Finding Joy and Meaning

Buddha Smile

Last week I wrote a blog post entitled The Pick of the Week: Lonely. The title was self-explanatory. I was feeling a little down in the dumps – I was feeling lonely. I finished off the post by explaining that a great book called The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown had made a positive influence on me. In this book the author suggested creating a Joy and Meaning list, a list of the things that make you, or your family, operate with a sense of joy, meaning and happiness. Yesterday, I sat down with my girlfriend and decided to write a Joy and Meaning list. The net result of the conversational brainstorm was a list of activities, drawn from memory that makes us both happy. Here is my list broken down into a few choice categories.


  •             Listening to music
  •             Watching comedy / laughing
  •             Watching drama series and movies
  •             Going to the cinema
  •             Playing video games
  •             I like playing poker
  •             I like reading and writing stories
  •             Photography / capturing wonderful moments in life
  •             Not worrying about money
  •             Not worrying about the future
  •             Not worrying about my son
  •             Amusement parks
  •             Playing football and watching football
  •             I like to meditate

Helping others

  •             I am happy when I am helping people
  •             I like talking to large audiences
  •             Buying and giving gifts


  •             Hearing and telling funny stories
  •             Being with my friends
  •             Going to the cinema
  •             I like cooking and enjoy it when people love my food
  •             I like playing poker
  •             Parties with all my friends and no strangers


  •             Being in the presence of my son
  •             Watching music concerts
  •             Listening to music
  •             Watching comedy
  •             Playing board games
  •             Teaching my son about life
  •             Playing video games
  •             Touch and love
  •             Seeing Jude happy
  •             Amusement parks
  •             Playing football
  •             Listening to my son’s stories

Liza and Lee Activities

  •             I like to meditate
  •             I like reading my stories to Liza
  •             I like it when Liza listens to me
  •             Watching theatre
  •             Watching music concerts
  •             Listening to music
  •             Watching comedy
  •             Watching drama series and movies
  •             Going to the cinema
  •             Playing board games
  •             Playing video games
  •             Playing table tennis and badminton
  •             I like to dance
  •             I like cooking and enjoy it when people love my food
  •             Touch, love and sex
  •             Seeing Liza happy
  •             Amusement parks

Memories of the Past

  •             Playing musical instruments
  •             I like acting
  •             I like to sing
  •             Dungeons and Dragons
  •             Subbuteo
  •             Glastonbury
  •             Keeping frogs, slow worms and newts
  •             Playing paper football with my uncle
  •             Playing crossbows and catapults
  •             Playing balloon volleyball
  •             Ornithology

There was also a lot of information regarding activities and behaviours that make Liza happy, which in turn will make me happy. I haven’t included that list because it is my girlfriend’s property, but it is important to highlight it as I can now make deliberate plans to engage in these activities and behaviours. I also plan to complete this activity with my son, so I understand what activities and behaviours drive my son’s joy and meaning also.

There were a number of interesting things for me as a result of this exercise and far too numerous to mention in a blog post. But the main feedback I was getting was how little time I spent actually participating in the activities that gave me joy and meaning. This was especially true for things that gave me so much joy when I was younger such as acting, singing and bird watching. I have thought about this a lot and the main question that kept rising was, ‘Would I enjoy these activities and experiences now I am an adult?’ and the answer is yes.

I love my job and maybe this is why I have merged work and play without even realising that the lines have vanished? I try to keep Saturday and Sunday for play, but far too often spend that time working instead. I think this exercise has made me realise that I am far too focused on the future and am missing out on the opportunity to live my life. What is more precious to me, ticking off a bucket list item – such as visiting the Eiffel Tower – or playing charades with my girlfriend and my son?

Moving Forward

With my girlfriend and I now living together, we have made a commitment to spend a few hours each Sunday planning our upcoming week. The plan will include time for work, personal time, time to help others, time to be a great parent, socialising and plenty of rest and play. I will keep you posted on progress, but in the meantime why don’t you create your own Joy and Meaning list and share it with the Needyhelper?

What activity or behaviour could you spend more time doing that would bring you joy and meaning? What excuses have you made in the past for not participating in them?

Photo courtesy of h.koppdelaney (cc & flickr)

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  1. Just letting you know that I came by today to do a little reading. Sure wish you had LIKE buttons so I could spread some LIKEs around………………

    • Hi Russel,

      I am not sure what you mean when you say a ‘Like’ button. I have a Facebook ‘Like’ button, is that not what you are referring to?


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