Finding Joy in the Mundane

By Ashley Bradley

You know how work conferences go; you eat way too much food, make small talk, exchange business cards with hundreds of people, get too little sleep, and successfully avoid submitting any tangible work products for a couple of days. I just spent a couple of days at a conference in southern California and while all of the above definitely applies, I took away a unique message: enjoy what you do.

This may seem like a “duh” statement but it made me think – even if there is something you don’t enjoy doing, say dishes, is it possible that I might not mind washing dishes if I approached the task with a positive attitude?

One of the conference keynote speakers, Steven Gross, Founder and Executive Director of Project Joy, gave a wildly inspiring presentation about what it means to be a “player” (not to be confused with a playa) – someone who plays “the game of life.”

To be a player is to be in the moment – to be actively tuned into your present moment.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve participated in conversations while making mental lists of future tasks and events, or daydreamed about escaping my reality and sitting on a beach somewhere. In his presentation, Steve made a good point: if you’re not here, you’re nowhere.

In high school I had a Spanish teacher with a similar approach to life. She refused to take on any tasks that weren’t enjoyable to her. She often said that life was too short to be unhappy for even a moment.

Obviously, we are all going to have some unhappy moments, that is inevitable.

But what if we approached life’s unpleasant moments and tasks using Thich Nhat Hanh’s theory, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

I’ve pondered this quote for the last couple of days and decided that I have become too caught up in the day-to-day management of both my personal and professional life – just completing tasks to check them off my list, not ever really being in the moment for long enough to enjoy anything. Sometimes, time can be our worst enemy, it either moves too fast or too slow (you know you’ve counted down the hours to happy hour before).

But when we are focused on time, we don’t find joy in the time we have, and if you’re not able to find joy in the time you spend carrying out a project, career, event etc., then why are you doing it?

Since 30-day challenges seem to be a trend in themselves at the moment, I’ve decided to challenge myself. I am going to approach every day and every task with joy. It may be hard to muster up a smile to clean the bathroom, but my hope is that even in mundane tasks I will find a level of joy. As it turns out, a portion of your overall happiness is genetically driven, but the majority of it is in your hands.

So I am taking control of my happiness.

And if that doesn’t work, I hear that Botox can also give you a permanent smile.


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  1. April says

    What a great article Ashley! I will join you in 30 Days of Joy!

  2. Lisa says

    I love this article, and I completely agree! Like you, I am so caught up in the management of my personal and professional life, that it’s more about checking off items, and not taking the time to enjoy each and every experience. I feel like life is a race to the finish line, but for what?? Why do we want to complete it? It’s not something we want to check off a list. Your article has inspired me to take the 30 Day Joy Challenge as well. I will try and appreciate the entire process of everyday events, tasks, projects, etc. Thank you!

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