The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Are you living your best life? Do a ‘Joy Review,’ says author of Chicken Soup for the Soul

How do you live a life filled with joy? Jack Canfield, author of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, explains how. (Photo courtesy of Jack Canfield)

Jack Canfield, the self-help guru and co-author of the wildly popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series, started out his career as a high school teacher and, at one point, trained to be a lawyer, until he discovered that his true passion was helping people find their own true passion in life. It all starts with what he calls a “Joy Review.” Canfield, now aiming his message at entrepreneurs, sat down with Kathy Korman Frey, who runs a global database of women entrepreneurs called The Hot Mommas Project, and I to explain:

Q: You speak and coach people all around the world. How many would you say are following their true passion in life?

Canfield: So many people work so hard to get to the top of the ladder and find out it was leaning against the wrong wall. I tell people, ‘If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, you’re off course.’ A lot of people are off course. A lot of people chase the money. They chase the power. They chase the status. They chase the prestige. You see guys totally stressed out, overdrinking at the end of the day, and not really happy.

Percentage wise, I’d say about 50 percent of Americans never find their true purpose.

Q: How do you advise people to do that?

Canfield: I tell them to do a Joy Review. The idea is, look back over your life and ask yourself, ‘When did I experience the most joy?’ I have a paper and pencil exercise, asking people, ‘What are the two qualities I most want to express in life?’ For me, they’re love and joy. So my life purpose is inspiring and empowering people in the context of love and joy to live their highest vision.

You’ll know you’re on the right course when you feel joy. I’m not talking about being ecstatically happy every minute of the day, but do you feel joyful? Sometimes, I start writing at 7 pm and the next thing I know, I hear birds chirping and think, ‘Oh, I forgot to go to bed.’

Kathy Korman Frey: But so many people feel so busy, how do we make the time to do that, without feeling like, ‘Oh great, another thing on my To Do list?’

Canfield: It would take 30 minutes to do that little exercise – the time it takes to watch another episode of House of Cards. And what’s more important?

Most people live their life by default than by design. Being responsive to people pushing you, asking for stuff. They don’t take the time to stop and think, ‘What is my ideal vision of the great life? What do I want to experience? The average American watches four to six hours of TV a day. The reality is, people can find the time if they choose to.

Q: I want to go back to you getting so wrapped up in your work because you love it so much, that you won’t go to sleep at night. But if you’re working all the time, even overworking, as so many Americans do, is that such a good thing?

Canfield: I’m a big believer in the power of rest. It’s when you’re not working, that the subconscious allows creative ideas to bubble up, you start seeing new possibilities and breakthrough ideas occur. Most people are gogogogogogo. But taking a walk, sitting on a back porch daydreaming, playing golf, is really valuable.

I like to divide my days between:

Focus Days: Where 65 to 80 percent of my day is spent on bottom line activity

Buffer Days: For all the stuff you have to do, but don’t produce bottom-line results – learning, travel, teaching staff new skills, going to the supermarket – and I try to delegate more and more of that out, and

Free Days: I say a Free Day should be like a Barefoot Cruise – no cell phone, no Internet. Time just for you. But most people haven’t had a free day in years. A lot of people we teach in our seminars don’t know what to do on a free day. We have to teach them how to play.

I tell people they’ve got to create a rhythmic schedule.

Q: Do you have a rhythmic schedule?

Canfield: I have days in the office, days in the training room, days in the studio recording, days out on the road.

But what’s true everyday, is I start with what I call an Hour of Power. Twenty minutes of meditation – sometimes I focus on the sensation of breathing, and if I find myself thinking, I imagine I’m in a boat. So I get out of the boat, get back on the side of the river, and watch the boat go by. The last three minutes, I try to visualize all my goals as complete.

The second 20 minutes, I exercise.

The final 20 minutes, I read for inspiration and motivation.

Then I do a three-minute gratitude exercise. I look around and go on a rampage of appreciation – I’ll thank Alexander Graham Bell for inventing the phone. I’ll thank the guys at Apple for my computer. I’ll appreciate the carpeting on the floor, because half the world is living on dirt. My view is, the more you appreciate, the more you get to appreciate.

I eat a really healthy breakfast drink with protein and blueberries. I take 41 vitamins and minerals. I’m 71 and most people think I’m 55.

And the other thing I do is what I call the Rule of Five – the five high priority things I know I need to do that day.

For so many people, the To Do list gets in the way. People tend to do the easiest thing first. I try to schedule my day the night before, so when I come into the office, I waste no time trying to decide what to do, I just start with the most important thing. That’s the best time, when you’re most awake, to ask yourself, ‘If I could only get one thing done today, what would that be?’ rather than starting the day answering emails or watching Youtube videos.

If you do your most important thing first and get it over with, it gives you a great sense of momentum for the rest of the day.

I also have an accountability partner I call every morning before I start the day – that’s something I encourage entrepreneurs to do. We spend the day going over the Rule of Five, then the next day, we start with which things we accomplished and what we’re committing to that day. When you work solo, you don’t have the pressure of meeting a boss’ deadline, so you can tend to put off the big stuff and act on low-priority stuff. But if you have an accountability partner, you can’t go two or three days without feeling like a complete idiot if you haven’t started to get things done.

They can also brainstorm with you when you feel stuck, and encourage you when you feel down.

Kathy Korman Frey: So everything is about making choices, choosing to spend the time to find your passion, and choosing how to spend your time everyday?

Canfield: Most people are living unconsciously. They’ll think, ‘I want to be richer.’ ‘I want to have more free time.’ But no one ever sits down to design it.

Everything is a choice. And every choice is either taking you toward your ideal life, or taking you away from your ideal life. When we get busy, we get unconscious. But if we slow down enough, we have time to think, and ask, ‘Is this the life I want to be living?’ Then develop the mindset, the skill set and take the actions to get there.

If you liked this on Inspired Life, you may also enjoy:

How Charles Darwin used rest to be more productive – and how you can, too

Are you a ‘Rebel’ or an ‘Obliger’? How knowing your “habit tendency” can help you change

From overweight and unhappy to awesome Internet guru