I’m  not an expert at accessing joy. I’ve tripped into the well-lived life, for sure. I remember a few stumbles I’ve taken Life Manualalong the way, that made the trip more joyful, more meaningful, more full…but I’m well aware I have a long way to go. Basically, I’m half-baked.

I awoke Thanksgiving morning with a realization in my heart.

Life is hard for some people.

It’s just difficult. I am grateful I’ve found my way through…and grateful for the hardships I’ve endured that lent some perspective and, basically, gave me operating instructions for how to do life differently.

Still, my heart is sad for those in a place where they have no, or little, access to light and joy. I know it’s a journey they must take for themselves and they have to find their own road map….but I wish I could help every single one of them.

I can’t.

I’m not talking about clinical depression, because I’m certainly no expert on that topic. It’s the general angsty, malaise on my mind. The stuff that used to fuel my creativity (before I knew better). It’s the drama of youth (and sometimes later), the twisty, emotional turbulence that leaves us feeling no decision will be a good one, the options are all crap, nothing will support our dreams and life is leaving us holding onto a delicate, dry twig, like Wylie Coyote, ready to fall off the cliff. It’s that feeling that you can’t get a break…ever…and the wondering if it’ll ever change.

Yes, for all my chirpiness, I’ve known that feeling. But, I found my operating instructions (click to Tweet). Yours may be different, but I’ll share some of mine. If you have other instructions that have worked well for you, I invite you to share them in the comments below. Maybe, together, we can shine a light of hope for our friends in the dark.

1. If you’re someone who feels deeply – learn to manage that. What I mean is continue to feel deeply, but don’t let the tentacles attach themselves to your soul (click to Tweet). It helped me, when I was getting my coaching certification, to imagine a lovely ribbon between myself and the person with whom I was working. The ribbon was tied in the middle in a lovely bow. We would be connected for a while, then I’d untie the ribbon and I’d let them go to pursue their own journey and me mine. Don’t carry the baggage of other people. You’re not a bell boy.

2. Focus on the good. If you can focus on gratitude, acknowledging the small things and the good in life, your attention and intentions change. This changes your life. “Stuff grows where intention flows.” Don’t fertilize weeds. If you really look, there is always something to feel hopeful about. Keep a gratitude journal.

Life Manual 3. When you are thirsty, don’t go to the dry well looking for a water. It took me a long time to get this one and – because I’m talking in metaphors – if you’re not quite understanding this one, substitute the word “water” with “approval.” There are people in your life, and they may be close to you, that don’t have a lot of water to slake your thirst. When you have something joyful to share, need some support or want to share plans you’re excited about – don’t go to the dry well looking for water that isn’t there. You’ll walk away more thirsty than ever before. It’s not these people’s intention to be dry…it’s just the climate. FIND A WELL WITH WATER.

4. Choose your company – People are social and we all need a “tribe.” Choose carefully. I’ve seen people choose those who they feel comfortable to be around…that’s okay, but don’t play small. Fill your circle with people who inspire you, people who you emulate, people who make your heart sing. Find a good mentor. Your circle of friends may be small at first, and that’s okay. Choose quality over quantity.

 5. Wait until you have a hold before you extend a hand to others. This is a precursor for #6. Take care of yourself first. This isn’t selfish, it’s friggin’ physics. If you don’t have a grip, it’s hard to give others a hand up (click to Tweet). Once you’re steady on your feet, you can help other people. It’s important to help other people, but you can’t give what you don’t have and you should NEVER give it all away. You have to keep operating, too. This means money, time, emotional currency and any other “essential” you might think of,

 6. Get away from yourself. Being introspective is good, but being mired in the quicksand of introspection is not. You can drown there. It can be hard to breathe. Before you know it, you’ll be in over your head. Get away from yourself and do things for others. It’s healthy for you. Even if you only have a match…shine your light for others. The flames spread. Bonfire of joy, eh? Yep…I’ll warm my buns by that fire!

 7. Things change. The bad stuff is not forever, even when it feels like that could be true. The good stuff is not forever, even Life Manualwhen you wish it would never end. It all comes and goes and the more you practice steps 1 – 4, the more good stuff you’ll see. Learn to ride the waves.

8. Embrace your spirituality. I’ve saved this for last because some of you would have already stopped reading and, basically, I wanted to trick you. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing. I’ve known people who refused any spiritual ideas, even in very difficult times. I’m not sure how they do it. My truth is, there is something greater than myself out there. There is an order to the universe that supports positivity and love. If you deny this force, you are apt to get the cosmic smack-down. For you it may be God, or Mother-Nature or something else. Whatever it is, embrace it. It gives you faith, hope and light. When I finally surrendered my own desires, It gave me what I needed…and It was a bigger thinker than I was. Find a spiritual path that feels right for you and walk it.

I know this is a long read. I hope it’s a tall drink of water for you. If you’re still with me, and there’s something I’ve missed, feel free to share it below, and know, during this joyous season, that is so difficult for some, we are here for one another and there is an abundance of love.

Happy Operating!


Michelle Andres is a coach, writer and artist who champions others to follow the path less traveled; the path that leads straight to their joyful hearts.♥ Contact her for a gentle hand holding or a swift ass kicking. Writer, Artist, Coach

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