It was a 96-degree August afternoon in Santa Cruz, California. It was almost Labor Day, and the feeling of one last swell of tourists to our little beach vacation town was palpable in the increased traffic and noise. It was also Wild Woman Wednesday, which meant that the women in my Year of the Wild Woman program were sitting around the couches in my living room for our bi-weekly group meeting.
With eyes closed and feet planted firmly on the floor, I led them through our usual grounding meditation before opening the meeting. I never know what I’m going to say during these meditations, but I’ve grown accustomed to receiving what I call “divine downloads” that always seem to tap into exactly what the group needs to hear.
Later, during our discussion, joy came up again. One of the brilliant women in the group has been slowly, courageously creeping out of a period of depression. She spoke about the struggle to find joy in her work, and asked if we could talk about that topic as a group.
I set a timer for two minutes and had us list all the moments of joy we had experienced in our work, both current and past. A mental work-joy scavenger hunt, if you will.
When the timer dinged, we went around the circle and read them, one at a time, round robin, until everyone had gone through their whole list. The speed of each time around the circle increased, and the room erupted in smiles and laughter. It was like taking a bath in joy.
Then I asked, “What do you notice?”
There was a beat.
Then someone responded, “Well we all wrote things like, ‘when someone loves the food I cooked,’ ‘seeing a student grasp a new concept in the classroom and feeling proud of them,’ and ‘when my yoga class sinks into a deep savasana at the end and I know I’ve led them well.’ So it seems like we take joy from serving others. It’s their shifts brought on by our efforts that bring us joy.”
“Right,” another woman chimed in. “From putting something out there and seeing it come back. The energetic exchange with other human beings is what makes work joyful.”
We added a few more words to list, and then I asked, “So, what’s the problem?”
Silence. Legs shifted positions. Water bottles were opened and sipped from.
Then, one at a time, they started listing reasons why it’s hard for them to sit down and work on their businesses. How life gets in the way, how they end up cleaning the house or getting on Facebook instead, etc.
I waited until they finished, then said, “I was intentionally vague in how I asked that – just ‘What’s the problem?’ but what I was secretly thinking you’d respond to is why you’re not experiencing more joy in your work. What you DID respond to was why you’re not working. See the difference?”
Laughter and nods.
“So is it safe to assume, then,” I continued, “that if we actually worked, we would start experience joy from it?”
All but one woman said, “Yes!” enthusiastically.
I turned my gaze gently towards the woman who hadn’t responded in the affirmative. She said, “Well, but I don’t always get joy from working on my business. Sometimes it feels really scary. Sometimes it feels confusing or so overwhelming that I want to give up.” Nods of agreement rippled around the room.
“And sometimes it feels joyful?” I asked.
“Well sure, sometimes, but I’m never sure which kind of day it’s going to be.” Also nods of agreement to this.
“Ahhhh. So we’re keeping ourselves from actually working on our businesses because even though we might experience soaring joy or deep fulfillment and pride, there’s also a chance we might experience frustration, disappointment, or rejection. By closing off the entire spectrum of emotion and just not even walking through that door, we ensure that we don’t experience those difficult things in our work, but we also ensure we don’t receive joy. I think we’ve found our answer.”
What an amazing group!
I left the women that day with a charge: Commit to working on your business, and while you’re doing it, commit to accepting whatever shows up – joy, frustration, pride, fear, gratification, overwhelm. Practice simply naming it, loving it, and accepting it as a natural part of being a businesswoman – actually, of being a human.
What brings you joy in your work? I’d love to hear in the comments section below!
Want to be part of inspiring conversations like these? We’ve got room for more brilliant women entrepreneurs in our group! We’re doing really exciting stuff over here and I’d love for you to be a part of it.
The best way to feel out whether this group is right for you is to attend the next Wild Woman Summit on November 6th-8th. (You can apply for a full scholarship here!) If you don’t want to wait until then but want in on this goodness right now, message me through the contact form on this site.
Here’s to living and working as our bright, beautiful, wild, joyful selves!
What type of wild woman are you?
Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!