Creating Change Through Joy and Purpose

January 18, 2023 | Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW

Creating Change Through Joy and Purpose

It’s a new year, a ‘fresh start’ and an opportunity to reflect on where you’re at and where you want to go. However, did you know that less than 10% of people maintain their new year’s resolutions? This is often a result of resolutions being too general, unrealistic, unmaintainable, or a result of outer pressure rather than inner purpose. Common resolutions are to save money (especially after Christmas spending!), eat healthy, exercise, and to stop or reduce harmful behaviours, such as smoking or drinking alcohol. While these changes can improve health and wellness, most of us struggle with both initiating the change and sustaining it over time. Want to create change this year that sticks? Allow it to be guided by purpose, maintained through small, steady habits, and invite joy into the process.

Connecting with Purpose

The demand of farming is constant, but the nature of the responsibilities can vary through the seasons and cycles. This constant (and often unexpected change) can make it difficult to maintain resolutions. Instead of starting with a resolution, which is fixed and outcome-based, start with the purpose or intention of your desired change. What matters to you? What inspires passion and productivity? What provides comfort and connection? Your inner purpose is your compass and will guide the change you want to make and maintain.

Develop Daily Habits

To be successful in creating change, try connecting your larger purpose to small, daily habits. These will be easier to maintain, track, and to recover from setbacks. For example, if your purpose is to make your body stronger and healthier, try making simple habit changes: swap your second morning coffee for a bottle of water or look for more opportunities to be active on the farm, such as walking or jogging while checking fields or barns.

God has designed our bodies to reward us for change and growth. Each time you successfully engage in a new habit, your brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is the reward neurochemical that improves mood and creates incentive to engage in the behaviour again. Creating change through daily habits is not only more rewarding, but it is also cumulative. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, refers to this subtle, consistent growth over time as the ‘1% rule’ and states “if you can get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done”. Small habits, create big change.

Joy in the Process 

Once you have identified your purpose and connected it to healthy habits, you might be wondering how to maintain them. Change is not linear, and it is normal and natural to experience setbacks, slips, and challenges. (Remember, two steps forward and one step back is still progress!)

Instead of looking towards a specific end goal, open yourself up to feeling joy in the process. We can find joy both in the execution of new habits and in the evolving benefits of that change. Wondering what joy feels like? You might notice it as a warm, uplifting feeling that starts in your chest or stomach and spreads throughout your body. It might bring peace or excitability, or both! In addition to feeling wonderful, joy also enhances creativity, boosts mood and resilience, and allows us to connect more deeply with others.

Think back to the last time you experienced or witnessed joy. For me, it was watching my four-year-old daughter’s determination to learn how to zip the zipper on her winter jacket. Each time she successfully zipped it, her joy (and pride!) was evident in her beaming smile. She allowed herself to openly experience the pleasure of this achievement and it encouraged her to continue to practice it daily. As adults, however, we often overlook moments of joy out of busyness, fear, guilt, or expectations. To find joy in the process of change, you need to pause and notice it. For example, if you have made the commitment to stop smoking cigarettes, take notice each moment you did not smoke, especially when you felt the strong urge to do so. Allow yourself to feel proud of that inner strength. Overtime, you will also experience the joyful benefits of a non-smoking lifestyle, such as more energy and improved taste and smell.

As you set your intentions for 2023, focus on creating purposeful and joyful change through the steady implementation of healthy habits rather than difficult to maintain resolutions. If you need more support in creating change, the CFFO has partnered with the National Farmer Mental Health Alliance to offer the Christian Farmer Wellness Program, which provides specialized resources designed to support your mental health and enhance your wellbeing. Visit the CFFO website for more information.

Carrie Pollard, MSW RSW is a psychotherapist, wife of a grain farmer, mother of five, and co-founder of the National Farmer Mental Health Alliance. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.