Why we need to center joy now, more than ever

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January 18, 2023

Last month, we hosted a conversation with Akaya Windwood and Rajasvini Bhansali on their new book, Leading with Joy: Practices for Uncertain Times. Moderated by our Executive Director Solomé Lemma and in collaboration with Rockwood Leadership Institute, this timely and critical conversation discussed what it means to lead with purpose, embrace joy in service of social transformation, and create conditions for abundance and well-being.

We are living in a moment of pivotal, deep, colluding, and interconnecting challenges. It is easy to lose hope given the grim realities of the state of the world. But as Akaya and Rajasvini remind us in this book, choosing joy is nothing short of radical. Doing so pushes us to find a way to continue to seek hope and actively work towards a more optimistic future.

In this webinar, Akaya and Rajasvini encourage us to embody compassion, hope, and kindness. Here are 7 key things they ask us to do in our bid to commit to joy in the way we exhibit leadership in our lives and in the work we do:

1. Take bold risks by interrupting urgency. Small things that can bring us peace are very important–taking a walk, admiring nature and appreciating it for its pace and understanding that we are all part of the cycle of nature.

2. Imagine widely: One of the harmful effects of despair and cynicism is that it keeps us from building towards the social transformation that we all really want. It shortens our capacity to actually manifest our highest dreams.

3. Trust your instincts: Joy is a necessity and a birthright. It isn’t something we have to learn as humans, it’s built into our DNA and gets twisted out of us because of things like white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy.

4. Honor your people, your ancestry: With the great gift that our ancestors provided for us comes a great responsibility that we leave for our descendants, who should remember us as those that lived a life seeking purposeful joy.

5. Remember to celebrate and mourn: Reject the notion of grinding through and the idea of celebrating only when things get done. To stop and pause and feel the depth of grief, emotion, responsibility, sadness and vulnerability is equally crucial.

6. Take big leaps of faith: Is it worth the outcome to be so focused on the goals and miss the opportunity to learn and reflect, to immerse and to breathe? Free yourself from capitalist notions of productivity by taking leaps of faith. Joy is the route to that freedom.

7. Courageously join with others: Our human systems are designed for us to not be joyful. The last thing capitalism wants us to be as workers is joyful; it’s hard to control joyful people, especially when they are in large numbers.

As Akaya shared, it’s a troubled, messy, annoying world we are inhabiting right now. We must insist upon joy in our act of radical resistance.

Watch the full conversation here.

Buy a copy of their book.

Need some additional joy reminders? Here’s a poem by J.Drew Lanham to spark some joy in you!

Deepa Ranganathan is the Editorial Manager at Thousand Currents. She likes to read, write, tell and listen stories everywhere she goes. Deepa Ranganathan