Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How to Find Joy

There's a hierarchy of happiness, and at the top is joy. The reason joy reigns supreme is that it comes from within and is independent of circumstances.

Fun and happiness are excellent, but pursuing them as ends in themselves can ultimately leave us hollow. Because what we really need to lead our most fulfilling lives is a sense of meaning.

That's all good and well. Thank you very much, you might say. But when you're in the depths of despair, joy is like another planet.

The easy solution to despair is to eat chocolate lava cake or buy a sweater that is both cuddly and stylish or book a long weekend at the hot springs. You should do all of these things. They will help a bit. They will get you headed in the right direction.

Sometimes you arrive at joy: boom! And you see everything through joy goggles and it is all shiny and perfect, and you're like: How did I get here? And then you lose it in a flash the next time somebody gives you the finger in traffic or the veterinarian calls with the test results. And, once again, it feels like there's no point to anything.

So how do you travel to Joy?

There is a way, but it's not easy. As a matter of fact, it's terrifying!

It requires you to embrace uncertainty. Here's how:

VULNERABILITY. Let your guard down. Express your feelings. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Be wrong sometimes. Make a fool of yourself. And when everyone else starts laughing at you, join in.

LIVE IN THE NOW. Give up control. This is scary, but since you can't control everything, you might as well trust that it will turn out okay in the end. You will spare yourself a lot of angst in the interim. If everything does fall apart, trust that you can deal with it when it happens. Accept what is, rather than trying to box it all up tidily. Take a cosmic view. Have faith. Try to stop thinking for a few seconds at a time. Just try.

LOOK AT THE BRIGHT SIDE. Every emotion is a choice. Instead of complaining, look for the positive alternative. Let go of your painful stories and worries: recognize that they are not necessarily true. Take the severance package and run with it.

BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. Free yourself from expectations. Stop comparing yourself to others. Figure out what you want from life, who you want to be, and go for it. Never look at Facebook.

Find your PURPOSE. Everyone needs a reason to get out of bed. Create. Grow and expand. Work toward something: a degree, a new home, raising kids. Whatever it is, it has to be hard.

TAKE RISKS. Everything worth doing is scary. What's the worst thing that could happen if you fail? If it's not bound to be fatal, why not give it a try?

CONTRIBUTE. Get outside of yourself. Help others. Make the world a better place in your small way. Pick up garbage in the park.

LOVE  and allow yourself to be loved. Connect on a genuine level. Let someone see the real you, flaws and all. Adopt the sad one-eyed pit bull at the Humane Society and walk him twice a day. Tell your neighbors he's a lab cross.

Okay, there's your map. Now get moving. If you get there before me, send back some travel tips, will you?