What Makes You Cry Tears of Joy?… Do that.


Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

As the new year approaches, many of us will be reflecting both privately and publicly on the year past and the year to come.

We may share stories with family and friends over the holiday. We may look back at the succeses and failure of the past year. We may set resolutions or goals for the coming year. I’ll be doing my own version of this next week on the blog.

However you partake in this process, I want to push you to do the following two steps:

  1. Make a list of everything in the last year that has made you cry tears of joy.
  2. Take actionable steps to center your life around the items on this list for the coming year.

That’s it.

For me, this is seeing creative, passionate people who really deserve a break – get it and then some.

I tear up almost every time I watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Sure, not everything is perfect in that show – I’ve heard many complaints from people about particular show elements. I don’t focus on those few imperfections. Instead, I simply watch with watery eyes in complete awe.

In another example, I tear up nearly every time I see a passionate entrepreneur who has poured their heart in sole into a project – finally get the recognition or success they’ve deserve. I’ve witnessed this in a couple different forms in the past year, but it always generates the same internal response in me.

Not only am I OK admitting this – Courtney and I are going to make this the year we start making tangible shifts to center our lives around these things.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of tears of joy.

Need more inspiration?

Make another list of times in the past year you laughed so hard you were in physical pain.

Make a third list of events in the past year that made you so excited you couldn’t sleep.

Look at all three lists… is there any overlap?

Do that.

Do it for the rest of your life.


51 thoughts on “What Makes You Cry Tears of Joy?… Do that.”

  1. What a great post! I will definitely make these lists, hopefully will have a chance to post them on my blog too. I’ll let you know!

    I agree, we all need a little “double rainbow” magic in our lives … maybe we won’t be screaming about how happy we are like the rainbow guy, but definitely something that provides us with that awe.

  2. Adam,
    Motivational! That’s kind of how I felt the night that I lost my job.

    I WAS SO EXCITED! I couldn’t wait to get more work done on living the rest of my life on my terms.

    Thanks for all your help, including this motivational post.

  3. Baker – Nice spin on the typical new years resolution/goal setting admonishments.

    You are right on – there is no motion without emotion! We all need to light ourselves on fire – if we do … people will come around to watch us burn!

    Enthusiasm: in Greek is enthios – means “filled with God”.

    Let’s turn our new years hallucinations into new years resolutions by lighting ourselves on fire in 2011!!

  4. Ouch! I think what hurts most is that I am not sure if I’ve done any of these in 2010! Well, that’s telling, too. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction!

  5. I was thinking about this. and I am having trouble figuring out why doing what makes you cry tears of joy or moves you to tears is your passion or calling. I would be interested to find out more opinions on this.

  6. Great twist on the mostly useless New Years Resolutions that typically are more lip service and empty goals than anything.

    Looking forward to seeing how a list like that turns out. Also looking forward to seeing how many readers can complete this list and the impact it has on the sustainment and fulfillment of these “resolutions”

  7. The interesting thing is…I don’t have anything to list on any of the 3 lists….that, in and of itself, is motivation enough to get my fanny in gear.

    2010 was bland, mediocre, head buried in the sand, apathetic for me. I tried to make it not so, but it seemed that 2 steps forward 3 steps back, ’till I just decided, screw it and stood still in my mind and heart, unenthusiastic and uninspired.

    Interestingly enough, the other day, a “voice” inside my head said, “This(life) is not challenging enough for you which is why you don’t try and why you are bored.”


    I am, right-this-minute, planning an over the top, just beyond my reach plan, to begin execution immediately, leading up to a big splash on the 1st of 2011.

    I am going to shake up my very foundation, raze what needs to go and build from there.

    Great post!

  8. It’s so strange that I saw this post today. I had one of those brilliant ideas that are so great I couldn’t fall asleep till 4am this morning. I’m super tired and my body hates me right now, but I’m starting to think this idea is something I simply have to do.

  9. What a great idea. I tend to be more of a sap than I care to admit, but anytime someone overcomes a huge challenge and really rejoices I end up tearing up. This weekend I was the Discovery Channel documentary of the Hawaii Ironman and was definitely a little teary-eyed.

  10. Great post Baker
    Three lists that will give you far more pleasure, enjoyment and satisfaction in 2011 than a whole heap of New Years Resolutions that we don’t stick to anyway.
    Thanks for passing it on.

  11. On this issue I’m a massive stereotype of a parent. My kids make me laugh hard & cry tears of joy. I am trying to make our days more about their childhood and not about being a tv-watching-getting-nothing-done mum. (We currently watch no tv, but I do miss the news). I also need to do more for me (like get excited about trying yoga which I have ALWAYS wanted to do.)

    Good luck on your trip. I would absolutely love to pack up our 4 kids & dog & travel Australia (our home country). We will have to make that our next goal!

    Merry Christmas to you & Courtney & Milligan (love her name!).

  12. Hi Baker, truly inspiring stuff! Have you seen a film called “Metropolitan”? I saw it recently and there was a great line in it that I wanted to share with you and your readers; one character says ‘The acid test is whether you take any pleasure in responding to the question “What do you do?”‘, reading your blog Baker I think it’s safe to surmise that you would take pleasure in answering this question, I look forward to doing the same in 2011.

    Have a great Christmas, and I look forward to reading about your road trip!

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  14. Adam,
    I have been on a journey the last 6 months of the year to find myself. I thought I was close to settling some plans for the future, but have recenlty been shaken by a few things in my private personal world. The way you have posed these questions here are so awesome and such a straight forward way to thinking about what we should be doing with our lives. You have really made me think. You are right, the next 2 weeks are going to be a time for more introspection!
    Can’t wait til your road trip! Living near Atlanta has its advantages! As a major city, I am sure it will be on your list! Was awesome to get to meet Chris G last year, look forwrd to meeting you and Courtney and Milligan in 2011 and reading about your adventures!

  15. So true, Baker. I think I’m doing this unintentionally, but reading your post helped me make that connection. Very cool. πŸ™‚

  16. Thanks for the thoughtful questions for reflecting on 2010. I must admit that I also tear up when I watch Extreme Home Makeover and when I hear about people pursuing their dreams or helping their communities. This TED talk tells the story of a 14-year-old boy from Malawi who taught himself how to build a windmill and use it to provide electricity for his family and village (http://www.ted.com/talks/william_kamkwamba_how_i_harnessed_the_wind.html).

    We all have deep reservoirs of creativity, ingenuity, and resourcefulness, and when a stranger starts walking out his calling in life, our hearts are pricked. We want to do the same, and the way Billy Elliot, played by Jamie Bell in the 2000 film by the same name, describes how he feels when dancing provides a good litmus test for knowing when you’re on the right track:

    β€œDon’t know. Sorta feels good. Sorta stiff and that, but once I get going… then I like, forget everything. And… sorta disappear. Sorta disappear. Like I feel a change in my whole body. And I’ve got this fire in my body. I’m just there. Flyin’ like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah, like electricity.”

  17. I think it is a good idea to focus on the positive things that happened during the year, instead of remembering the negative things. Life is a complex set of variables and circumstances will never be perfect. That is why if your waiting for the “perfect time” to travel for example, it will never happen because there will never be a perfect time. Life throws curve balls all the time and the truth is we often think we have more control then we actually do.

    Happy Holidays everybody.

    Ken K

  18. I was just looking over my list of goals from last year and believe it or not I accomplished 80% of them. Two of my main goals was to reach out and meet new people. I’ve meet some very extraordinary people online and in my travels to different cities, states and no my favorite vacation spot the Bahamas.

    I also continue to reflect on my life and sometimes I get emotional because now I can see if I had made the wrong decisions at certain times in my life I possibly wouldn’t have the lifestyle I have now.

  19. Frakking beautiful, Baker. Frakking beautiful.

    Really proud to say that this year was the first time ever I cried tears of joy about something I did. It felt spectacular.

    Let’s have more of that.

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  21. Nicely written, Baker.

    This article is sure to motivate everyone. However, with the number of things they are tied up with, i guess, hardly any one will look at the list after only a month from now. That’s where the difference lies. Motivation, unless continuous, doesn’t help people for long. If you could write something that helps us to keep going, it would be simply great.

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  25. Inspiring, well written, simple and very do-able. When you make a list of the things that makes you happy there is a very slim chance you will be sad. It must be remembered also that every year there are a lot of reasons to be thankful and cry-for0joy about. Discover happiness in the most simplest way, do what makes you happy, enjoy living.

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  30. This is an extremely depressing blog for me to read. I have never cried tears of joy, or laughed so hard that it hurt, or got so excited that I could not sleep. Nothing has ever moved me to this extent. What should I do?

  31. I am thankful that I cry tears of joy all the time. However, I recently had a very different experience with “tears of joy”. In February, my father passed away and I had gone home just to take a shower having spent the night with him. When I returned a Caregiver told me my Dad had tears in his eyes right before he passed. I have cried many times thinking that he was crying because I wasn’t there or because he was all alone – in other words, I have been feeling so bad because I couldn’t think of any other reason for him to have tears in his eyes. This past Tuesday when I wasn’t even thinking about my Dad, the words “TEARS OF JOY” just came to me. I now know that his tears were “tears of joy.” Thank you for this website which enabled me a place to share. By the way, my Dad was a man with many “tears of joy”.

  32. Strangely enough for a guy I’ve trained myself to control the way i feel external but internally I’m a softy … lol … I am tough when it comes to sad things … I could eat my lunch and watch endless violent and scary movies without even flinching. One thing i can never do is be around positive things because i’m to passionate for the human condition. I literally had to make an excuse to get popcorn when i watched “the pursuit of happiness” with my girlfriend or she’d see me tear or when i do volunteer work it makes me cry of joy. I hope there isn’t something wrong with me? Why am i so numb to sorrow but so passionate when it comes to happiness?

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  34. I can’t believe I’m only now reading this post — just hopped over from The Dao of Doing, the writers of which penned a lovely piece about spending time alone & listening to your inner thoughts, taking time to figure out what makes you happy. They referred to your lists for inspiration in triggering thought-provoking internal conversation, & although it’s the middle of summer as I read this now, I find them timely as ever, not just as an end-of-year exercise. There is no wrong time to figure out what needs to change in your life. Just wanted to thanks for inspiring Tracy & Kel, who in turn have inspired me. Ripples.
    Here’s their original post, if you haven’t read it already: http://thedaoofdoing.com/2010/12/27/getting-started-series-alone-time/

  35. It’s hard to go against what the world expects of you and do what you really love. Hopefully I’ll have the courage and discipline to pursue my dreams someday as well. Thanks for the tips!

  36. Honestly.. I can’t remember any events in a year or longer when I have laughed hard to have physical pain. Or couldn’t sleep because of an idea or inspiration…nope, hasn’t happened. Life happened. Bummer.

  37. I have a list of ZERO items, so therefore I should do…nothing? Seriously though, nothing has ever made me cry tears of joy, I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard it hurt (probably 20+ years ago), and anytime I can’t sleep it’s because I’m stressed over things I dislike in my life.

  38. You guys do any coaching? I really like the fact you’re a father doing this and part of my long term goal is laying ground to be a kick ass lover and father one day!

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