Joy – What Is It And Why Do I Want It?
I went out today on a bike ride, cycling through the hilly lanes in the lovely Devon countryside. I have been tired of late dealing with the stresses of building – or in our case not building our house, and whilst a sneaky nap seemed like a nice idea my feet ended up on the pedals and off I went. Now anyone who knows me knows that I love biking, but due to work commitments, life and all manner of other things that have got in the way, I haven’t been biking outdoors for a long, long while. Whilst I normally bike in the mountains around Chamonix, today was a more leisurely jaunt, taking in the hills of East Devon and pondering life while I went.
Off I set with no goal in mind. I had posted a thought on twitter earlier in the day about the fact that the measure of our success is not about how much money we have but how much joy we experience in life. Being alone on my bike with just my thoughts for company I was able to contemplate this concept at leisure and explore what came up.
I started to reflect on what joy really was and how it differs from happiness. I remembered an interesting conversation with a company earlier this week, who wanted as one of their goals for all their staff to be happy. At first glance this seems like an admirable goal, however, a) since happiness is an emotion, other people’s happiness is not something anyone of us can control, and b) happiness generally comes from external things and is different for each person. Thus creating a “happy” workforce could be quite a challenge.
Whilst it is true that joy is also an emotion, joy is more often derived from a sense of inner peace and calm, feeling grateful and appreciative, and caring for others. Unlike happiness which can be fleeting in duration, joy tends to last longer and brings more contentment and satisfaction. Perhaps rather than striving for a having a happy workforce a better goal would be to have a staff who felt joy in what they do. Creating a culture of appreciation and holistic leadership, where teams look more strategically at how they can work for the good of the organisation rather than in “silos”, would go a long way to creating a contented and fulfilled workforce.
Whilst thinking about this I started to think about the way I felt when I was feeling the opposite of either joy or happiness. When I am not happy I am generally feeling unhappy and feel miserable. However, when I am not experiencing joy I am usually in a state of worry or fear. So if fear, anxiety, or stress is lurking in your organisation then it is unlikely that a sense of joy can prevail.
This brought home to me a startling realisation – almost causing me to ride into the hedge – that personally when I am in fear about things: doubts, failure, not being good enough, upsetting someone etc then this would be a good time to search out some joy in my life.
But where can I find joy? Since joy is largely derived internally rather than externally this made me think that I can find joy in any moment I choose to. Riding my bike I decided to just be in the moment, stop all the head chatter and appreciate what was around me. Doing this it was if my senses were suddenly turned on and I could see detail in everything: the intense colours of the flowers; the dappled sunlight through the leaves; the expanse of the cloud strewn sky and the endless landscape of gently rolling fields. I felt my body alive with sensations: the touch of the wind on my skin, the smells of the countryside in my nose and the sound of the nature in my ears. Really it was quite an incredible experience and all that I did was turn my joy radar on.
It made me realise that I live mostly in a one dimensional way. I live in a world with so much sensory input and data being thrust at me all the time that I tend to limit my experience and tune out what I think is unimportant and extraneous. This means for me tuning out the wonderful things around me that I don’t see anymore. I realised that if I want to experience more joy in my life I need to pay attention to the detail and the small stuff around me. It is the measure of our capacity to see the detail in life that determines our ability to experience joy.
So I have set a new challenge for myself. I have decided that every day I will look for the joy in the day. No matter how rubbish the external world is behaving I will spend time experiencing the joy that comes from appreciating the simple things in life. It’s all about the small stuff.
I invite you to keep an eye on your joy gauge. When you are feeling fearful, doubtful or stressed take a moment to stop. Turn off your head and feel with your body. What do you hear, feel, see and smell? Turn on your joy radar and look with curiosity at the things around you. Taking a moment of stillness to appreciate the things around you will be uplifting and will help you to get through the rest of the external stuff that needs to be dealt with.
I would love to hear and see the small stuff in your lie that fills you with joy. If you would like to share with me what brings you joy you can post your comments and pictures below.
If you would like to find out how to create more joy in your life then click on the link below to get access to my free e-book: