In the past, I was jealous of individuals who seemed to have it all. They lived their passion. They were free to travel when they wished. Everything they did was something they wanted to do. I would rack my brain as to why these individuals were so lucky. What did they have that I didn’t? Why were they able to be unburdened by all the things I felt responsible for? Why did they get to live when I had to struggle and be discontented? It took me a long time, but I found the answer. It was not something I did wrong or some reason I was undeserving. And it was not because these joyous individuals were lucky or blessed. The reason was that they choose joy.
Over the last few decades psychology and self-help has focused us on working through our past. We looked at the stories of our lives and how those stories affected our beliefs. We worked on forgiveness. We worked on fixing a “broken” self. Don’t get me wrong, there is some powerful work that can be done in this area, but it doesn’t bring us joy. The way to joy is not to fix ourselves, be forgiven, or pay our dues. The way to joy is not something we need to work toward or earn. The way to joy is not a location, status, or achievement. The way to have true joy is very simple, and very difficult. The way to joy is simply choosing it.
Yes, choose joy. In each and every moment be aware if you are experiencing joy. If you are not joyful, what can you choose to get you closer to joy? You don’t have to define beforehand what joy is. So many of us spend hours, months, years perfecting our vision boards of our perfect lives and then doubt if we can have it, if it is what we really want, or if it will really make us happy. You do not need to define joy. You already know joy. You know what feels good. You know what does not feel good. There is no need to predetermine what makes you happy. Choose something then if it doesn’t feel good, choose again.
There is also no one who has to give you permission to experience joy. There is no one outside of you who determines if you are worthy of joy. There is no one who has to forgive you. There is no one who needs to absolve you. There is no one who needs to say you are now deserving of joy. There is no judge determining how much joy you can receive. The only person determining if you can receive joy is you. The first step to joy is allowing yourself to choose joy. You are the only one stopping yourself. You are the one determining how much you deserve or how much is available to you. You are the one who is keeping yourself unhappy. And you are the one who can choose differently.
Choosing something more joyful may mean choosing something material like a new car, house, or job. Choosing may mean making changes in your life regarding how you spend your time or who you are with. Choosing may be changing your perceptions and beliefs. Choosing may be as simple as changing the radio station or deciding to go for a walk before jumping into your workday. Whatever form choosing comes in, it is a conscious action to move into a more joyful space. The power is realizing everything is a choice. Even if someone has a gun to your head, you still have a choice. It may seem like an obvious choice, do what they want or die, but you still have a choice. You are actively choosing. You have the power. You are in control of what you experience.
Here is the secret to joy. Be aware in each and every moment how you feel. If it is less than ideal, what can you choose that will make you feel better? Choose it and act upon it. Then repeat – awareness, determine what feels best, choose, act. Try it out and share what happens.