Leadership Insights

New Year New Words

New Year. New Words.

It’s January 1, 2022 – 9:24 a.m. 

As I sit in my prayer chair for the first time this year, I am thinking about you — the reader, friend, client, random person who happens upon my simple blog. 

What are you thinking on this day? Are you, like me, looking to the next year and doing your best to create the mental fortitude to do it better this time around? 

Resolutions and New Vocabulary

A simple new year’s resolution that I take on pretty much every year is ‘ read more.’ I know that when I get off my phone and dig into a book, I feel and do better. So, in line with this resolution, this morning, I cracked open a Christmas gift – “Atlas of the Heart,” Brene Brown’s newest book. She is an author I can count on capturing nuggets of wisdom from in every chapter. 

I’ve decided to read one chapter per sitting. I give my mind time to rest between each episode. Today I re-read chapter 2, “Places we go when we compare.” It’s so good that I needed to spend two days on it. And, it’s one of my greatest struggles – to let go of comparison. It erodes my soul and if left in it too long, I know it doesn’t allow me to give my best self. 

There is a concept that Brene talks about that I want to share with you. I also want to challenge you to adopt it and make it part of your daily routine. The concept is “freudenfreude.” It’s a German word that means “enjoyment of another’s success.” 

Freudenfreude is the opposite of schadenfreude, which is feeling joy at another’s failure. I think in today’s political climate of polar opposite and distinct opinions on nearly every topic, we can all quickly capture the meaning of schadenfreude. We get that feeling when the ‘other side’ gets what is coming to them. 

Applying the Theory

While human nature draws us to the fleeting joy of schadenfreude, I want to (and I want you to) focus on the lasting joy that comes with freudenfreude. 

  • When a friend finally gets their dream job.
  • When your partner has a breakthrough in their quest for a better relationship with a coworker.
  • When your neighbor puts their garbage bins away on the same day as trash pickup.

Take a moment. Be intentional. Celebrate these wins. Whether you are doing it aloud with them or just in your mind, find the goodness of what they have done or are experiencing.

  • “I am thrilled for you. Tell me what you hope to experience in this new position?”
  • “That’s amazing. Way to stick with it!”
  • “Good for them. They found the extra time to be prudent and dilegent.”

It’s not a new concept for me, as I’m sure it isn’t for you either. But, it is one that I can be more intentional about with an excellent word attached to it. 

From Teens to Seniors

Regardless of your age or stage in life, this is a practice that we all can benefit from. 

Occasionally, I get caught in the traps of negativity. Because I’ve got some life experience to draw from, it is easier than it used to be for me to recognize and snap out of. When I feel myself going down the mental route of judgement, I can quickly stop myself. I know that if I stay on that path, I will only hurt myself. The self-righteousness that I feel will be fleeting, and I will be bogged down with the heaviness of judgement. I might get a quick high from it, but ultimately, I feel awful. 

On the other hand, teenagers can pretty quickly get trapped in the feelings of schadenfreude, especially when there is groupthink that drives it. I have no doubt you can remember a time when you were in a group that spent way too much time and mental space reveling in the failure and misfortune of another because it made you feel right and better than. 

It’s interesting, isn’t it— to look at the progression of thought around this through the stages of life. And, as I look to the older, wiser people in my life, I realize that I rarely, if ever, experience them going down the path of schadenfreude. They seem to live in a perpetual state of freudenfreude — always celebrating the wins and successes of those around them. 

I’m not naive enough to think that all adults go through this arc of learning. I am well aware there are plenty of teenagers who get it way earlier in life than I did. I also know that there are plenty of seniors who carry around a deep sadness because they’ve never learned this lesson and feel the need to be correct and righteous way too often. 

Bonus Words worth using in 2022

I know many of you love words as much as I do.  I love words WAY more than I love numbers. It’s how my brain works.  When I arrived at the end of Chapter 2, I was a bit giddy with two new terms that can help all of us put freudenfreude into action: 

  • Shoy:  intentionally sharing the joy of someone relating a success story by showing interest and asking follow-up questions.  (Sharing Joy)  “Thank you for celebrating this with me.  It means so much that you’re happy for me.”
  • Bragitude: intentionally tying words of gratitude toward the listener following discussion of personal successes. (Bragging Gratitude

So as we live into 2022, join me as we all embrace a little more freudenfreude and be intentional about adding some Shoy & Bragitude!  

Happy New Year, friends!