Finding Joy in the Chaos

The holidays are meant to be a time when we shift our focus to all the good in our lives – when we invite family and friends into our homes and spread the joy. For many, though, the holidays can feel like the opposite of joyful. There is so much to catch up on at work before everyone leaves for vacation. I recently spoke with a friend who was complaining about a performance evaluation she needed to write, on top of all her other work (annual reviews are a discussion for another post).

Amid all this, what is joy? Are there small changes we can make today that will invite more joy into the work we do and our relationships with our co-workers?

When WorkHuman speaker Robert Emmons was interviewed at Yale University a couple of years ago, he was asked to define joy. He said, “it’s about connection with something that is beyond ourselves.” And it’s distinctly different than happiness. “Happiness depends on circumstance,” he said. “Joy is something we can recognize independent of circumstance.”

This is echoed by WorkHuman speaker Shawn Achor. In an OWN SuperSoul Sessions talk he explained:

Joy is something you can experience even when life is not pleasurable. Even in the midst of a long run, when your legs are burning, you can still feel joy. You can feel it working long hours [on] a project, or when waking up at 1 and 2 and 3 in the morning with a little 1-year-old … You can still feel joy even with not high levels of pleasure.

Joy is not about pleasure, but about connection. Harvard Medical School professor George Vaillant further explains that, “It’s that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you hear a child’s laughter, embrace your sweetheart, or cuddle a puppy. Joy is all about connection to others.”

When was the last time you felt joy at work? For me, it was just last week. Even though it was one of my busiest weeks, I was working with a close-knit team on a new project. We produced Globoforce’s first-ever live Facebook chat. None of us had done anything like it before. While there was a certain amount of anxiety and stress, we felt a sense of accomplishment. We were grateful to be working for a company that lets us try new things, be creative, and work together as a cross-functional team.

Much of the research in this space points to this connection between gratitude and joy. Brené Brown has said that after 12 years of research, “I did not interview in all that time a person who would describe themselves as joyful, who did not actively practice gratitude.”

If you want to bring more joy into your workplace, you need gratitude. Send a note to a colleague who has stepped up and helped you out recently. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the all the “to-dos” of the holiday season. But expressing your gratitude and thanks can change your whole outlook and experience at work.

Here’s some advice from Tony Schwartz: Start by asking yourself, “What is right in my life?” I’ve shared my story about joy. What’s your story? Post it in the comments!

Cheers and happy holidays!


Gratitude–You’re Doing It Wrong

The New Science of Stress

3 Ways to Build Meaning into Your Workplace

Interview with Dr. Robert Emmons

How to Kill Happiness at Work

Sarah Payne Sarah Payne (140 Posts)

As Managing Editor, Sarah manages Globoforce’s blog and writes content about making work more human for people and organizations worldwide. She has a BA in English and Writing from University of Rhode Island.