5 Simple Ways to Invite Delight
I still get in ruts, even now. But I’m faster at finding my way out of them. I’m more tuned in to recognizing when I’ve abandoned delight. And I know that the fastest way to get me back on track is to take some time to shift into enjoying something in the moment – rather than trying to push through the pain. Here are five ways to tap into your own delight:
1 – Create a “Here’s What I Love” List
This is an on-going list in your journal. Just write a list of a hundred things you love. If you can think of more, write them down. But write at least a hundred. From the way your dog’s ears bounce when you take her for a walk, to watching West Wing re-runs to strawberries in the summer. Call it your Master “Here’s What I Love” list. Just creating it will open your heart.
2 – Create a “Fun To-Do’s” List
This is a list to have on hand when you forget to have fun. You don’t have to come up with 100 things, but it’d be great to get at least 20 things. Be sure to include stuff you used to love when you were a kid, just in case you might try them again some time. (Don’t forget swinging on swings, jumping on trampolines, and throwing water balloons!) What is fun for you? What gets you excited? What do you love doing? Put it all down.
3 – Create a “Friends I Want to See More” List
I called my friend Beth right before Christmas and left her a message. In it, I pointed out that we had seen each other only thrice this entire year. (Though I didn’t actually say “thrice.”) Whenever Beth and I get together, we usually laugh so much, I think it boosts our immune systems for a few months! It’s so easy to let time slip by without hanging out with your most cherished friends and family. Make a list of people you love to be with – and then call them and make some plans.
4 – Consciously choose to enjoy something in your day
Let’s say you’re at work and you’re giving a presentation. Let’s say you usually despise doing this. Try shifting it. Pretend you like doing it. Look around at the people, feel the funny blips of fear in your stomach, smile to yourself and have some fun! I started doing this on stage in the past few years – and it’s really changed how I show up as a performer. To just have fun in some of those moments and realize that this is where you are right now – this can be so liberating. You might even find that you can delight in things that you never even liked before!
Let go of perfection. I know this is a hard thing to do. But it can really add to your delight to just do something because you want to do it – not because you have to do it well.
Final Note: This article was scheduled to be posted yesterday, but it snowed here. And we woke up to a blessed shadowy white morning, and I opted to walk outside with my dog – who delights in snow while I delight in her delighting in the snow. I’m happy I waited!