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Thriving in Uncertainty: the Importance of Joy

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The following is a synopsis of the Imagining in Action Open House Discussion hosted on May 27th, 2022 with iLumn8.Life founder Anne Peterson and Guest Speaker Alan Cahn. Be sure to click the links in the article to schedule a call with Anne to explore the opportunity of joining her at the Imagining in Action Summit coming this August in Cancun, Mexico.  

Thriving in Uncertainty: the Importance of Joy

This talk was with global humanitarian and master coach Alan Cahn. It was about, as visionary leaders, how do we remain joyful and experience thriving (not merely surviving) given that the times we are living in seem like one disaster after another.

We affectionately called this Thriving Amidst all the B.S.! 

This is such an important topic, as we navigate our imaginings for a better world. It isn’t easy to be a visionary with all the tragic and difficult events happening in our communities and all over the planet. Those of us with BOLD visions are often acutely aware of these events, as we work toward the realization of a better world. The rage we feel about injustice in the world can point us towards our Yonder Star, and can get us started on the journey.  Joy fuels us and allows us to experience THRIVING personally and professionally on the journey.

Knowing that our rage, sorrow and other emotions can point us towards our vision, however, isn’t necessarily going to keep us joyful. In the face of tragedies in our community, country and wider world, or just through being worn down in everyday life, we can get stuck in these emotions that can easily lead us to apathy.  So one of the first keys to being joyful is having a way to interact with these emotions, and Alan had a great framework for that.

Alan’s Four “E”s… Experience. Embrace. Explore. Experiment. 

Experience the emotions. Where are they in your body, and what are the thoughts and feelings that go along with them? Experience those feelings, feel them and allow them to move through you. 

Next, embrace them. Put your arms around them and accept them. Denying these feelings can lead to getting stuck there, or to self judgment for feeling that way in the first place. 

Once we embrace emotions, we can explore them and figure out what is underneath the emotions. This is important so we don’t get stuck in these feelings, or become apathetic. The bad news about apathy is, it leads to a downward spiral. Moving through the feelings can allow us to tap into the commitment and concerns we have beneath it all, find others with the same concerns and move us into action. 

Which brings us to experiment. Try experimenting with actions to take towards our vision, the vision at the heart of what caused those so-called “unproductive” emotions in the first place.

Being able to experience all of our emotions without judgment is a key factor in getting into our joy as leaders, and as humans. In addition to being able to experience our emotions, Alan inspired us by talking about the ways he remains joyful, giving us some ideas for how we can do the same to thrive on this journey.

Alan’s 6 point plan for Joy and Thriving

Locate yourself as part of the whole and create your contribution. 

There is a real synergy between our Yonder Star visions and joy. Just as joy is the fuel for working towards our goals, our vision is one of the things that can keep us joyful. Alan spoke about his own connection to something larger than himself and how it keeps him joyful, as he continues to work to fulfill something that likely won’t even happen in his lifetime. Keeping this bigger picture in mind means that even when there are setbacks, we are able to keep our perspective, feel we are living our purpose, and also making a contribution right now. 

If you are reading this, you likely have a purpose or a mission and returning to it can be a source of joy.

Consider your unique contribution.

Are you contributing or consuming? And while it is true that you can do both of these, and indeed very few situations are binary in this way, focusing on what you are contributing can also be a great source of thriving and joy. This is something I have found to be true in my life, and is based on a piece of advice I was given years ago – when you are feeling down, do something for someone else. While this is only one of many strategies I have in my tool box, I have always found joy in contributing to others. 

Showing up with the intention to contribute and follow through in meaningful ways so our impact matches our intention is another way to tap into our joy. For most of us, we cannot make the impact we want to make alone.  Here’s where we align ourselves with others who are doing similar work.  We end up being more together than the sum of our parts.

Do your Duty – Fulfill Your Responsibilities. 

This means carrying out your agreements and commitments. Said simply, do what you said you would do, whether stated directly or indirectly by your actions. For example, if you own plants, water them, if you accept a job, show up and do that job, if you are a parent, care for and raise your children, do what the roles you create require you to do to be fulfilled. 

When you do your duty and fulfill your responsibilities, you become someone people trust, someone people can listen to. Most importantly, you become someone who is at home with themselves, someone who experiences power and peace in the face of even difficult circumstances. 

Seek out joy

It may be a hard truth to accept, but there isn’t much inherently joyful about being alive without intention. We are apt to notice the scary and negative things that happen around us, and finding joy requires our intention. It requires us to seek out joyful experiences, this could be anything from a cup of coffee in the morning, a favorite puzzle or spending time with a friend. Knowing what brings us joy and including that in our day, and appreciating the joy it brings can help us to notice and seek out other joyful experiences as we navigate everyday life and work towards our big vision.

Be flexible and resilient.

There isn’t always joy. And despite the fact that this conversation is about thriving and staying joyful, Alan also talked about the hard truth – we won’t always feel joyful.  Sometimes we can feel worn down and empty. Resilience comes from looking after our own needs and being proactive in filling our cup.  When the time then comes to contribute, there is enough there to give generously. 

Deal with life like everything matters AND remember, it’s a game.

Everything matters. We are all connected and everything we do from making a cup of tea, to speaking to others, can make an impact on our joy, and on the world. Treating it as such can be an important factor in our leadership. 

Bringing play and celebration to what we are doing is also an important factor to the experience of thriving and maintaining joy. It’s our game, and we get to make up the rules, to say when we win and celebrate, and to find like minded players.

Another key is to realize that the impact most of us want to make is a “we” impact, we can’t do it alone. We make it by staying true to our commitment, and aligning ourselves with others who are doing the same or similar. Our energies multiply. We can see and do what we can’t on our own.

Staying joy-filled is an important aspect of visionary leadership. Sustaining joy as a habit requires intention, rituals and practices that bring us joy.  Creating an environment around us that supports our joy is critical as well and this includes the activities we do, the people we connect and collaborate with, and our physical environment.

Knowing how to experience all of our emotions, and intentionally seek out joy, and other like minded people is key to working toward our big visions as leaders.

Alan Cahn will be one of the experts presenting at our Summit in August–Check it out!!


THE iLumn8 ANNUAL SUMMIT is about bringing Vision-Focused leaders together to renew, regroup and collaborate. Leaders ready to move big ideas and big visions forward. Is the summit right for you? Click the links below to find out more.