Prescriptions for Life

How to attain your goals, great and small, and create a life you love.

Why You Need a Joy List

Two simple exercises that could totally, joyfully, transform your life

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Few things make me happier than getting an email from someone who has read my book, Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You, and is writing to tell me how it transformed their life.

The other day I received a highly unusual version of this kind of email: a woman writing to tell me about her friend, a reader in North Carolina.

Diane told me that this woman had been going through a particularly challenging time in her life.

“Picking up and starting over isn’t easy,” she wrote. “I’ve watched this very capable, resourceful, optimistic friend do so time and time again for thirty years. But this was different. Then someone recommended your book and workbook to her. She made a Joy List and wrote her Perfect Day essay...the dialogue this has started among her friends has been fascinating.”

(These are both exercises I suggest in the downloadable workbook that comes with my book. The Perfect Day essay is something I do with my coaching clients, especially if someone is particularly stuck. You write out a description of a perfect day in your future life, no holds barred – i.e. what it would be like if anything at all were possible – from the moment you open your eyes in the morning to the moment you close your eyes at night. You can be anywhere you want, doing anything you want, with anyone you want. It's very revealing, and can be very surprising if you're totally honest with yourself.)

“Sharon has discovered that the things that bring her joy and make her life authentic are already in her life or within her reach. She has wholeheartedly embraced your ideas and it has helped her tremendously...I thought you might enjoy hearing her success story.”

Wow. Of course, now I had to talk to Sharon. I asked Diane if she could connect us, and she was thrilled to. I emailed Sharon and asked her to share her story with me. I also hoped that she would be willing to show me her Joy List and Perfect Day essay, as I was dying to read them.

“I can’t believe you took the time to write to me! I am overwhelmed!” wrote a very surprised Sharon. With her permission, here’s what she shared with me:

“While I have always known that I was intrinsically a happy and positive person, I never really understood why that might be true as I have had my share of disappointments and challenges like all of us. But when I saw my Joy List I understood perfectly. Everything on my List has been a central part of my life during most periods of my lifetime. [Before this particularly difficult period in my life] ALL of the things on my list were in my life. No wonder I was happy! And the best news of all is that everything on my list can be back there again. How exciting! I also love that my list contains only things that I am responsible for. No one else can make something on the list happen...it is all up to me. I love that.”

Amen and hallelujah.

Here is Sharon’s Joy List:

Being part of a busy, hectic, happy family

Reading books to my grandchildren

Baking cookies with my grandchildren

Throwing an elegant little dinner party around my dining room table for old and dear friends

Lying at the beach or by the pool on a hot, summer day with the sun on my skin

Walking through an airport, pulling my carry-on, going somewhere

Quiet time in a beautiful church with choir music

Her Perfect Day essay is too long to share all of it here, but I started to cry after reading the first few lines. I think this was because I already knew from Sharon what she’d decided to do with her life.

“I am moving back home to Texas (after 15 years away) this summer,” she’d written in her first email response to me.

The first lines of her Perfect Day essay? (again, this was written when she was in the middle of this very challenging season of her life, when hope seemed lost)

“I live in Houston, Texas in a small townhouse surrounded by all my favorite things...”

This is why I do what I do. I literally live for the moment when I learn that something I write or say has had its intended, much-hoped-for effect, that it has helped give someone hope and ultimately helped them recover their life or their health. Is it time you got your joy back?

What’s on your Joy List? How can you start enjoying the things on it more regularly, starting as soon as possible? I’d LOVE for you to share your List with me in the comments section. “Reading people’s Joy Lists” is one of the things on my Joy List.

Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, media health and wellness expert, life and health coach, professional speaker, flamenco dancer, and the author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You, dedicated to helping people worldwide get healthy, find happiness and enjoy more meaningful lives that they love. Dr. Biali is available for keynote presentations, media commentary, and private life and health coaching—contact susan@susanbiali.com or visit www.susanbiali.com for more details.

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Copyright Dr.Susan Biali 2012

Susan Biali, M.D., researches health and happiness. She is also a professional flamenco dancer and author.

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