Joy is an emotion that we all desire to have as a dominant state but it often eludes us because of life’s circumstances that interfere. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can take control over our joy. We don’t have to wait until it just comes on us.
First, we need to know why it is important to us and therefore why it is essential for us to make an effort to maintain joy as our normal state or as I heard one speaker say, “Joy is meant to be our default setting.” Joy has a great therapeutic effect on our bodies, minds and of course on our emotions. We are physically, mentally and emotionally healthier when we are in a state of joy. I don’t mean it has to be some ecstatic state, it can be subtle yet it is there, a strong sense of well-being which can be characterized as joy. Joy enhances the function of our physical bodies and our minds function at a sharper level. When we are joyful we are easier to be around and our relationships flourish. When we are joyful we perform our work at a higher level with greater creativity and greater attention to detail.
What is a key to joy? Passion about life is a key to joy. Read the interchange between Greer, Princess of Evansing and Kerris, Crown Prince of Alder:
“So tell me what makes you think you would be good for Athandra? I need to tell you right now she has a zest for life, which could shake your world. She is a rather unusual girl in the degree and wide range of things she feels passionate about. So if you want to connect with her you will need to grow in your capacity to be passionate, first and foremost about her and also about life. She loves life. Even though life can be difficult, there needs to be a mindset of embracing difficulties as times of growth. They force out or at least if we allow them to do so, force out to the surface the true self existing deep within us. Passion requires our true self to be visible and engaged with the world.’
Kerris looked amazed at this young woman not much more than a girl who shared this truth he knew to be great wisdom. ‘Wow if I can tap into being consistently passionate there is nothing I can’t do and I know that my life will shift from being a bore to being a joy. So how do I get there? How do I become this focused lover of life?”
Subsequently Kerris is introduced to Percival who helps him identify a major reason for his lack of passion:
“That evening in Kerris’ quarters the two men talked about various things Kerris remembered from his childhood. They seemed to have an adverse effect on his capacity to enjoy relationships and life in general. One of the things which seemed to come up as a big issue concerned the matter of performance. All his life Kerris had been rated on the basis of how he did things. Seldom did he feel like anyone celebrated him for being Kerris, beautiful just for being here and alive. He felt like being the perfect Crown Prince was all that mattered to people.”
Getting off of the performance treadmill is not easy if that is where you have been for a long time, but it is essential for a true sense of well-being. We all need to know we have value apart from what we do. If we don’t, everything in life is just another part of the pressure to perform. It will exhaust and drain our souls of any capacity to be passionate about life. There needs to be a simple joy in just being who we are.
One insight that recently came to me was how every aspect of our current lives are an integral part of our lives and are meant to be embraced as meaningful and related to as having redeeming properties which make them valuable. When we do this it shifts our perspective from considering certain activities as a waste of time or simply as an irritation to be endured, to one where we appreciate each role in our lives as an essential element and therefore to be embraced and enjoyed. As a result we will have a greater level of focus on the task at hand. This then leads to at least some element of passion which increases our performance level and ability to enjoy even the most mundane of activities.
Another motivation to be joyful comes from recognizing we are not an island. We impact people whether it is at Starbucks while purchasing a coffee from an employee or whether we are in our most intimate moments with those we love. We can make a difference for better or for worse simply by the level of joy or lack of it in our lives. Joy can make a measurable difference to the people we encounter. We can leave a deposit of positive energy that encourages and fuels someone else’s day and perhaps even their life. We don’t recognize how powerful we are for good or for evil in the lives of others. We need to grow in awareness of toxic thoughts. Toxic thoughts could be simply defined as those that do not encourage joy. Focusing on that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy will go a long way toward fostering our joy. Another way to view the power of joy is to envision how you want people to remember you. Joy is a powerful building block for a positive legacy. The joy people experienced when they were around you will stay in their memories for a life time. I know for me I had two grandmothers who both died when I was six years old. I also had a step grandfather who died when I was eighteen. I fondly remember him and one of the grandmothers because there was a joy in the relating with them. They demonstrated genuine joy in being with me. They left a positive legacy in me. It enhanced my self-esteem knowing such vital people really cared for me and showed it. They probably didn’t always feel good and perhaps they didn’t always relate to me in a positive way, but I don’t remember any actions by them not positive toward me. I choose to believe they made an effort to be joyful in their demeanor when they were with me. Consequently they left an indelible imprint of good in my life.