Writing, growing our businesses, or making a difference can all seem more and more overwhelming and elusive in the noisy, hyper-speedy, competitive, and very public world we live and work in.

The worry, confusion, and sheer pushing we do can make us forget that at the heart of our work is our creative spirit.

Yet what happens when we forget (knock, knock) that we ourselves are the joyful, creative heartbeat at the center of our ideas, our projects, and our relationships?

How do we tap into, and really listen to, that joyful heartbeat? How can this joyful beat give us clarity and a lighter, happier step for even the hardest things we’re trying to do?

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past couple of years when I’ve felt like I was stuck in the drudgery or wasting time. And I’ve discovered that when I consciously connect to some creative, blissful element—that joyful heartbeat—everything shifts for me.

The extra half hour I spend finding a piece of art for a presentation, the bad drawing I make, or the moments of sharing some new insight with a trusted friend seem absolutely right.

So, when I received an email from my friend and colleague Jennifer Louden asking me (and others) to write about Joyful Work in celebration and getting-readyiness for her upcoming joy retreat, I got inspired to imagine a Joyful Heartbeat Checklist.

I wanted to capture some ways I (and others) connect to this joyful beat. Below is this very provisional list for you to use and add to:


“I get a joyful heartbeat and a smile inside when…


___ “…I have a great conversation, exchanging ideas about my work?”

With whom? _________________________________

For ex: Bubbling exchange where I talk something through, see what I know, what I don’t, getting new angles and ideas.

____ “…I experience the pleasure of learning, even if some of it might be a side track.”

For ex: Looking for a perfect quote, a reference, roaming the library, interviewing someone.

____ “…I’m engaged in the actual making of something—folding, cutting, cooking, Photoshopping, drawing.”

For ex: I love the crafting and shaping part of laying out a book, creating a vision board, making an artistic version of my idea, having a display, testing recipes or patterns for a blog post.

____ “…I get to the completing part and know it’s done.”

For ex: I’m so satisfied and driven to meet deadlines, have that Tada! feeling, keep a promise (to myself or others).

____ “…I feel some sensuous connection.”

For ex: I’m out of the abstraction and physically connected with scents, touch, beauty, sound in my environment or the work itself.

____ “…I feel a sense of purpose and serving.”

For ex: I really feel connected to my work when it matters, when it feels like it’s part of some need or community, or good in the world.

____ “…I sense that people will want what I’m working on, that I’m getting feedback that my work is good.”

For ex: There’s nothing like the thrill and creative joy that comes from connecting my work with an audience.

____ “…I have that sense of connecting with nature.”

For ex: Imagine sitting with a notebook or sketchbook at the beach or in the woods. (According to recent research, forests have healing properties and reduce anxiety, along with lots of other amazing things. Makes sense, doesn’t it?)

____ “…I’m in a private, safe space and letting it flow.”

For ex: Novelist Sandra Cisneros talks about “writing in your pajamas” as way to get the teacher, critical mother, boss off your shoulder so you are safe, at ease, and private with your ideas, beliefs, words, and the story you need to tell.

Do some or all of these resonate with you?

What’s missing?

Which do you most turn to already?

How could you add one these elements into your work overall or one specific project?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.