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J is for Joy - An A-Z Guide to Resilience

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Me and my singing teacher, Anna Ling sharing the latest song we're practicing.

Joy takes work. For the past two years, I am jolted awake every morning at around 5am with pain all over my body. In this moment I have a choice: I can sink into unfairness or jump out of bed and embrace the (perverse) joy of a freezing cold shower. This is how I start my day as a burnout keynote speaker.

More than work, joy is an act of rebellion. The majority of the world lives under hardship and oppression. First hand accounts of the War in Ukraine or the draconian lockdown in Shangai are living reminders of how cruel life can be. Yet amidst the pain and trauma, you will hear the giggling laughter in the pop up nail salons at the women’s refugee centres in Poland, or the chanting from apartment balconies as Chinese authorities scramble with mega phones to literally tell residents to 'curb their enthusiasm'.

The barrier to joy is misery: our fixation with the quicksand that pulls at our feet. Of the five primary emotions (fear, anger, sadness, joy and sexual feelings) joy has to jostle it out to tip the scales of our negativity bias. We can help by compassionately acknowledging that prideful part of us that wants to wallow, before encouraging us to pay attention to the small invitations that invite us upward.

In the words of W.B. Yeats, the world is full of magic things, patiently awaiting our senses to grow sharper. Joy is a momentary grace that we often miss or mistakenly trivialise. The warmth of sunshine on our face, the sound of our dear friend’s laughter, the comic genius of our children; these pockets of joy build back our buffer so we can withstand more and keep going. To soak up the joy is to participate in the process of our own renewal. It is to drink from the well of resilience.

As a burnout keynote speaker I often share with my audiences that the best way to invite joy into your life is to schedule something in the working week where your goal oriented self can rest.

For me, this is singing. To bathe in harmony is a deep source of joy. Despite my busyness, I put aside time for a 1:1 singing lesson smack bang in the middle of my working week.

The idea was inspired by Alan Rusbridger, Ex-Guardian editor who in the height of the phone hacking scandal (one the Guardian's biggest exclusives), stole away to practice the piano, a hobby he relinquished as a teenager. He credits this time with giving him clarity and perspective he needed to navigate a time of intense pressure.

As a burnout keynote speaker I often tell the leaders that I work with that there is a strong business case for allowing your employees to do what brings them most alive on the clock. The will return to the fray, full of the joys of life. What better way to lead?

Joy is best felt rather than abstracted, so here's a dose of joy: me and my singing teacher, Anna Ling sharing the latest song we're practicing - "What will we do when we have no money?" by Lankum:

This is an A-Z guide to showcase some unfamiliar concepts in resilience, originally shared on my LinkedIn and inspired by day-to-day insights from my own experience with stress and chronic illness and my work as a burnout keynote speaker.

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