It’s an odd thing about humans; we get almost as much pleasure savoring what’s coming as we do from the experience itself. This is why I want you to plan for joy.
I think this might have something to do with dopamine, but I don’t really care– I just know that I derive an immense amount of satisfaction from the anticipation of things.
So take a look at your calendar. What fun things do you have coming up?
Hopefully you have some recurring things in there, your fun-on-autopilot. But now is the perfect moment to deliberately plant the upcoming weeks and months with delicious treats.
If you are very organized and you like spreadsheets, you’re probably well on your way to having your summer sorted: the renting of the cottages, the planning of ye olde road trips, the hellish booking of the pricey summer camps.
But perhaps (just hypothetically of course) you’re feeling a bit bleary, summer feels a thousand years away, and you’re trying to decide whether maybe pants could be optional tomorrow.
Perfect! If you’re caught in the fog of not-spring-yet, that’s all the more reason to spend some time browsing images of sunshine, grass, and blue water.
So let’s do this thing together: pick a time in the next few days (could be this evening, maybe Sunday morning) to go into your calendar and start gussying it up.
How To Plan For Joy
You’ll need the following supplies:
- Your calendar, whether it’s paper or electronic
- Access to the internet or dreamy brochures
- Your imagination
Begin by setting the stage. A good beverage in a beautiful mug or glass; music that lifts your heart; good lighting; soft socks.
Now, flip through your calendar and look at the next six months. Note any large events that knock out swaths of time– your coronation, for example, or upgrading to the new OSX– and get a sense of the rhythm of what’s coming up.
Are you going to be slammed with business trips in May? Are you going to be doing the forced march of soccer season? Is July the craziest season at work? Good to know.
This might seem simple, but taking a few minutes to look at what’s coming up will give you reams of perspective and clarity. Most people squinch and try to ignore what’s ahead, because they’re afraid they can’t handle it, and then they end up feeling like they’re reeling from one big crashing wave after another. We’re going to take the eagle-eye view. We’re going to see what’s there and plan accordingly. You’ve got this.
First thing to look for: anything awful. If you have promised to take your loathed colleague on a week-long communication intensive, or you agreed to volunteer for the school auction, or even just– you know– LIFE– notice those things that genuinely make your teeth hurt. Now obviously, if you can get out of doing those things???? Hello???? Get out of them.
But you’re likely left with a few commitments that still feel overwhelming. Here’s what you do: schedule something really decadent right after them.
Look at your pinterest boards or your favorite magazine: what would really feed your soul and nourish your body? These things do not have to be expensive, though they can be; what gives them their decadence is 1) that they are the particular flavor of luxury that YOU like, and 2) that they’re something you often deny yourself.
Here’s a list of things that might help you plan joy:
- go for a long hike in the woods
- buy a new novel and sit and read it allll day
- sit in your favorite room for hours on end and just daydream
- do lunch, mani-pedi, and window shopping
- get a massage, steam, or facial
- buy flowers and then arrange them all over your house
- go hear live music, see a dance performance, or go to a gallery
- take the longest nap in the world
- go for a long aimless drive in the country
- catch up on your scrapbooking
- work out in the garden with a glass of lemonade
- take a class you’ve been eyeing
- spend the whole day in your kitchen making that fiddly delicious thing
Get the drift? Often the luxuries we crave are close at hand, but they’re things we deny ourselves because we’re busy busy busy. The true ingredient in luxury is time, and your own attention.
So anywhere in your calendar that you see something draining coming up, go ahead and block off a full day afterward of something decadent.
This isn’t indulgent, by the way; it’s making a deliberate decision to live your life functioning at full capacity.
When we put ourselves through something hard and exhausting, and then we jump right back into life with no down time, we end up slow and sluggish. When we push forward depleted, we are never are at our best. Deliberately filling the well is one of the most straight-forward and practical things you can do to be productive, efficient, and playing your best game.
Now then! We’ve taken care of the awful things.
Next, look for moments that deserve celebrating.
Birthdays and holidays, sure, but also look for more intimate moments– peony season, for example, or your anniversary at your job; the first berry-picking weekend or the last day of school. What simple things would make them festive? (Remember, it’s our attention and intention that give joy its real juice, not complicated preparations.)
Maybe you’ll all wear funny paper hats at dinner, or buy chocolate croissants for breakfast, or take yourself out for an elegant glass of wine. Maybe you’ll just wear your silkiest underwear to mark a secret special anniversary, or you’ll do a private triumph dance with the shades drawn and the music cranked.
Warning! Here’s the part you’re going to be tempted to skip.
Go ahead and put those things into your calendar right now.
I know, it will feel silly. Please, please, do it anyway. What you’re doing is planting the seeds of the life you want to live– vivid, rich, full of celebration and savoring.
Last thing: dream a bigger dream.
Look at your pinterest boards or your favorite magazine. What are three things you’d love to do in the next six months that feel like a stretch? Not completely impossible, but sort of unlikely? Maybe it’s filing all your receipts, or (please oh please) it’s something like skydiving, or taking a silks workshop, or going to Rome– whatever.
Pick a 3-hour chunk on your calendar. Weekend afternoons are good, but anywhere will do. Block it off in big red letters and call it ‘Amazing Thing Brainstorming Session.’ Commit to spending one afternoon– just one!– doing some wild dreaming and crazy-ass scheming about what it would take to make one of those amazing things happen.
That’s it. Plant those little seeds with me. Water them with your attention, intention, and fierce commitment.
And tell me what starts to grow.