3 Simple Steps to Create More Joy in Your Life


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“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~Carl Jung

“Should I move back?” was the question I asked myself. It was 2018, and I had moved to Berlin eight months prior. And everything had gone wrong. So wrong.

I moved here for a relationship, but that relationship ended. I also moved for different work but found myself in a toxic environment. I had very little support from the community after my relationship ended. And I found myself horribly ill and in a hospital.

The easy thing to do would have been to move back to London. It was still a huge move, but I would be back with my friends and support network.

But something stopped me.

Something was going on inside me that told me I would not be any happier if I moved back.

That moving back would be a massive distraction from what was happening inside me. It would allow me to ignore that—to push it aside. And then, hopefully, in London, I would be too distracted to need to deal with it.

I had no idea how transformative that decision would be.

What was going on inside me?

I had come to the realization that I had moved to Berlin to try to escape from who I was. That I was trying to choose only part of myself rather than all of myself, and I was doing this by trying to have a relationship with someone.

But, in actual fact, I was bored. Bored in my life. Bored in a successful career as an international executive—a career I had no interest or passion for anymore.

I decided it was time to figure out who I was. Not just part of me, not just some of me. But all of me.

But I had no idea how to do this. I was drifting about in the dark. Then I realized that was part of the problem—I was trying to break through this veil of darkness to understand who I wanted to be.

Imagine a Strange World

I want you to imagine you are in a strange new world full of mountains, valleys, deserts, seas, and oceans. And this world is completely dark other than a light you hold in your hand.

No matter what you do, no matter how far you try to raise the light, you still cannot see into the darkness.

Instead, all you can see is within the circle of light.

This World Is You

This strange new world is actually you, the lands and oceans making up all your joys, passions, grief, sadness, and much more.

But for many of us, our identity, who we are, and what gives us joy are unknown lands in the darkness.

When it comes to wanting to understand who we are, we realize that, although we inhabit our body, many of its thoughts and emotions are a strange new world to be explored.

And this is uncomfortable. If we are not distracting ourselves from the darkness, we’re spending all our efforts trying to pierce the veil of darkness. But trying to look further does not work.

So what can we do?

Look at what is within that circle of light. There is so much to learn, explore, and understand within this circle, even though so many of us discount it.

Do we see a lump of rock and walk over to see how interesting it is? We then see something else and walk toward that, and then another and another thing. Without realizing it, we are walking through the darkness step by step, focusing on what we can see. And in doing so, we are exploring our hidden world.

What does this mean in practice?

1. Be mindful of the now, no matter how bad it seems.

In Berlin, when I was choosing to leave or stay, I was working for a toxic company with everyone constantly angry or bursting into tears in front of me and one person trying to set me up for failure. It was a horrible time.

But within that horror, there was some gold.

As I became more mindful, I realized there was one thing I enjoyed during the workday: speaking with someone one-on-one. I loved helping and supporting people in private chats, especially those who wanted to grow and improve.

I was amazed by this revelation. How could I be feeling joy within all this toxicity? But now I know that a fundamental part of me loves connecting with and serving people, which is why I am on this planet. This was the first signal or seed of my purpose.

Ignoring what we hate is easy, but gold can often be hidden there. Be mindful of those times as well as the good. The thing you really need might be hidden in those awful periods.

Outside of work, I realized I could use my beautiful balcony, but I was not using it, as I was too distracted by everything going wrong (and did not have any chairs).

Berlin is so beautiful in the summer, and even though this year had brought non-stop rain, it was temperate enough to sit outside, sheltered from the rain, and enjoy the humid, rich smell of the garden air.

One night, I was treated to a drunk neighbor so happy they were singing in the rain. And it was so joyful to hear them do that.

But I was not doing it. I was too distracted. So I bought myself a chair and found myself meditating and thinking while sitting out in the summer rain of Berlin.

Years later, I realized that many of the seeds of my current life were planted on that balcony.

During this time, I stopped and allowed myself just to be. Providing myself with this time allowed me to start understanding myself.

And when I was bored on the balcony, I meditated or watched TED videos that inspired me.

2. Reconnect to joy from the past.

We live in societies where we are pressured to focus only on our career, taking on more responsibility and making more money so we can use that money to buy the latest thing, be it the newest iPhone or some new fad on Instagram or TikTok.

But this is not joy.

Joy is such a short-lived emotion. We only feel it when carrying out an activity that gives us joy; if we are too distracted, we can miss it.

When we start to focus on a career or material possessions, we can end up disconnected from joy. So we must find that joy again.

Part of this can happen in step one—being mindful of the now and noticing when we feel that joy. But we can also mine for joy.

The first way of doing this is to think back to when you were a child and teenager. What did you enjoy then? Do you do any of this now? Or did you give it up because you felt too busy or ashamed?

I used to love Legos and Star Trek but was often shamed by family and friends for liking them. Then, as an adult, I thought only children play with Legos, so I gave it up. Now, I buy myself Lego sets and enjoy putting them together.

But we can also reframe what we like in childhood into adult traits and actions.

I used to love writing stories when I was young. Knowing I loved writing then, I realized I could decide to write now, but differently.

Now I write for joy, but rather than stories, I often write articles explaining concepts and helping people.

Reconnecting to joy from the past also helps us to rediscover parts of ourselves that were always there.

Many people believe they are not creative, but when they rediscover their joy from when they were young, they discover they were hugely creative.

3. Throw things at the wall.

The final thing is to try random things. To do random things. To see how much you enjoy it or where it leads you.

I discovered that a center around the corner from me was holding a workshop for a spirit journey. I had never done anything like that before. I thought it was something that happens in the rainforests of the Amazon, not around the corner from where I live in Berlin.

But I thought: Why not try it?

I had a fantastic time doing it, and it led me to more mainstream events at the center, from potluck dinners to events for finding your purpose. It also helped me create my own social network here in Berlin.

So try random things you’ve always wanted to try and note which things you hate and love; they will help you discover what you want and who you are.

What Did I End Up Doing?

The year 2017 was really hard for me. I felt pushed to my limits.

But making that decision to stay and work toward understanding who I was—understanding that dark, hidden world—is one of the best decisions I ever made.

It led me to discovering my passions and the sort of life I wanted to live.

I have given up a six-figure salary to focus on various passions. I just returned from a “workcation” in the sun (avoiding the bleak Berlin winter), and I no longer have that sense of dread I had each day.

There is still much for me to do. Making these changes has led me to find even more parts of myself.

Although these new parts of my world are still to be explored, I have found impressive mountains to rest upon and amazing oceans to sail on within me, and my life is so much more fulfilling because of it.

How about you? Do you want to start exploring who you are, your hidden world? If so, start now!

About Phil Poole

Discover how to lead a meaningful life and career with Phil at coachingforadifferentlife.com, where you’ll find a free download of six transformative questions to help you find fulfilment. A former international executive in UK broadcasting and Berlin startups, Phil now excels as a coach, writer, and entrepreneur, guiding individuals towards personal and professional fulfilment. His mission is to empower others to find and live their purpose.

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