Very few people see wonders in their workplace. This is a strange
and sad circumstance because we can see them elsewhere. The truth
is that the world is wonders-full - if only we would learn to see
Here's a scene for you. An executive who appeared
so uncaring and tough at work actually managed to attend his
grade four play, "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed." Melissa
was Mrs. Johnny Appleseed and she insisted that her dad and mom
sit in the second row (the first one being "Reserved")
right near the center aisle. They could see her white bonnet as
she peered through the curtains to be sure they were still there
and ready for the wonders they were about to see. And wonders there
were! It went the way grade four plays are supposed to go, with
kids forgetting their lines or saying them either too quietly or
too loud, the teacher's constant prompts from backstage, the miscued
curtains. Each one was a wonder. And then the wonder of all wonders
- Melissa's only line rehearsed a thousand times at dinner, in
the bathtub and the last thing before sleep: "Oh my dear husband
(that part always made the other kids laugh and it did this time,
too) do not be discouraged, for people around the world will eat
from the orchards you have planted." I do not even want to
meet the parent whose eyes are not filled with tears of wonder
in such a situation.
There are many wonders on which we could focus, but at this time
of the year I offer a few comments on the wonder of Joy. Joy is
the evidence that life makes sense, if even for just a moment.
Experience enough joy-full moments and you'll have a whole day
full of joy. String enough days together and you'll have one joy-full
week. A joy-full year? One can barely imagine it.
I really don't know why joy is so illusive
today. Is it not something we all long for? Is it possible that
someone would not want joy?
If having joy means that our life is making sense, then surely
we want all we can get.
So how come, in her wonderful book Light
Dances, Shirley Trout sadly comments that, "youth appear to
find woefully few adults who demonstrate any joy in being alive?" How
come poet David Whyte, in his spiritually rich book, The Heart
Aroused, insists that the experience of joy is incredibly rare,
particularly in the workplace?Whyte seems to suggest that our problem with
joy is that we see joy coming toward us and we do something that
allows us to escape
from its embrace. It is like the crotchety pessimist who is finally
talked into going to a New Year's Eve party, almost starts to have
a truly good time, and then catches himself.
We all know the person
who seems to have dedicated his life to misery. If one could become
joyful by breathing, he would hold his breath. Here is how Whyte
puts it: "
we may actually experience joy as a moment
of terror. It opens to us all our possibilities and yet casts a
shadow of comparison across all our other moments. Joy brings an
intimation of death and mortality. This joy will pass as all others
have before them." Does this mean that we don't dare make
our workplaces joy-full for fear that something terrifying will
happen? How did we get into such an attitude? Every parent has, at some point, given their
children the warning: "Don't
get your hopes up too high!" I guess if your hopes are too
high there is more potential for disappointment.
Of course that
begs the question about what altitude hopes should be set at so
as to avoid the pain of a fall. After all you can hurt yourself
stepping off a curb.
You are reveling in the loving joy of a new
German Shepherd puppy, given to you as a Christmas gift, and your
neighbor tells you about an adult dog that tore apart the entire
house and all who lived within it. You win a million dollars in
a lottery drawing and can now pay for your mother's heart transplant
when a friend (mis)informs you that 43% of all lottery winners
commit suicide. Even the television weather person gets into the
act. "Most of the nation can expect beautiful weather at the
start of the week," she'll say, and then adds - in case you
were starting to pack a picnic - "let's hope it lasts." The
intimation, of course, is that it won't and you will probably spread
your picnic blanket over a patch of poison ivy. Why couldn't she
have said, "The weather for most of the nation is beautiful
"How can we learn to in-joy or joy-in the experiences of life?
Here is how I think joy works. When we sit down to eat an absolutely incredible
meal - one that sparkles in our eyes, flirts with our nostrils, rumbas with
our tongues - we experience the joyous stimulation of all our senses. Following
along with the joy of taste, smell and so on, comes the strengthening assimilation
of that food into our body. What began as sheer sensual joy now nourishes us.
It literally becomes part of who we are.
Likewise, when we go through an experience
that affirms our worth as a unique and royal creation, one that brings delight
to our path, we are strengthened in our soul. If our food shapes us physically,
our joy shapes us spiritually. Now here is where the metaphor becomes a little
more complicated. When we eat, the consumption and digestive
process has many components
to it, each essential to the value and purpose of eating. However,
some of these components are highlighted for our undivided and
joyful attention while others are just there and we don't even
think about them, let alone rejoice in them. At the restaurant
I doubt that any of your dinner companions will sigh, "Oooo
I just love it when my food goes into my intestines!" or "There
is nothing more wonderful than when my stomach acid begins to decompose
my food." (If they do, you need to get some new friends -
and I mean now!)
Some aspects of our experiences we label "joyful" and
other aspects we don't label at all; they are just there. We label
the sizzle of the steak but we don't label its decomposition in
our stomachs. Still it is important to remember that all aspects
are essential to the whole experience of joy. When we don't see
it this way there is the tendency to denigrate the more mundane
and less exciting aspects, or even become angry at them. The point
is, not all parts of joy need to be euphoric in order to be part
of joy. Not everything at work has to be ideal for you to experience
Finally, let's go back to the point Whyte makes,
that we reject joy because we are afraid we will lose it. If
you never fall in
love you don't run the risk of having your heart broken. Of course
you do run the risk of having no heart at all. This is common thinking.
If you can avoid joy, you will avoid the pain of losing joy. But,
I can't imagine sitting at a restaurant table and saying, "I
don't think I'll eat this incredible meal because tomorrow's dinner
may not be as good." The secret to full life is Carpe Joy!
Eat while it's hot! Be nourished now - it will make you stronger
for whatever tomorrow brings.
I am suggesting that evidence of joy is an indicator that you are
on track to finding a life of meaning and that you see the divine
purpose of your work.
I am not suggesting that just because every single thing doesn't bring ecstasy
you are off track. The wonder of joy points to an emerging congruence between
your life and your work. When we learn to joy-in the choices that make up our
lives, we will also have the wisdom to know with which of the options available
to us we are to joyn. Let's make "joyn" a new word that means to
become part of something with enthusiasm, energy, zest and celebration. My wish and prayer for you during this holiday season is that
you will find in your workplace the wonder of joy. And to ensure
that joy will indeed be there, take some with you when you go.
Joy to your world and may your heaven and nature sing!
The following quotation must be printed
at the conclusion of each reprinted article:
"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation."
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.
Ian Percy is an international speaker and
consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com