This week I began working out again with my personal trainer. I cannot say that the thirty intense minutes that leave me unable to sit down easily, walk down stairs without grimacing, or rolling out of bed because my abs cannot fathom the idea of sitting up are the highlight of my week. But I have come to learn that the pain I feel now, is but a stepping stone to the destination where I will one day land.
This is true of each step on the road to replacing happiness with joy.
You see, I used to be the person that thought, when I arrive at a certain place or status in life, “then I will be happy.” The problem with this way of thinking is that there is always something vying for my pursuit to perceived happiness. I have seen it manifest itself in a variety of ways. These “places of happiness” have always taken on different faces. At one time in my life, it was “I’ll be happy when my daughter finds complete healing.” At another time it was based on another individuals actions. Then it became, “I’ll be happy when my business takes off and I become successful.” The problem with each of these ‘I’ll be happy’ phrases is they are all based on circumstances. And let’s face it, life can change in an instant.
Basing my life on my circumstances was setting me up for days-on-end of misery. But the problem was never my current state of being.
The problem was me.
It was here that I began to learn the difference between happiness and joy. And in so doing, realized my whole life had been based on seeking out those good feelings that come with those times of happiness. Basically, a narcotic of sorts that I sought to numb away the harshness of life. Unfortunately, the outcome was a whole lot of sadness. For happiness would not always be there for me. It would let me down. It did let me down. And in those days when it was not starring me in the face, depression would consume me.
Something had to change. Unfortunately it was me.
For the reality is that when I sought to be happy, whether it came or didn’t, it was fleeting. Heck, a new wardrobe might bring me happiness. But then the rush of the new would leave, and I would find myself floundering once again. I was needing something else to make me happy. It was here I came to see the vicious cycle that comes with a life grasping for happiness. Here I cognitively became aware that life was about finding joy – not happiness.
The crazy part is how simple joy is to find. And, not only how simple it is to find, but seeing it was here for the taking all along. I, however, was confused and never knew the difference.
But that is changing.
For me, I have joy knowing that my home is in order. I find that being fit and healthy, and knowing that when I walk into a dressing room I’m going to enjoy my time trying on clothes – instead of beating myself up! Folding laundry. Yes, it actually does bring me joy. After all, I know that in doing this work, my kids are able to find their clothes without yelling, screaming, and crying at the break of dawn. These simple, daily, do-able things. They all bring me joy. They aren’t grand and glorious. But the comforting part in their simplicity, is knowing they (and thus my joy) are all attainable. Along the path, I know there will be times of happiness too. And I will cherish those moments. But, realizing that happiness is but a dot on the journey to where I am going, makes those not-so-fabulous days a little easier to bear.
So how do I maintain a life of joy?
Honestly, it’s work.
But if I am honest with myself I know that not doing these things, is just as hard, if not harder. And, not doing them puts me in a state of disasifaction where I begin looking for the next thing that will bring me happiness. After all, if I’m not working out, doing the laundry, and making sure the dogs get the exercise they need I’m miserable. Because the end result is all those things I mentioned above (screaming kids, self-hatred, chaotic home, etc.) Seeing this, I realize either way is a struggle. But I would rather do the work and live in joy, than not do the work and live in the chaos that so easily entangles me.
What about you?
Do you struggle to live a life seeking happiness over joy? What would it look like to change your mindset? What things would change in your life? Consider taking some time and writing down on a piece of paper those things that bring you joy and then center your life around doing these things. And maybe along the way, you’ll find the life that you seek.
Till next time,
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