Living Worth Reading

Don’t Do Things That Bring You No Joy

May 8, 2018

There’s a folder in my inbox called Insights, it’s the destination for a handful of email newsletters that I regularly read. Among those is DesignLuck, a few months ago author Zat Rana wrote a question that slowly began to eat at my soul, thus becoming the focus of my writing this week. Rana asked:

“How much time do you spend on things that bring you zero joy?”

The question is simple, also complex. When I first read it, it made me stop and recenter my thought process that day, and almost every day since, reading more deeply into it each time it came into my mind. While it’s not a profound question, it is a question that forces you look at yourself in ways you just aren’t ready to, yet. This question is like hearing a surprising statement or humbling question with followed by an answer from a child that makes you instantly think, “Wow, they are wise beyond their years.”

It’s a drilling question that plays in your head. It becomes uncomfortable, driving the soul squirm I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Why does it do this? Because it forces you to look at signs in your life that something is off, and things may need to be reset.

“What is it in your life that you do that brings you zero joy?”

How painful is it to ask yourself that? When you do, can you easily answer it, do you focus your thoughts on something else or do you grab a journal and start taking it apart? Did you do all three once it finally sank in? I know I did. In looking at what doesn’t bring me joy, I learned a few things:

  1. I’d built a life based on what society said it needed to be.
  2. I’d bought into what I, myself, had marketed.
  3. I was trapped in that construct.

Once you realize this, you can’t (and shouldn’t) burn your life down and expect to rise, like the Phoenix, from the ash of those ruins. It’s not that simple or easy as you get older. In your twenties, you always have a second act, in your thirties and forties and even fifties, you plan to strategically reinvent yourself because your decisions impact more than just you. So in order to reset and reinvent, you need to ask yourself:

  1. What joyless things that I do now can be easily let go of?
  2. What joyless things can I let go of that may take a little more time, but I need to set an end date for their removal?
  3. What joyless things are going to take the longest? What’s my plan for that?

The third question on this list above is usually why the simple question of “what are you doing that brings you zero joy?” becomes so hard. It comes with an analysis of your life; assessment of your goals and values. From there, it comes with the glaringly obvious need for change and that is a frightening concept for many people. But fear of change and going along with what society says is often how we’ve gotten to where we are and left us questioning our life. So I ask you again:

“How much time do you spend on things that bring you zero joy?”

“What is it in your life that you do that brings you zero joy?”

And now I ask you, what’s your short, immediate and long-term plan to remove those things and find a bit more meaning, solitude, acceptance and peace? Take a pen to paper and start working it out.