Practice Two: Bring the Joy
Our research has shown that joy plays a huge part in what makes high performers successful. You might recall that joy is one of the three defining positive emotions of the high performance experience. (Confidence and full engagement in the moment – often described as presence, flow, or mindfulness – are the other two)
That’s why I suggest that if you decide to set one intention that will raise your energy and change your life more than any other, make it to bring more joy into your daily life. Joy won’t just make you a high performer, it will cue almost every other positive human emotion we desire in life. I don’t know of any more important emotion than love, though I also believe that love without joy can feel hollow.
To understand how they do this, I ask a group of randomly selected people who had score high on the HPI to describe how they generated positive emotions and feelings in general. What specifically brought joy into their lives (and what didn’t)? And what habits, if any, did they deliberately make themselves practice in order to stay in joyful states for longer? What emerged from their responses is that high performers tend to follow similar habits every day. They tend to …
- … prime the emotions they want to experience, in advance of key events (or of the day in general). They think about how they want to feel, and ask themselves questions, or practice visualizations, that generate those feelings. (This aligns well with “focus on the feeling” from the previous chapter.)
- … anticipate positive outcomes from their actions. They’re optimistic and clearly believe that their actions will be rewarded.
- … imagine possible stressful situation and how their best self might gracefully handle them. As much as they anticipate positive outcomes, they’re realistic about hitting snags, and they prepare themselves for difficulties.
- … seek to insert appreciation, surprise, wonder, and challenge into their day
- … steer social interactions toward positive emotions and experiences. They are what one respondent called “conscious goodness spreaders.”
- … reflect regularly on all that they’re grateful for.
If you were to do these six things consciously and consistently, you’d feel pretty joyful, too. I know, because that’s what happened for me.
Getting my life back
Every morning in the shower, I asked myself three questions to prime my mind for a positive day:
- What can I be excited about today?
- What or who might trip me up or cause stress, and how can I respond in a positive way, from my highest self?
- Who can I surprise today with a thank-you, a gift, or a moment of appreciation.
This simple morning practice can create anticipation, hopefulness, curiously and optimism – all positive emotions proven to lead to happiness and to positive health outcomes such as lower cortisol, less stress, and a longer life span.
New mental triggers
Every high performer I’ve every interviewed speaks about how they take control of their thoughts and bend them toward positive states of mind. They don’t wait for joy to land on them; they bring it.
- The first trigger was what I call the “notification trigger.” I put a phrase BRING THE JOY into my phone as an alarm label. I set the alarm for three different times throughout the day, and I set the text for the label of the alarm to read BRING THE JOY! I could be in a meeting, on a call, or writing an e-mail, and all of a sudden my phone would vibrate as the alarm went off and display those words. (As you learned in the chapter on Clarity, I also put other words and phrases in my phone to remind myself of who I want to be and how I want to interact with others.)
- The second trigger I set was what I call a “door frame trigger.” Every time I walk through a doorway, I say to myself, “I will find the good in this room. I’m entering this space a happy man ready to serve.” This practice helps me get present, look for the good in others, and prepare my mind to help people. What positive phrase or sentence could you say to yourself every time you walk through a doorway?
- The third trigger I set up was a “waiting trigger.” Whenever I’m waiting in line to buy something, I ask myself, “What level of presence and vibration do I feel right now, on a scale of 1 to 10?” By asking myself this question, I’m checking in on my emotional state, scoring it, and choosing whether it’s sufficient to how I want to feel and how I want to live my life. Often, when I fell at a level 5 or below, my mind snaps to attention and says, “Hey, man, you’re lucky to be alive. Raise your energy and enjoy life!”
- The fourth trigger I set up was a “touch trigger.” Whenever I’m introduced to someone, they get a hug. Not because I’m a natural hugger – I’m not. I started this trigger because I read so much research about how touch is vital to well-being and happiness.
- The fifth trigger I created was the “gift trigger.” Whenever something positive happens around me, I say, “What a gift!” I did this because so many high performers talked about t how they felt a sense of reverence or sacredness in everyday life.
- The sixth trigger was a “stress trigger.” My brain injury was causing me to always feel hurried, almost panicked. And then one day I decided that hurry and stress were no longer going to be part of my life. Stress is self-created, so I decided to stop manufacturing it. I always believed that we can choose an internal calm and joy even amid the chaos, so I decided to do just that. Whenever things felt like they were getting out of hand, I’d stand up, take ten deep breaths, and ask, “What’s the positive thing I can focus on and the next right action of integrity I should take now?” Over time, this practice took the power away from the stressful and hurried feeling caused by my injury.
To complement the triggers, I began an evening journaling activity in which I wrote down three things that made me feel good during the day. Then I took just a few moments to close my eyes and actually relive them.
Gratitude is the golden frame through which we see the meaning of life.
High performers cultivate joy by how they think, what they focus on, and how they engage in and reflect on their days. It’s a choice. They bend their will and behaviors to generate joy. This enlivens them but also serves others. And so it is now time to awaken and remerge into the world with a youthful spirit.
- Three questions I could ask myself every morning to prompt positive emotions for the rest of the day could be …
- Some new triggers I could set for myself include (see my examples of notification, doorway, and waiting-in-line triggers) …
- A new routine I could begin for replaying the positive moments of my days is …