Sparking Joy and Leadership

You know how walking into an organized space makes you feel a heck of a lot better than if you were to walk into a room full of chaos and dirty laundry? The same feeling works for the relationships in your life.


I’ve recently hopped on the KonMari trend. For those of you who’ve never heard of KonMari, it’s a method of tidying (coined by the author Marie Kondo) that promises you’ll never have to clean again after you’ve successfully completed the process. This method is outlined in KonMari’s book, The Magic Art of Tidying Up, which has sold millions of copies. While the KonMari method teaches us how to tidy up our physical life, it teaches us how to tidy up our emotional life in the process!


This book fell into my lap, as if by magic. Well, I guess you wouldn’t exactly call it magic since it was just lent to me by a friend. But, it is funny how books sometimes have come into my life exactly when I needed them. What is interesting is that my sister was also lent The Magic Art of Tidying Up by a different friend in a different city. It was hilarious when she called me and said, “You’ve gotta read this book! It’s changed my life!” And when I told her that I’d recently read the book and de-cluttered my entire room, she was floored.


I’ve never been a super neat person. My room has never been in chaos, but I did have clothes strewn about and I had trouble keeping my room clean. That all changed after I finished this book. What’s crazy is that this book not only helped me get my space cleared, but it helped me clear out my emotional space too. To top that off, I’ve picked up some skills on how I can become a better leader as well. And how does tidying relate to becoming an effective leader? I’ll get to that in a second.


This book has helped millions of people clean up their spaces. The reason why Marie Kondo’s method is so effective is simple: she has a revolutionary approach to tidying that also helps people hone in on what makes them happy. And it’s crazy – her method of tidying really does keep its promise of never having to tidy again. I first began applying her method 6 months ago, and my room has remained pretty organized. Or, at least it’s definitely much tidier than it was before.


So, how does KonMari’s method of tidying work so excellently, and how can it make you a better leader? Well, Kondo asks that we eliminate all of our clutter. And though this concept isn’t new in the cleaning world, her method of eliminating clutter certainly is. She teaches us that we need to let go of all the items that do not spark joy.


That’s seriously it. You simply give away all your material items that don’t bring you joy.


The practice of discovering what does and does not spark joy has been an incredible tool for me. Here are three ways that recognizing what sparks joy in your heart can make you a better person, and a better leader.


1. You realize how difficult it is to let go of what no longer serves you

There was this old pair of pants I had difficulty parting with when I was getting rid of things that no longer sparked joy. I had a lot of good memories while I had worn this pair of pants, and I thought they were pretty cool. The thing is, these pants didn’t fit me anymore. So, whenever I saw this piece of clothing in my drawer, I would get sad that I couldn’t wear them.


This was clearly an article of clothing that did not bring me joy. On top of that, I couldn’t even wear these pants anymore. They weren’t serving me in any way. But because I had so many memories attached to them, I felt sad and almost guilty that I should get rid of them. However, I was determined to follow her method properly, so I chucked the pants. Now, something incredible happens when I open my drawer. Every pair of pants I own makes me happy to see. I feel no guilt or shame when I look at my clothing.


Getting rid of those pants helped me realize something. This concept can be applied to toxic relationships, which I started to notice more clearly in my life. Sometimes relationships can be difficult to let go of, even though they may be hurting more than helping. This happens because we usually have good reasons to hold onto a bad relationship. I’ll offer a personal example: I once had a very close friend who behaved selfishly and ignored my boundaries. I didn’t want to end the relationship because I knew it would hurt her. I also felt guilty for wanting to end a four-year friendship. I held onto that relationship for longer than I should have because I wasn’t ultimately comfortable with going after what made me happy. I’ve found that it’s hard to go after what makes you happy when I hold on to what makes me unhappy.


It’s important to recognize that some things are hard to let go of, even though you know it’s for the greater good. It’s even more important to release the things that don’t spark joy. This is an important skill for a leader to have.


2. It helps you practice your “joy sparking” muscles

Before I’d got rid of those pants, I hadn’t realized that opening my drawer involved some subconscious guilt and shame. I didn’t realize that though opening my drawer was a small part of my day, it was an unnecessary unhappiness and burden. I noticed that once all the clothing that did not spark joy in me was gone, my day was better. Every item of clothing I own now makes me happy. And by getting rid of the clothes that did not spark joy, I was able to take better care of the clothes that I already owned and loved. And, when I would shop for new clothes, I had a better understanding of what would spark joy.


This exercise helped me realize that I was out of touch with my inner compass that told me what I liked. It is so important, especially for leaders, to know exactly what brings positivity in. Though it can sound simple, it often isn’t easy to know what exactly you need and what will add to your life.


Once the toxic friendship was out of my life, I noticed a huge change in my own wellbeing. I no longer needed to keep up a façade of pretending that I was happy in the friendship. I no longer had to excuse behaviour that repeatedly hurt me. I didn’t even realize how much of a burden that friendship had become for me until it was gone. Knowing what I didn’t like helped me realize what I did like. Releasing the toxic friendship helped me invite better relationships into my life, and because I wasn’t nurturing a dead friendship, I now had the time to deepen existing relationships that were healthy.


It’s important to get good at knowing what works and what doesn’t. You can’t go after your dreams without this skill. You won’t even know what your dreams are without it!


3. You gain a peaceful space

People don’t realize how much their surroundings influence their attitude. Once my room was truly tidy, I realized how lovely it was to come home after a long day of work. Cleaning was one less stress. And, I truly loved the space I was in because I was surrounded by items that I loved.


A peaceful space can be applied to your emotional life as well as your physical life. Eliminating toxic relationships and focusing on the loving ones that help will help you in almost all areas of your life. There’s a saying that goes: you are the average of the 5 people you hang around most. It’s important to surround yourself with people who uplift and inspire, rather than weighing you down. You can cultivate those qualities that really help you to shine bright.


It’s important to take care of yourself, leader. You can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself. Good leaders take care of themselves well so they can go on to save the world. In addition, this sets a great example for those your life.


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I think it’s safe to say that we all hold onto things for too long when we don’t need to. The same thing goes for relationships. And trust me, I know how hard it is to let go of relationships.


I cared very much about people’s opinions of me, and I worried about them disliking me if I were to let go of a relationship. The process of ending a relationship can be devastating. I think it’s more important for me to talk about how much better I feel now that I’ve made the decision to end harmful relationships.


I had a pattern in my life where I’d consistently befriend and date narcissists. But when I underwent a massive depression, I found that my energy felt so drained when I’d be around narcissistic friends. Not all of my friends made me feel that way, of course. It got to a point where I’d feel physically exhausted after being around these people, so I just stopped being around them. I felt free. My days became easier and I felt cared for by the people in my life. Allowing space into my life wasn’t as lonely as I’d thought; in fact, it made room to welcome in people who are better for you – the people who bring you joy.


This is the magic of recognizing that what sparks joy in your heart makes you a better leader. I hope reading this will you deepen your practice in finding what sets the soul on fire…or at least have a cleaner room!


By: Ana Vermeulen

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