Who wouldn’t want to feel more joyful? Lisa McCourt’s books about love and joy have sold over 9 million copies — so there’s the answer! Her newest book, Free Your Joy: The 12 Keys to Sustainable Happiness, is the culmination of everything she has taught in her online Joy School for more than 20 years, now available for everyone.
Q&A with Lisa McCourt
- You recently wrote a book, Free Your Joy. Can you tell us more about the new book?
Free Your Joy takes readers, week-by-week, through a full year of time-tested tools and practices to elevate their personal vibration, aka JOY! It’s chock-full of the activities and processes I’ve taught through my online Joy School for over two decades now. I’m thrilled that it’s received dozens of glowing testimonials from early readers, many of whom are my heroes and teachers!
It had been over a decade since I’d written a book delivering my joy trainings, which have deepened and expanded so much in that time. Free Your Joy is the ultimate DIY guide for anyone who likes to do personal growth on their own, whereas my online Joy School is the perfect accompaniment to the book for those who prefer the support of a loving community.
- Why did you write Free Your Joy?
Like many of us, I was not born into circumstances optimal for creating a joy-filled existence. I embodied, from my earliest years, a profound sense of shame and unlovability. In keeping with the energetic laws of the universe, I went on to create and attract life circumstances that matched the energy I was carrying and sending out.
Through many years of spiritual study and practice with some of today’s most respected teachers and thought leaders, I was able to dramatically shift my energetic state, which went on to dramatically shift everything in my life for the better. Sharing what I’d learned – through my books, podcast, and Joy School, became my passion after that!
Rupert Spira says: “Before we have this understanding, we use the world in service of our happiness. After we have this understanding, we use our happiness in service of the world.” That’s exactly how it feels for me.
- What is the book’s message?
The basis of everything I’ve ever taught in my joy trainings – and therefore, also the basis of this new book – is that every one of us has an aspect of us that is peaceful, loving, compassionate toward self and others, and inherently joyful. It’s an aspect that comes standard with the human package, but most of us, throughout our lives here in our human suit, accumulate obstructions that keep us from acknowledging or recognizing this very real aspect of who we are. You can call it your soul, your higher self, your inner wisdom; no one is here without one.
I’m passionate about this understanding because as it solidified for me, as I got better and better at recognizing and being able to align with this aspect at will, it changed everything in my life. From then on, my whole spiritual journey became about collecting tools and practices for making that aspect more accessible, bringing it more into the foreground, making it sustainably present. Because the extent to which you pull that off is the extent to which life truly is joy – no matter what’s unfolding in the crazy “Out There,” which is always shifting and changing and full of surprises for most of us. In a nutshell, that’s the message of the book and what my Joy School is about.
- Your book offers 12 keys to sustainable happiness. Can you tell us a few of them, and how they can help readers?
Sure! The Keys build upon one another, the earliest ones being Awaken the Observer, Know Thyself, Understand Joy’s Obstacles, Feel to Heal, Sort the Voices, and from there moving onto more advanced concepts. The Keys take you, step by step, on a journey of learning to align at will with your soul self. Since this aspect of us is always present and available, it’s mostly a practice of breaking the habits we’ve accumulated that blind us to it.
We all absorbed beliefs and definitions early in life about how it is here, and for most of us, these early-formed beliefs are not working in favor of our joy. They are the framework from which we’ve gone on to attract and create all our life circumstances, and most of these we create unconsciously.
We need to burst the illusions of these long-carried beliefs so that the blinders fall away and we can see the bigger, truer perspective. We have many different protocols for that in Joy School, but they all start with recognizing that everything in your consciousness is a thing you’re in relationship with. We understand that we’re in relationships with all the different people in our lives, but we don’t think about how we’re in a relationship with our career, with our body, with our home, with our money. Everything you experience as a part of your existence, you’re in a relationship with that thing.
Anything you’re struggling with is simply an area of life where you have an unhealthy relationship. These detrimental relationships are the results of those early-formed, erroneous beliefs, and they’re just showing us where we’re holding energy that’s creating unwanted situations – energy that’s in need of healing. So, we want to heal these relationships. Healing them brings them into truer alignment with our soul’s perspective. That’s what each of the 12 Keys guides readers toward.
- Your book draws on your Joy School trainings. Can you tell us more about Joy School, and how it influenced your book?
Joy School is my online community where we come together in small groups four times per month to support one another in creating more meaning, ease, vibrancy, and joy for ourselves and others. We have members who have been in groups for over three years (because they experience how the rich benefits of continually evolving our souls never end!) and others who just come in for a few months to gather some effective tools to take back into their lives. Joy School is a safe, confidential, judgment-free, online space for nourishing soul rejuvenation, replenishment, and revealing self-inquiry.
The practices and healing techniques we do together at Joy School provided all the material for Free Your Joy, though there are plenty of other processes we do that couldn’t be adapted to a book format. Dozens of Joy School testimonials can be found at my website, and we’re currently accepting new members!
- In your book, you refer to Joy Setpoints. Can you tell us more about Joy Setpoints, and how discovering them can help readers?
We all have a habituated level of happiness that feels comfortable to us, based on some very early programming. I call it the “Joy Setpoint.” No matter what is going on in our lives, this spot of homeostasis is where our joy ultimately comes to rest. We might get it momentarily bumped up here and there; we might feel it dip down here and there, but there’s a level of overall, baseline happiness that feels natural to us, and that’s where we’re going to continue to level off until we learn the skills for sustainably elevating that setpoint.
Once we gain the clarity to observe where we stand with this setpoint, we can take steps to permanently recalibrate it via increasing alignment with our soul self.
Your soul sees the fullness of a situation, whereas our human-self is prone to focusing on one painful slice of it. Whatever you deem your most “unwanted circumstance,” you basically want to do forgiveness work with this thing. We all know the magic of forgiveness, right? We’ve all heard it’s not about letting anyone off the hook. We do forgiveness work not for the person we’re forgiving, but for us. We’re the ones who benefit from letting go of that resentment, that anger, that blame. It’s the same with the relationships we have with these different aspects of our lives.
Especially when it comes to our relationship with abstract ideas, like our relationship with money, our relationship with romance. We have to consider that these relationships are really all on us. It’s not like your relationship with your brother where there are two people involved and all you can do is bring your half of the relationship to the table. These relationships we have with non-human things and mental constructs exist entirely within our own consciousness. Pretty handy! That means we only have to worry about us when we’re wanting to improve the quality of these relationships. We can’t say that about the relationships with the people in our life, right?
It’s just us and the energy we’ve stored around this thing. Innocently. When we get clear that we created this situation, unwittingly, via an unhealed frequency within us that we have the power to heal, that understanding provides the critical foundation for forgiveness – both of ourselves and the other party (person/situation/abstract concept) in the relationship.
Even if we were able, through effort and struggle, to get the unwanted situation behind us, if we don’t take that step of making peace with whatever it is we’re leaving behind, we’re going to create it again, or something similar. That’s how our Joy Setpoint stays consistent. We have to heal the energy we create from, or we’ll carry the essence of that creative frequency right into whatever we create next.
That’s a super simplified explanation for how we sustainably recalibrate our “Joy Setpoint.”
- What are some strategies for navigating situations that interfere with being able to experience joy?
While there are dozens of specific strategies offered in Free Your Joy, they all share the foundation of a lasting paradigm shift in how we approach life’s inevitable problems and challenges. Shifting and healing our relationships to the previously unhealed aspects of our lives, as described above, dramatically reduces the amount of new unwanted situations we’ll attract and create! It does not, however, completely eradicate our upcoming challenges, because many of them are simply meant to be there as invaluable opportunities for our personal expansion and growth. In Joy School, we learn an empowered, high-consciousness perspective for handling our unwanted circumstances.
Successfully shifting our relationships with problematic people, circumstances, and aspects of our life allows us to deeply integrate the understanding that our joy is not dependent on anyone or anything “out there” looking any certain way. We’re able to source our joy from within, recognizing it as the ever-present truth of our soul.
In Joy School, we use the metaphor of pushing pieces around a game board. That’s all we’re ever doing. Every morning you wake up, your day is a game board. There are challenges there on the game board, and also some really cool and satisfying stuff. That’s why we play games. That’s why we read novels and go to movies, or binge Netflix dramas – because something in our humanness likes the mix of the challenges and the beauty. It’s what all our art is about.
We want to learn to appreciate this mix in the gameboard of our life, too. We all have things we’ve created that we love, and other things we’ve created that we’re finding challenging. This is how it’s supposed to be! Our souls know this, but our human minds forget. Some problem shows up, some disappointment, and we’re all indignant and shocked. We’re like: “Ack! Can you believe it? This problem has come up for me; what were the odds?”
Well, the odds were really good. Because that’s part of what we’re here for. All our precious little souls opted to come to this Earth school. We wanted to be here, and now it’s just about how we manage the curriculum. Some of us, when we were choosing what to register for, selected a really hard curriculum.
Now it’s just about how we manage it; how we move the pieces around the gameboard we wake up to each day. We’re moving them skillfully when we bring more peace and compassion to the game, more conscious lightness and ease, more ways to enjoy it by adjusting our relationships to the challenges and by directing our focus and attention and energy into the good parts (because they’re always there, too).
Basically, the more love you can bring to this day’s gameboard, the better, easier, more in your favor tomorrow’s gameboard will be. And next week’s, and next year’s, etc. Love is the way to win the game. Not how many points you score, not how fast you get to the end. There’s no one else on your life gameboard. Figuring out how to lovingly enjoy the playing of the game is how you win it.
Alignment with the soul and its wisdom allows us to recognize every relationship as a mirror, always showing us what we’re believing to be true about ourselves. That insight is always a gift when we understand that we can heal anything once it’s been liberated from the darkness of our mysterious unconscious and brought up into the light of our awareness. Even our worst challenges can (and very often do) become the just-right catalysts for the next level of our healing and growth. (And our joy.)
Here’s a fun analogy: Did you know that ancient alchemists used fecal matter to turn lead into gold? You can use the crap in your life as an alchemizing agent!
- Do you have any advice for anyone trying to live a life of joy?
I have so much advice, lol!
This is going to sound incredibly obvious, but the best starting point is to pay more attention to the beautiful, meaningful, solidly good things you’ve already attracted and created for yourself. Our tendency is to look past them, to focus on what we feel we’re still lacking, and this is a grave energetic error nearly everyone is making. Whatever you feed your valuable attention to is going to grow in your life. That’s why gratitude is such a wildly effective and time-honored spiritual practice.
Then, when something feels like it’s going wrong – anything that seems to be robbing you of your joy – you want to pause, get clear, and ask, who is suffering right now? Where is the sufferer? And what becomes clear is that your limited, human self is suffering. And once you can see that, you’ve shifted into identification with your soul self. Soul-you is the observer of human-you. The soul self never suffers. Your true soul essence understands that challenges are part of this Earth experience, and always in service of our evolving somehow, even when we can’t see it. Once you’ve intentionally aligned yourself more fully with your soul, you can, from that vantage point, offer compassion to your human self in its suffering.
This compassion is the key. That’s where the healing takes place.
Think of a small child who just watched his ball of ice cream roll off the cone and splat onto the pavement. This feels like the end of the world to the child, and he wails in anguish and disbelief that this horrible, unanticipated thing has happened. Imagine you’re the loving parent who takes this child in your arms and comforts him. You want to acknowledge his suffering because you can see that it’s real, but at the same time you know that no real harm is coming of this situation. You know that there are many ice cream cones in this child’s future, and you know that this crying spell is temporary and soon he’ll be distracted and playing with his toys.
This is what all your big, horrible challenges look like to your observing soul. They look like a ball of ice cream going splat on the pavement. When you’ve practiced identification with your soul self, you can be that loving parent to your human self, no matter what challenge has come up. You can be the source of the compassion and healing that’s needed to realign to the bigger picture.
We all have access to this part of us; it’s just a matter of learning the skills and practicing that alignment. We build the habit until it becomes second nature. And then it’s not like we won’t ever have bad days again. It just shifts the whole bar so that our low days start feeling like what our good days used to feel like, and our good days are a whole new level of wonderful.
It’s how we sustainably shift the energy we’re embodying, to become conscious creators in a mostly unconscious world.
About the Author
Lisa McCourt has taught joy — in all its many flavors — for over two decades to thousands of learners. Founder of Joy School (at LisaMcCourt.com), McCourt has penned over 40 books for adults and children, in addition to collaborating with industry leaders such as Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and James Van Praagh. Combined, her books have sold over 9 million copies and earned over 9,000 glowing Amazon reviews. A podcaster, former popular CBS Radio host and joyful singer in Michael Beckwith’s Agape Choir, she brings her passion and unique blend of skillsets to an eclectic career path that is ever mysteriously unfolding, just the way she likes it.
Free Your Joy: The 12 Keys to Sustainable Happiness
Publisher: HCI Books
Release Date: August 22, 2023
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Available from Amazon.com