Following Your Joy
When you ask people around the world what they most want out of life, so much of the time the answer is, “I just want to be happy.” It seems to be life’s #1 goal, and in the U.S., one of our inalienable rights is indeed ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ But what is “happiness”? Scientists can’t even agree on a definition, even though they’ve filled bookcases and professional journals with advice on how to get it.
People long to feel happy, content, satisfied, and at ease with life. And while the quest for happiness looms large, I’ve found that if you’re too focused on “searching” for happiness, you may miss out on actually living it.
I invite you to try an exercise with me: Simply say to yourself, “I am following my joy when (fill in the blank).” And keep doing this for about 10 minutes while just freely writing the answers. You may be surprised by what you come up with. I came up with all kinds of gratifying things, some of which I’ll share with you now.
I am following my joy when:
I connect with other people, whether in a deep conversation, a brief and delightful encounter, sharing a laugh or a memory, or even a nice exchange with a stranger in line at the grocery store.
I’m in a teaching or coaching session and experiencing the growth of my client or student. When I feel I’m offering and giving something of value to someone’s life and truly living my own life’s purpose.
I am moving my body (especially to music), whether in a Pilates session, yoga class, a swim, dancing, or just playing.
I spend time outside in nature near the ocean, in the woods, or on a mountain gazing at a sky full of stars.
I spend time either in person or on the phone with the people I love the most and who love me in return – like my family or my closest friends.
Doing something creative or learning something new.
I make choices that align with supporting my health and well-being, such as smart nutrition, exercise, rest, or meditation.
I wake early in the morning in my comfy, delicious bed, looking out my window as the first orange-hued rays of sun begin to slowly paint the sky, while I name the many things in my life for which I am grateful. Every day.
My discovery from this exercise is that a life full of contentment, love, and true “happiness” is here and available now! And that there is enormous satisfaction derived not only from “arriving somewhere” (or “possessing things’), but also from finding meaning in experiences, in having a purpose, and in loving relationships.
In the pursuit of happiness, there is a single misperception: the belief that your source of happiness is outside of you. It’s as if happiness is a finish line you will someday cross, or that it has to be earned or deserved. The focus is therefore on the future with a goal of “becoming happy” rather than “being happy.” But with that mindset comes this inherent problem: the more you strive and search for happiness, the more likely you are to overlook the possibility that it you’ve already achieved it.
So you really just need to ask yourself, “What brings you joy?” For the process of discovering your joy begins when you take a genuine look within your heart to discover what moves you. What makes you feel grateful? What can you do, right now, that feels good for you? What inspires you? What makes you feel alive? Who are the people in your life that you love and love you? The more you can tune into these sorts of questions and find honest answers, the more likely you are to learn about what true happiness is.
Searching for happiness is future-chasing with an external focus. Following your joy has an internal focus. It’s present tense. It’s likely all around you if you just care to look and know what to look for. And it’s not something you “chase”; it’s something you choose!
I encourage you to carve out more time for those things in your life that bring you joy. Reflect on what is truly of value in life for you, what gives meaning to your life, and prioritize your life based on that. Even during life’s inevitable challenges, using joy as an emotional compass will keep you headed in the right direction. And in turn will inspire you to feel content, at peace, and happy.
Today, choose joy!