by Elliot Lyons
You may have noticed a new voice in our latest video JOY. That voice belongs to Karin Volo, international corporate trainer, author, and Huffington Post contributor. No matter what hat she is wearing, though, she centers her work on helping people thrive through engaging joy, and she let us pick her brain about it, finding purpose, and how to avoid living our lives on autopilot. Check out the interview below.
MHQ: Why did you choose joy as a topic?
KV: During the darkest time in my life, I ended up writing a series of children’s books called Bringing Joy while I was forcibly separated from my young daughters for four years. Joy has become a theme in my life since then, and my purpose is bringing joy to the world.
MHQ: So, during this dark time, it seems joy was a mechanism you used to cope with the situation you were in—to survive. Is this accurate?
KV: Never thought of it that way. It’s possible that joy was a coping mechanism. When I started writing the Bringing Joy series for my daughters, I got into a flow and it helped pass the time. It brought me joy, being able to create these little books for my girls, and it made me feel like I could do something productive with my time.
MHQ: What advice would you give to someone going through a difficult situation?
KV: I believe people need to get in touch with their passions and purpose, those are the inner tools we have that give us energy, that fuel us forward towards our dreams and keep us going even when the times are tough.
MHQ: During your difficult time, your children were a source of joy. What roles can children play in being examples of what joy can be for adults?
KV: Being around children helps to remind us adults of that wonder we somehow lost along the way. Children are great at reminding us how to laugh and play again—that is, if we pay attention to them! They’re also naturally joyful, and they feel and express all their emotions as they have them as they learn and explore the vast new world that’s in front of them.
MHQ: It’s amazing how kids can, in a lot of ways, remind us adults of things we’ve lost, especially in terms of emotions.
KV: Yes, and being a mom is one of my favorite roles in life. My kids and I used to play this emotions game where I’d say an emotion and they’d put on that face. What I didn’t realize at the time was how aware we were becoming of our emotional states. This game became the foundation for the Joyometer, one of my favorite training tools, which is used to teach emotional awareness.
MHQ: Switching lanes, is there a difference between joy and happiness, and if there is, what is it?
KV: Yes. To me, the difference between joy and happiness is that joy comes from within. But whether it’s joy or happiness, we definitely need more of it in our world!
MHQ: You say joy is a choice that becomes present when the opposite is there—how did you come to this conclusion?
KV: We have two core states of being—fear or love. Joy is one of the emotions high on the scale of positive emotions. The majority of people live their lives by default. You can’t always control your circumstances but you can certainly control how you respond to them. You can take back your power when you learn to make a conscious choice on your feelings.
MHQ: What do you mean by “default”?
KV: When we are unaware we make unconscious choices, unaware of our habits and behaviors, we react instead of respond. When we react, it’s a kneejerk feeling based on past experiences, without thinking about what we are doing or saying. When we respond, we think before we speak or act, allowing space between the emotion and action. This means we’re not our emotions: we just have or experience them.
MHQ: How does fear contribute to this “default”?
KV: Negative emotions stem from fear, and we’re bombarded by fearful messaging. Being aware of what we “feed” our brains and digesting plenty of positivity can counteract this negativity. The latest neuroscience research talks about priming. If you watch five minutes of news in the morning, it will have a negative impact on your day for six to eight hours. Similarly, five minutes of positive information has a positive effect.
MHQ: Since your area of specialization is corporate training, how can joy create better office environments?
KV: We’ve studied amazing companies and certify people in cultural and employee engagement. These engaged company cultures come from knowing why they do what they do, which gives meaning to employees and creates loyalty. There also needs to be values everyone can live with. Next, systematize behavior-based activities around collaboration, creativity, connection, celebration, and contribution—these are the 5 Cultural Keys we use. Appreciation and recognition are great tools that employees should be using often as well.
MHQ: You mentioned the “why” as the core, and since this is also one of Simon Sinek’s, whom I know you’re a fan of, things, what’s joy’s place in his comments on restructuring workplaces around empathy?
KV: When you help someone else, you improve their life while uplifting yourself. It’s a great way to bring more joy naturally. Having empathy is so important because it helps us realize how connected we are to another person. It brings in compassion and caring, which are easy gateways to joy.
MHQ: Would you say that disconnectedness, both to ourselves and others, is one of our biggest challenges?
KV: We say we are more connected than ever through technology, and on some level we are, but we’re losing that deeper emotional connection our souls depend on at the same time. Nothing can replace human interactions and relationships. Our jobs give us the opportunity to connect to others on a daily basis, which is a good thing, as long as we enjoy our workplaces and colleagues. When we love our jobs and work, we feel better, are happier people, more productive and engaged, live longer, nicer to be around etc.
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