The following is adapted from JOY ALWAYS: Pocket Wisdom That Will Change Your Life.
It feels great to laugh at a joke, get a big hug from a friend, or notice the most beautiful flower blooming in your garden. But none of those things constitute joy.
Contrary to what many people believe, joy isn’t a feeling that arises in a moment. It’s not dependent on external influences, activities, or products. Instead, joyfulness is about how we look at life and at our experiences. Do you see and remember the positive aspects of your life? Do you see the negative ones as occasions to grow?
Joy is a choice, and it infiltrates everything we do. While our partner, colleagues, friends, job, and position in life matter, it is our attitude, interpretation of our context, and occupation of the present which matter even more because they put everything into perspective.
Experiencing joy shouldn’t be a goal in life; it should be the basis of life itself. Like the foundation of a house, joy provides solidity and surety for everything you build on top of it. If you want a deeply meaningful, enriched life, choose joy and put it at the core of everything you experience.
Choosing Joy Creates a Joyful Reality
When you look at the world with joy, you experience it in a deeper way. Instead of being caught up in hurt, anger, or sadness, you recognize opportunities for happiness and growth.
We may not be able to control the things that happen to us, but we are fully able to control the way we respond to them. It is our own choice whether we want to be joyful or miserable. Once we realize that we are the creators of our feelings of misery, we will immediately want to stop feeling miserable and experience joy instead.
Every day, we make a lot of choices. They add up and continue to form our life, and, over time, create our reality. For example, if your friend doesn’t call you for two months, you have several choices. Call her and check in. Assume that she’s busy or having a rough time. Decide that she’s mad at you and refuse to speak to her ever again. Once you’ve made a decision about how you’re going to view the situation, that decision will change your perception of reality.
We need to ask ourselves what a joyful life looks like and then make our choices accordingly. In the evening before bedtime, we should recall the moments of happiness we have experienced today. How many were there? More or fewer than the previous day? You are in charge of this process, and a shift in attitude will help you use joy as your foundation.
Joy Is More Meaningful than Accumulation
Everything we do is aimed at experiencing joy. But unfortunately, many of us tend to get joy backward. We think of it as something that we can get, not something we create within ourselves. We have the feeling that when we get this job or this person, our life will be accomplished. But it never feels accomplished, because the next “if I just” is waiting around the corner. We accumulate—instead of being ourselves and feeling comfortable with it.
Our ego wants to accumulate and possess—otherwise we do not feel good. Accumulating is not bad but, if we identify with it, then it is not good. We give up our existence and only experience brief moments of joy when we focus on accumulating more and more.
If we needed experiences to trigger joy, then we would be slaves to external factors. But all of us, no matter the circumstances, have the capacity to experience joy. While we sometimes think that everything must be perfect to experience joy, this is not the case. Joy always comes from within, even when it is triggered from the outside. Joy may permeate everything around us and everything that we do. We just must open our eyes to the wondrous world and people around us.
Joy Puts the Responsibility Back in Your Hands
If you’re always blaming other people or situations for your dissatisfaction, you’re actually saying, “I’m powerless.” You’re saying that you’re a victim, and other people have the capacity to make you feel resentful, angry, and disappointed at their whim. You’re not recognizing that the power lies in your own hands and that you have a choice about how you want to feel and how you can go about changing your situation.
Our joy or misery in life has nothing to do with others and everything to do with how we choose to act, react, and feel. The most powerful you will ever be in your life is when you realize that you have the ability to lend your life depth by making joy the foundation of your choices.
When we experience joy, we are much more flexible, generous, and forgive others more quickly. If we are joyful, we cannot be excluded or ripped off—no one can take advantage of us. When people are deeply happy, their lives cannot be deprived of meaning.
When you feel joy, try to discover what got you to that state and what could get you there more often—all while enjoying the feeling while it lasts. When you don’t feel joyful, take responsibility and actively pursue a joyful state of mind. The responsibility to experience joy lies within us. We just need to plant it and see it grow.
Joy Makes Your House Solid
We do not bring anything with us when we come into the world, so no matter what happens, our lives are always improved. But we easily forget that perspective and instead crave what we don’t have. We’re never satisfied. We stake our hopes on unstable ground, thinking our lives should go this way or that way. The goalposts constantly shift, and as a result, we’re left with a shoddy house with no firm foundations.
What chaos! Life only works if we all have and accept our own world—and live with and within it. When you make joy your foundation, your life will be much more solid. No matter the weather or diversions, you will always have a firm footing to come back to.
In life, there are only two paths: joyfulness and unhappiness. Choose joy and find the richest life possible.
For more advice on joy and other core topics, you can find JOY ALWAYS: Pocket Wisdom That Will Change Your Life on Amazon.