Finding connection and courage in the midst of lockdown and political uncertainty, 20 heart-driven women from Germany, France, the UK and US came together via Zoom on Sunday, November 1st 2020 to focus on defining and generating joy for themselves and the world.

Having achieved success in conventional terms, with professional goals achieved, we have a calling to move beyond this success to something more meaningful and purpose-driven. Rather than feel at the mercy of negative newsstories and a world driven to breaking point by corporate culture committed to growth at all costs, we have a vision of a more compassionate world, driven by hope, joy and positive change, starting with ourselves.

First we got to know each other through the lens of joy and what lights us up. We shared about the oneness we feel when we are in nature, surrounded by trees or in awe at the beauty of flowers; about the love we feel when we connect to our kids; about the freedom that comes when exercising, especially outdoors, or from dancing, playing the drums and just letting go; the pleasure of savouring good food and wine; about the inner peace that comes with meditation, prayer and journalling; about the gratitude for opportunities we thought we might never have – of connecting to new and old friends, of exploring the world and of creating a loving family of our own.

Asking for feedback to my upcoming book entitled “Joy is the new success”, I was thrilled to discover that it resonates on several levels.

Joy has a beautiful lightness to it that stands in marked contrast to the heaviness of the word success. This “success” is the path of our generation. We are all women between the ages of 40-55 who have mostly followed a traditional post-university “success” career path in marketing, banking or law. We all did what we thought we were supposed to do, being bright young graduates in the late 80s and early 90s, and we did well, moving up the ladder. We’ve recognised that the pressure of the “path to success” is not necessarily a path to joy, but it comes with many benefits – status, money, comfort, recognition, intellectual “fun” – and so it is hard to stop in the midst of all the busy-ness of it and think of better alternatives. We just keep going and focus on getting everything done, at home and at work. So we’ve been on this “success path” for 20 years or more, but it can feel heavy at times, draining us of joy.

This is why the play on words, reminding us of “orange is the new black” works so well – the Netflix series is also a story about being trapped and looking for alternatives! The trouble with “success” as defined by society is that it never fills you up and it’s never enough. There is always another level to be climbed, a bigger nicer house to be bought, a slimmer, fitter person to become …

So the idea of redefining our success goals for the next chapter of our lives in a new way – not in terms of how much we can achieve, but instead in terms of how much joy we can create – feels pretty radical!
Instead of looking for external validation, we are turning inside to ask our own hearts for advice and find our own light. This is an exciting prospect and even more motivating to us now that we have 19 like-minded women in similar life-stages, with similar trajectories, as travel companions on this new “path to joy”.

So here we are! We have started the journey, this joy movement that we hope will grow and send ripples out into the world, which might even turn into waves. 20 wonderful women who have come together to open their hearts and their minds to new possibilities for themselves and the world.

Last Sunday, we smiled, we laughed, we danced and we meditated together. We will do so again for the next 5 Sundays to help build our connection, our curiosity and our courage. We will make plans for our lives to bring more joy to ourselves, our families and our communities. Together we will find hope, joy and new ways forward in these uncertain times.