Five principles to authoring a joy-filled life

There are many paths to joy, but only one that matters to youWoo Alert!

Hang onto your unicorn saddles, I am about to go totally woo woo for just a quick minute.

Sometimes it just feels good to get all fluffly, doesn’t it? And when you’re answering the question of what it means to be Joyful by Design, a little woo in there makes it all come together.

I like to think of joy as a river that runs through all of who you are, encompassing your mind and heart. This river is spring fed with the source of joy coming directly from your spirit.

Okay, I’m done.

And now the less woo definition.

Joy is runs deep. It is a presence that is a part of you that is sometimes hard to understand academically.

It is a feeling that has to be experienced to be wholly grasped. And at the very least observed in order to sort of get it.

When you are connected to the source of joy that comes from your spirit, you walk through the world with….






Being joyful is not about always being perky…but it can look like that for some people. It’s not about bounciness and its not about the kind of happy jazz fingers that make a good cheerleading gig. Or is it? It’s like this:

Being joyful by design can result in perk, bounce, or jazz fingers.


Perk, bounce, or jazz fingers do not necessarily mean that one is joyful.

Get it? It’s one of those relationships where the inverse is not always true.

Joyful living is about connection. The connection you have to yourself and your purpose or intention. And the connection you have between you and others.

It is a beautiful thing. Easy to talk about. Easy to write about it.

Much harder to live on a daily basis.

There is so much crap that can attack your sense of joy. And many of us did not grow up being taught how to be open to the experience of joy or how to let a joyful essence be the fuel that keeps us going.

Joy is something that you feel at a deep level. It literally resonates throughout your being. When an experience strikes your joy chord, it reverberates through you like a gong and leaves you feeling something deep, from your head to your toes.

(Okay, that was a little more woo. Can’t help myself!)

Or from your root to your connection to the heavens. Woo or not woo – whichever.

Joy stays with you.

When you feel anger, or grief, or fear, those emotions are processed and moved through (joy likes movement) and the joyful part of you is still there, helping to dictate how you handle your anger, grief, or fear.

Joyful by Design is all about the life you can lead when you experience a deep sense of joy and satisfaction, the kind that echoes from your soul out into the world.

There are tons and tons of ways that you can experience the kind of life that is filled with joy, so many that it would be fun to start an online ebook that we could all contribute to and add our two cents on what joy means to us.

For now, I’ll share with you my five principles for living a life that is Joyful by Design. For each of these principles, there are dozens of behaviors that define it in further detail. It’s up to you to figure out which ones will help you create the most joy in your life.

Numero Uno: Step up
Every organization, group, team, etc. has a leader. The leader is responsible for listening to others. For motivating the rest of the team to accomplish individual goals in order to achieve a common goal. And for ultimately making the decisions and taking responsibility for the consequences.

What does it look like to step up?

It means we take responsibility for the areas of our lives that before we were either blaming others for, felt helpless about, or settled for.

We find what it takes to motivate us to do all sorts of things, from saving money to meditating every day, to asking for help with a home improvement project.

We stop giving our power away to others and start owning that we are powerful and when we set an intention, the only thing that can stop us from achieving is the woman in the mirror.

We step into our lives and we are fully present in them, come what may, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.

You are your most powerful leader and ally – you are the source of your own joy.

Deux: Aim before you fire
Have you heard the one about the bank account we all have? We wake up every morning and have an account worth the same amount as every other person on the planet? Its your time account and each day, a new deposit is made. Oh, and there are no rollovers from the day before.

How we spend our time can be an indicator of many different elements and facets in our lives. Including how much joy we experience.

If you run through your day with a thought of all the things you’d love to get to, but don’t create the time to get to them, or even one of them, the day can feel wasted.

And we can be left feeling shame, anger, resentment, or all kinds of crappy things as we live our lives with the days marching by and no progress is made toward our big goals.

When you’re a busy mom, your days can easily feel like crawling into a cannon and being fired into your life. You are propelled out of the cannon with a huge BOOM! hurled through the air, passing through the daily tasks and routines that take up your time, splattering in a few places, and wondering if you are ever going to be calm and quiet again.

The busy-ness that takes over our days is not going to go away. There will always be laundry to fold, meals to prepare, and people to spend time with.

Aim before you fire is not about not doing these things. Its about having a strong sense of purpose and being clear about your most important actions of the day and making sure those get done.

Its about using your thirty minutes of quiet in the morning to do something you want to do and not use it to scrub the toilets.

Have goals to work on and make regular progress on them. And if you make goals you don’t like, just change them. This is about aiming at something before you fire yourself off all over the place and feel like you’re running the race but getting nowhere.

Three for the Money: Feel outrageously awesome as much as possible.
This is crazy stupid important. You have an internal joy compass. Use it.

That compass is the way you feel. How many times have you ignored an initial gut feeling and later realized that if you had just followed your instincts…

Things would have been different.

Feeling outrageously good as much as possible does not mean that you never experience sadness. Or that you are unaffected by the emotions of others. It means that you have consistent practices and habits in your life so that overall, you have more good days than not good days.

That for the most part, you feel awesome. You walk through the world knowing that you are making choices for yourself. You take action on your goals (even if you’re scared) and you recognize how great it feels when you move forward.

What does it take for you to feel awesome? Whatever it is, that thing will lead to more joy for you.

Fourth and ten: Let others in on it
Share what you’ve got and see how your joy level amps up. This can mean connecting people you know who just need to meet one another. It can be as simple as holding doors or saying good morning to the cashier at the gas station.
Odds are good that when you create your own joyful life, it will be easy to let others in on it. This is an incredible spiral that just keeps getting better. When you feel as outrageously awesome as possible, you are often smiling and people notice.

The people closest to you might even wonder what it is you’ve got going on. And you’ll be able to tell them that you are living your life from a new perspective and that it has made all the difference.

Last but not least: Know thyself
This is my personal favorite principle to creating a life of more joy. This is about getting to know the person who lives between those two ears, behind the eyes gazing at this screen, and the heart beating in that chest of yours.

Who are you? What do you stand for?

What matters most to you?

What makes your blood boil?

What makes your heart sing?

Who are the people that make you feel good?

What is the deepest desire of your heart?

Just a few nuggets to noodle as you ponder what it means to you to author a life based in joy.

Keeping a journal where these questions can be explored is one way to do this work. If you’ve never kept a journal or diary before, it might be an extremely gratifying experience for you to start out writing by hand. Something really cool happens when the thoughts flow from your head, down your arm, and out onto the page.

And want to know a secret? If you get the stuff in your head out of the way, you’ll start writing from the heart, and that’s when you really start to achieve that mission of knowing thyself.
So, what does “know thyself” and committed self-exploration have to do with creating more joy in your life?

You need to know what are the things that need to change for you to step up and lead your life.

This is the way to find out what to aim for when you fire.

Knowing what makes you feel outrageously awesome will make it easier for you to do it again and again.

And sharing your joy with others is easier when you take a some of your precious time to revel in your sense of joy and well-being.

When you are joyful by design you know where you are and have a clear sense of where you’re going from here.

You engage tools and resources to author a life you feel great about living.

And despite any fear, anxiety, or scared-out-of-your-pants feelings that you might have along the journey, you are able to come back to joy. Every stinking time.

Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:
Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit or

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