Last week my husband and I hiked one of our favorite alpine trails in one of our not-so-quiet-or-quaint-anymore Colorado mountain towns. In the summer, this meadow is full of diverse and multicolored wildflowers. The trail is appropriately called Oh-Be-Joyful, and it brings me joy just to say its name, let alone engage in its wonder step by step.
And just this morning I had a joy trifecta right from my office window: A mama deer and her days-old spotted fawn came scampering out of our wooded backyard and made me smile as they frolicked around quite freely in the newly-mown grass. A gorgeous golden yellow swallowtail butterfly landed unbidden on my magenta petunias in the window box outside the view of my standing desk. And all the while, in the background, I could hear the hummingbirds whirring and the lesser finches splashing around in our fountain. Ahhh, I’m truly grateful for these simple joys. All three of these micro moments prompted me to pause and look up from what I was doing. This is why I love living (and working!) in the Rocky Mountains. Joy surrounds me.
But joy is not just an outside job. It’s an inside job, too. “By Now, Burnout is a Given,” declared a recent headline in The Atlantic. In it, Lucy McBride writes: “We need to acknowledge the toll of constant vigilance and hold ourselves accountable for what we feed our eyeballs and brains. Shifting to an internal locus of control — that is, taking charge of our own lives again — can restore our sense of agency and self-determination.” I couldn’t agree with her more.
In my brand-building work with clients, one of the first exercises I often ask them to do is to compile a JOY LIST and keep it handy. Simply jot down big and not-so-big things that bring them joy … top of mind, no overthinking necessary! No wrong answers! Joy is personal. Joy is specific. Joy is sensory. Joy is subject to change. Simply have fun thinking about what delights you. So, why not pause and handwrite a few things down right now? My list will naturally look different from yours.
Now, glance at your list and think back to the last time you experienced some of these delights. How recently? Too far in the past to remember? Then keep this list in view and consider it a joyful reminder to intentionally integrate more of what brings you pleasure into each day, each week. Why not track your joy like many of us track our habits?
I also encourage clients to make JOY LISTS as a team, and to then invite those who wish to share to do so as they feel comfortable. As a leader, it pays to know one or two (or more!) of the things on each of your team members’ lists. How satisfying would it be to tap into or help your team members accomplish their joy goals? I firmly believe that if joy were more a part of our daily work lives, our cases of burnout would diminish.
Joy-filled leaders create joyful brands. We need more of both.
As I mentioned earlier, I feel surrounded by joy these days. Take a peek at a few of these OH BE JOYFUL business examples that crossed my desk this month from clients, friends and colleagues. See if one of them just might inspire you in some way as you lead your own brand through a JOY curriculum refresher:
My Maine aficionado sister shared this surprising beverage with me during our first post-COVID family reunion (a joyful event on many levels): an unusual blueberry sparkling wine — yes, blueberry. In addition to the unexpected delightful flavor, I love not only how Bluet tells and packages its story (see https://bluet.me/) but more important, how it lives its story. This brand was built on friendship, poetry and a real desire to be part of people’s lives. “Maine’s champagne!” was featured in Yankee Magazine this month, and a case of it is on its way to our casa.
Some days our joy tanks are running on empty and we simply need a reminder to look up — literally, especially in the midst of the tumultuous times we’ve all been through. I expected this hopeful message to come from national church leaders, but was glad to see one of our nation’s largest retailers encouraging that activity as well. One of Macy’s commercials timed around fireworks season simply asks us to look up and believe in a better tomorrow. Another evocative commercial inspires us to honor everyday heroes. These reminders gladden my heart as a customer, and as an American.
I dove into my latest catalog from Levenger because the cover roused one of my major joy buttons — the sea — and because my analog life brings me deep joy. Dazzling turquoise sea glass pens and seafoam green planners invited me to “enter their store” and turn the page into its new product offering (see digital version here). I was delighted to learn of its debut “Sea and Sky Collection,” meant to “inspire my imagination.” Page after glorious page of products designed to help me: Read. Write. Think. Dream. Do. These important brand verbs drive these customer-centric marketing, merchandising and creative leaders, and they work joyfully to enchant their customers season after season.
JOY is the unstated middle name of this company. If your children attended and loved a Vacation Bible School this summer, it probably was based on curriculum developed by Group, an innovative leader in church resources. (Take a peek at next year’s monumental best-seller.) Like many companies during the pandemic, Group had to recalibrate its workforce and office space 15 months ago. When the time came this month to regroup back into their corporate offices, Group Publishing’s empathetic and imaginative leadership team welcomed back their “Groupies” with great fanfare. They literally rolled out a red carpet, played music, celebrated new hires and company anniversaries and promotions (finally and properly and in person!), bestowed creative awards departmentally, and served delicious pizza in an all-morning party. A joy-filled, memorable event, spot on in alignment with the core values this brand and its leaders embody day in and day out.
The Lost Kitchen
Long ago, when Erin French helped her dad in his diner as a young girl, she never could have imagined where that experience plus her own fortitude plus her culinary creativity would have taken her. Right back to her hometown in Freedom, Maine. (Read her captivating and heartening story in her new memoir, “Finding Freedom”; and here’s a recent tidbit where Erin discusses her joy.) As owner and head chef of The Lost Kitchen, Erin has created a truly magical, joyful and a bit unconventional dining experience for her guests who “book” a table through an old-fashioned but very effective mail-in postcard lottery system months in advance. She explains that “part of what might make TLK special is that it’s small and intimate, which allows us to give our guests our every ounce.” Yes, Erin and her band of female friends offer up ounces, pounds and tons of delectable and sensory joy to her patrons.
If JOY were a color, what color would it be? According to the passionate duo of this furniture brand, JOY would be yellow! These female co-founders launched 13 new splashes of color into their lineup this season with the goal of “bringing happiness into your home!” In fact, “joy” is one of the names of their new palette. These creative leaders know just what makes their customers tick. I file all their product offerings under FELICITY!
So, consider these six examples a brief whirlwind of a JOY walkabout across several different industries, product types, and target audiences (albeit with a bit of unplanned Maine bias!). May these illustrations inspire you to infuse and invest your work life with more joy. In these days of burnout and strife, adapting a joyful mindset is one way we can take agency. As Marcel Proust wrote, “Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life.”