Day 4 : Our Journey Towards Greater Joy

Today’s the big day!! The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose and Balance launches.

Michelle and I talked about what to write on this special day and we came up with the topic of Margin; i.e., creating extra space in our calendars so that we can finally slow down long enough to honestly reflect on our lives and think intentionally about where we are going.

We chose margin as the topic because creating margin in your calendar is the most important piece of the joy puzzle.  You might expect me to say “God is the most important component of joy,” but after a decade of coaching hundreds of people towards joy, God never ends up on most peoples’ radars because they are so busy.

I heard it said that “busy” stands for “Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke.” 

And it’s true. Nothing gets us off God’s pathway toward joy like being non-stop pre-occupied on our hamster wheels. 

I remember in 2005 when I was completely joyless and desperately searching for God’s peace, purpose and joy in my life. I craved answers that would lead me toward positive change, but I never really dedicated the time to lean into God so that He could do His part and I could do mine.  And then it hit me one day:  “Jeff -  If you want your life to change, you’re going to have to change some things about your life. Something has to go.”

It was then that I realized I was so busy with work, the family, and hobbies that I hadn’t carved out the time to slow down and thoughtfully analyze my life. Socrates said

“The unexamined life is not a life worth living.” 

Boy, I really agree with that.

Here’s the thing about creating margin in our calendars: It has less to do with time management techniques and everything to do with values and priorities. In my experience, even the busiest people in world will find the time to take up new hobbies, go on vacations, and engage in new projects if it’s something they value.

So what really drives busyness is conflicting values like these:

·       “I want to spend more time with God, but I also want nice stuff so I’d rather work than spend an hour with God each day.”

·       “I want to serve and love others, but that will pull me away from other activities that get me more applause and attention.”

·       “I value my family, but I still work 60 hours a week.”

·       “I need to be involved many things to keep many people happy, even if it means disappointing me and God.”

·       “I value my health, but my social calendar prevents me from working out.” (On this point, I heard it said that “If you can’t find time to exercise now, you’ll have to find time to be sick later.”)

So we stay busy for fear that if we cut some things out of our lives, it could lead to regret later.  We opt to keep all the plates spinning.  Hedging all our bets.  We do this when we don’t know what we really want out of life. What we really stand for.

So what do you really value? Below is a process for figuring that out. Believe me this is hard work.  I’d love to give you “6 simple, little, happy steps” to make your calendar magically open up, but building margin takes introspection, courage, and making hard decisions.  The payoff is hugely worth it though.  It’s the gateway to the joy you read about in the bible all the time.

Here you go:

1.    Write down your top 5 values in life? (I am not going to give you a list to work from because I don’t want to skew or bias your thinking. You know what you value.  Just write them down.)

2.    Next, write one sentence that describes each of the following seven elements of your life if they were in full alignment with your values. What would things look like if everything were perfect in your marriage, your health, your faith, your parenting, your friendships, your career and finances, your service to others.

3.  As you look at the sentences you just wrote that describe those elements of your life in their ideal state, which of those seven elements has the biggest gap between “ideal and current reality?”  Rank all seven of them below starting with the parts of your life that are most out of whack with what you ideally want.

Biggest Gap between Ideal and Real: (write them down)

4.    With all of this in mind, analyze your calendar for the last three months. What are four things occupying your calendar that are not serving you and/or others well?


5.  What things can you stop doing immediately?

6. What can you responsibly back away from and stop doing within the next three, six, or nine months?

7.  What things should you continue doing, but scale back on?

8. With some space in your calendar identified, what things should you do more of? 

Every decision you just made in this exercise is a reflection of your values---and your theology, by the way. I encourage you to take the time to do this full exercise and experience how creating margin can be the first step toward more joy.

(This exercise is excerpted from The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose and Balance that is available for purchase today here.) (link to your site to purchase

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