Preparing for Joy

Alt Design Summit 2013 photographed by Justin Hackworth

By Amy Hackworth. Image by Justin Hackworth for Alt.

In a series of tips about joyful living in July’s “O Magazine,” a little piece by Chef Thomas Keller caught my eye. He writes about the idea of being prepared, in the kitchen and in life, and uses the term mise en place. It’s French for “put in place” and refers to preparations and arrangements required for the night’s cooking: ingredients and tools, and even, Chef Keller suggests, a mindset that’s on the lookout for potential snags, fixing problems before they can happen.

He shares that this sort of habitual preparation in the kitchen has spilled over into his everyday, and he’s thinking ahead, double checking, and planning carefully in all aspects of his life. This way, he’s minimizing bumps along the way, and he’s as ready for the unexpected as anyone can hope to be.

Because “joy” connotes a sort of spontaneous delight, the idea of preparing to maximize joy is an interesting one. When I think of those occasions I’ve been unprepared—anything from last-minute birthday party prep to dashing around the house looking for my keys—I can certainly see preparation as the foundation for a less stressful life. Though I’m sometimes most brilliant (though most frantic) at the last minute, I’m up for the challenge this summer of developing the habit of mise en place.

How about you? Do you already have mise en place routines that fuel a sense of joy in your life? Do you think it’s true that careful preparation creates a space for enjoying life more fully?

7 thoughts on “Preparing for Joy”

  1. Mise en place makes a lot of sense, but I also believe in a similar approach with our spirit. If we have ourselves in a place where we can accept and believe in joy, rather than seeing imperfections, I believe the way is paved with a kind of gentle moss. It is easy beneath your feet and pliable enough to change as needed.


  2. I love this. A friend of mine told me that she now looks forward to making her bed because she knows what joy she will have coming into her bedroom and seeing her bed looking comfy, luxurious, and inviting. A different mindset can really make chores a pleasure instead of a burden.

  3. I think we prepare for joy like we prepare for luck. The former is an attitude preparation so that we can be able to see the situation when it arrives. And the latter is a skill preparation so that we are ready to “pounce” when the opportunity arises.

  4. I think being prepared takes away a lot of stress which leaves us to enjoy more fully any experience. I love planning trips–everything from where we’ll go to the activities we’ll do. And sometimes it takes away the spontaneity but it also allows us to figure out how to use our time more wisely, especially when its a short trip. Of course I also try to include some flexibility so that we may find some adventures along the way.

  5. I saw that piece from Thomas Keller and it got me thinking as well. I love applying the concept of preparation to joy. This year I chose “prepare” as my “one little word” – an Allie Edwards project. (More about it here: In January I had a strong feeling that I needed to prepare for something (or perhaps several things). I was thinking about emergency preparedness or always being ready to learn, or have people over – simple stuff like that. After the unexpected death of my brother, the word has taken on a new meaning for me. Now I feel like I need to figure out how to prepare to live the rest of my life. Preparing for joy sounds deliberate but when joy feels fleeting, or it’s hard to find, being ready for it when it happens is all the more import. Thanks for your post!

  6. The moment that I read the phrase I knew this describes my type of joy. I can’t relax when things are out of place or I’m not prepared. But what nice sentiment to think that just a little preparation can allow me to be ready for joy! Thanks for sharing.

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