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The Jar of Joy

Posted 09/26/22

The Jar of Joy

Our brains are naturally drawn to the dark side due to a little (big) thing called negativity bias. There’s good reason for it, it helps protect us and keep us safe from harm. Yet it can also lead to getting lost in your own head, making mountains where molehills once stood, focusing on the worst-case scenario and catastrophising about the smallest things. If you’ve ever…

  • Sweated over the smallest error – spending sleepless nights believing everyone will reject you because of it
  • Ruminated over a challenging conversation – replaying it repeatedly, rewriting the script and wishing you had a time machine to go back and do it right
  • Focussed on the single negative comment vs the hundreds of pieces of praise you receive – wondering how you could change to please that one person
  • Ended your working day with a big sigh of ‘nothing EVER goes right for me’ – with the gumption of an award-winning actor as you throw yourself onto the sofa like an overtired toddler

…then you’ll know what I’m talking about!

If you didn’t have this pesky little bias, you’d be better positioned to see the wood from the proverbial trees, to identify the good as well as the not so good and to be able to put things into more realistic perspective. You’d be able to realise that you won’t be ostracised, that you can do hard things and that it’s not possible to please everybody all the time.


You can’t simply banish this bias though as this one’s hard-wired. It’s part of your wonderful brain’s ability to spot danger and that’s how humans have survived (so it’s a good one to keep!). If you can’t rid yourself of it what can you do to help yourself handle these situations better? The key here is to get quicker at noticing when your negativity bias has kicked in, become more effective at stopping a downward spiral in its tracks and set your mind on a new, more balanced path.

These things are much easier to implement when you have built the habit of noting and reflecting on the good stuff. This brings to the forefront of your mind the reality of what’s going on (rather than the dramatic fantasy you create for yourself!). By bringing the logical, rational part of your brain to the front of the queue, you’ll be able to better manage your more instinctual mind and a calmer head will prevail.

The good news is that this is possible. You can take action and train your brain to seek out the good stuff. The more you do this, the more evidence you will have to help you avoid drama in the future. Here’s my favourite way to focus on the good stuff –

  • Grab a jar, a tin, a bowl, or even a hat (any receptacle will do!)
  • Give it a label – I’ve given mine a WorkJoy collar
  • Have a set of post-its on your desk or workstation
  • Whenever anything good happens or you feel a little joy, note it down including the date / time
  • There is nothing that’s too small an action for the jar – in fact, it feasts on them – so add in someone smiling at you, or a compliment someone has paid you
  • Put one thing per post-it note and use as many post its per day as good things happen
  • If you missed it when it happened, or couldn’t write it down in the moment, spend 5 minutes at the end of the day capturing the good stuff
  • Fold up the post its and pop each one into your jar
  • Then, at a time that feels right for you (after a month, when the jar is full or at a time when you need a little boost) open your jar and read every single one
  • If you’re in the mood to take it a bit further, theme things that fit together
  • Once you’ve read them and themed them, reflect on the moments and make some notes about what you’ve experienced
  • Then simply repeat the process

Give the Jar of Joy a go, see how it works for you and let me know the impact!

Beth x

PS – You can access my free WorkJoy – Where Do You Get Yours experiment here and discover your core sources of WorkJoy in five minutes a day for just one week.

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