Women for Living in Community: Plan for Joy


When I first read Martha Beck’s “Plan for Joy” in O Magazine I was immediately engaged. This is what I had always imagined as I planned for my own life. I firmly believe that planning for the worst but hoping for the best is a defeatist attitude that will likely only lead us directly into our own worst case scenarios. While knowing how not to panic in an emergency is an important life skill, so is knowing how to cultivate happiness in our lives. Rather than reinventing the wheel I thought I might share with you my insights on Martha Beck’s own ideas.

Beck’s blueprint is:

  1. Have a vision.
  2. Let go of what doesn’t work.
  3. Don’t be afraid to fail.
  4. Pay attention to what really matters to you.

Here is my take on these four steps.

Your Vision

Visualizing success is a common corporate exercise that makes many of us who emerged from this ecosystem gag a little; however, it does have value in the real world. When you have a concrete vision of what it is you want to accomplish you are far more likely to move forward in that direction. Beck suggests that you go so far as to create a collage so you have a visual representation of your goals. You have to know where you’re going before you can get there.

Let Go

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. How many times in our lives do we keep doing it, though? This happens with relationships, jobs, activities, and anything else you can think of. Some things we know aren’t good for us but we do them anyway like bad habits and holding grudges. It may be easier said than done but stop right now. It’s hard but you’ll feel better in the long run.


Some of the most successful people built their empires on their failures. The fear of failure is crippling but not doing something worthwhile will be much worse. Often this fear isn’t about failing at all but about succeeding. If you’re afraid of what will happen if you do well that is a bigger problem all together. Humans are really good at self-sabotaging behavior. Learn to lean into risk and you’ll be surprised what happens next.

What Matters Most

People who focus on their own goals are often called selfish. However, depriving the world of your talents and dreams is equally as selfish. While no one is saying you can’t be considerate of those around you it is essential that you focus on what is most important to you. If your life is exciting then you are much more inclined to keep on the same trajectory toward joy. Helping others can feel great but you can’t help anyone else if you aren’t able to focus on your own hearts desires.

What steps do you take to ensure that joy is present in your life?

Share your answers in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook.

Women For Living in Community