If no one was looking, what would you love to do? What brings you joy?

That is one of the questions I asked my students last week as it was the first class of a new semester. I love asking questions like this one because you really get a sense of who the person is. And since I had already introduced myself in a non-traditional way [check out that Blog post about Introductions here] this question wasn’t so surprising. Yet, each student smiled and then took a minute to think about it – because no one had asked them that question either ever or in a long time. And let me tell you, I had some great responses!

  • Travel the world and be a photographer
  • Sing on stage
  • Give speeches to thousands of people
  • Help kids in the inner city
  • Dress up like a colonial person and give tours on the Freedom Trail (and if you have ever lived in or visited Boston, you know exactly what I’m talking about) [And what makes this one so special is the person did not ‘look’ like someone who would ever want to do that…]
  • Build with my kids’ legos alone
  • Take naps

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And these were only a few. You can see how they vary and also how the person’s response really says something about them. And that’s why I ask. As a teacher in the classroom, I only have 2-3 hours with them a week and it’s my job to make sure they get the most out of their time in the classroom. And I can’t do that if I don’t have a better understanding of who my class is as a group and as individuals.

Another interesting piece to asking this question is people start to ask themselves: “Why don’t i do that?!?!” I’ll just take a couple of the examples above. The one student who would like to dress up like the colonial person and give tours on the Freedom Trail – she said after class that she actually could do that in the summer if she wanted to. Apparently she looked into it and even showed up for a training class – but never followed through. Why? She wasn’t sure but other ‘stuff’ came up. It always does…

The student who wanted to travel and be a photographer – she does travel a couple of times a year and she shared some of her pictures – and they are amazing! She admitted that she didn’t think it could be ‘real’ work so she does it once in a while. Meanwhile, she is submitting some of her pictures to a magazine this week – and she booked her next trip for May.

Now, I understand that neither of these examples may resonate with you, but the underpinnings of them may. A person really enjoys doing something – it makes them smile, gives them excitement and they lose track of time when they are doing it. But the person feels they need to ‘get back to reality’ and get back to work. What if you can incorporate what brings you joy with your work or your vision? What if you felt good, got excited and lost track of time? It is possible – but it takes effort to figure out what brings you joy and then how you can incorporate that into your life.

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When was the last time you asked your teammates or colleagues what they would do if no one was looking? What would bring the utter and complete joy? Or your kids? Or your spouse? Maybe most importantly, when was the last time you asked yourself…and listened to your response?

Why not ask today?