You Deserve Joy in Your Life…Here’s How to Get It

by Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified
image of a young boy in oversized glasses wearing a shirt and tie using a Calculator and surrounded by worksheets

There are many things grown-ups don’t do.

Wait, what?!

Somewhere along the way, I started telling myself all kinds of stories:

  • I am not a good artist
  • I cannot waste time on hobbies
  • Adults don’t dance
  • Sitting around is lazy
  • It’s too late to learn a new language
  • I am too tall to be flexible
  • I will always be a size 10

Can you relate? If so, what have you told yourself you cannot do?

Do you know when we started telling ourselves this? And I don’t mean we need to start psychoanalyzing ourselves (“I think it was when Jennifer bullied me in grade five”…that’s a true story…I still won’t accept her Facebook request; however, she’s not the root issue.) I think “adulthood” has all kinds of rules we absorb.

We are human beings built for connection and see ourselves through the lens of others, our environments, our first families, and the world around us. Ask anyone who started a job during downsizing versus in our current employee-driven marketplace their career views, and you’ll hear different perspectives on work. That said, we’re not a “victim” of our context, our internalized stories, or even the identity we’ve built over time.

image of a woman looking curious with her finger pressing against her cheekAll we need is the desire to be curious, the willingness to examine our “truths”, and the evidence of alternatives, and suddenly we’re above to see alternative stories.

And here’s the fascinating thing: when you confront one story and prove it false, like a loose thread of a sweater, the rest begins to unravel with that one pull.

Here are three examples:

  • I signed up for a tap class. I liked it. I signed up for hip-hop. I like that too. I now teach other adults how to hip-hop in one of my keynotes. We confront our beliefs about “I can’t dance” together.
  • My daughter went to Argentina speaking no Spanish. I downloaded Duolingo to start Spanish lessons in support of her. I realized that I enjoy learning languages; we take Spanish classes together on Monday nights. Indeed, I don’t know enough Spanish to backpack across Spain (although the lack of showers and pillow-top mattresses is the real reason I won’t be anytime soon!).
  • After the carbs fest of 2020, I decided to be more intentional about my eating. Unless I really really wanted that cookie, second glass of wine, or extra helping, I would give it 15 minutes, make an herbal tea or go for a walk instead. I measured my food, water, steps, and sleep. Sure enough, 5 lbs shed, as did a dress size. Then another. And another. It wasn’t dieting. It was that every time a craving or unhealthy habit hit, I chose myself (most of the time). I am the dress size from elementary school now, and my cholesterol is as low as someone on beta blockers.

It Is About Choosing You

Screenshot from Duolingo showing that Sarah is a top 2% Spanish learner on DuolingoThese seem insignificant on the surface; however, they are deeply meaningful to me. I danced throughout childhood, started the dance program at a performing arts school, and would count down the days to school dances. I played my Footloose tape so many times dancing around my living room that I wore it out! Bringing it back into my life was saying, “You deserve to do things you enjoy simply because you enjoy it.”

When it comes to languages, I begged my mom to let me join a French Immersion program when I was in grade seven, and she said no, as I’d spend hours on a bus every day. I advocated getting French Immersion in our town when our kids were babies, presenting to school trustees, crafting petitions, and forming a parent advocacy group so I could vicariously live through my kids. Who knew it was one downloaded app and a half hour every day to make a new language possible and that it could be a shared hobby with my teenage daughter?

Here are some ways to reflect on this:

  • What is something important to you in the past that you wish you had held onto?
  • What is so important to you that it doesn’t matter if you fail?
  • What stakes are so low that there’s no reason not to try?
  • What if you knew you wouldn’t fail? What would you try?
  • What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now?
  • How much of your belief is an indisputable truth, and how much is an assumption?
  • What might you regret if you didn’t reinvigorate a past joy?

Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness is a much easier philosophy to live by and practice to keep if you start by recognizing yourself. That includes putting yourself top of the list, doing what brings meaning, and reintroducing things that bring you joy.

So, what are you waiting for? Take up piano. Buy some oil paints. Take a woodworking class. Download that language app. Take a creative writing class. Sign up for the amateur choir. Ask for a gourmet cooking class for your birthday. What’s the worst that could happen? And, perhaps more importantly, what’s the best thing that could happen?

If you want to live with more intention, maybe Your Great Year would be a source of insight and awakening for you. Learn more here.

Looking for more tips on self-recognition? Check out these past posts for some inspiration:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve