How to Find the Thing That Gives You Joy
Article by Emma Johnson
That is the best business advice I’ve heard and heeded in my lifetime. Listen to the spark that lights inside of you. Follow that spark and nurture it. Listen to your market, whether that’s your clients, the people you mentor, those you serve through volunteer work, or members of your community. Your market will tell you what works and what doesn’t. You will find that your spark aligns with what your market tells you. Effectively serving your market will fan that spark, which makes you more effective and more powerful. It’s a feedback loop that is one part tactical, one part magical.
I often meet people who are stuck. They are unsure of how to find a job or hobby or service project that really lights their spark. Here is my advice to them — and to you:
Don’t take time off to think about your path or stay put until lightning strikes. Get out there. Try new things. Be active. Meet and spend time with new people. Travel. Explore. Work — work really hard. As famed chef Julia Child said, “You must have discipline to have fun.”
All of the science is with me on this: Humans are happiest when they serve others. At every juncture of your passion-finding journey, ask yourself: “How are my time, energy, focus, skills, and talents best used for the greater good?”
Never feel guilty for spending time on something that gives you joy.
What Others Have to Say on Finding Joy:
Matt Schulz, Founder of TalkingInClass.org
“I have long been aware of the dire credit and debt problems Americans face, thanks to my work in personal-finance media for a decade. However, when I spoke with my son’s fifth-grade class about credit, it really ignited my passion for making a difference in financial literacy. I was blown away by these 10-year-olds’ interest in the topic and the thoughtful questions they asked. I realized that with my connections to the personal finance community, I have a powerful Rolodex of influential, money-savvy people who could have similar experiences to mine in classrooms in their communities. They could have real impacts on the futures of kids who rarely get the basic tools they need to make smart financial decisions. That inspired me to launch TalkingInClass.org, an organization dedicated to recruiting personal finance experts to volunteer in classrooms across the U.S. in order to make a real difference in childhood financial literacy. When I recruit my colleagues for this effort, I see the same passion I felt when I spoke to that first class.”
Jodi Ashbrook, Speaker, Author, Traveling Yoga Instructor, Entrepreneur, and Life Coach
“At 24, my life had become a string of negative thought patterns and why-am-I-even-here? moments. I tried to find comfort in food, which led to an 80-pound weight gain. I found myself disconnected from all of my relationships and in debt up to my ears. A few months after a suicide attempt, I faced death again from two blood clots in my lungs. I made a commitment to no longer live my life in fear, to say yes to risks and opportunities, and to follow my passion — no matter how scared I might be. Through teaching yoga and my coaching practice, I have found that helping others, as opposed to focusing on my own problems, gives me the greatest joy. Since making that commitment, I have launched my first business, become a yoga instructor and studio owner, and begun living a mobile life committed to wellness advocacy and personal growth. Today, I am free.”
Meredith Cohen, Occupational Therapist
“After college, I worked in one of the nation’s largest advertising agencies as a senior media planner until my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I knew there wasn’t much medicine could do to stop the disease, but we could improve my father’s quality of life. This led me to research and find strong evidence for a connection between Tai Chi, yoga, and boxing on the one hand and an improved sense of balance, strength, and confidence for those living with Parkinson’s on the other. I also looked at my quality of life and my satisfaction with my career. This was the catalyst that called me to do something more meaningful with my professional life. I contacted a friend at Massachusetts General Hospital who set me up to shadow nurses and physical and occupational therapists. I immediately fell in love with the art of occupational therapy. I gave my two weeks’ notice at the advertising agency and started the arduous process of beginning a new career. In the past several years as an occupational therapist, I’ve received multiple awards, become an advanced clinician, and created multiple programs specifically for Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. It was a scary process, but each day when I help make someone’s life better, I know it was all worth it.”
Versions of this article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine and on SUCCESS.com.
Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist and founder of the world’s largest community of single moms, WealthySingleMommy.com. She is also host of the podcast Like a Mother, a popular public speaker, and author of The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin, Oct. 2017).