We all want to be happy.
I think we can pretty much agree on that, right?
Although, I actually wrote an entire blog post a few weeks ago about how I don't want to be happy... I want to be joyful.
If you haven't read that yet, go do that now. Don't worry, I'll wait.
So, now that we cleared up the difference between happiness and joy. I'll rephrase my original statement to... we all want to be joyful.
But, so often, we complicate this idea and turn it into some mysterious, mystical state that can only be achieved by monks and yogis. When the truth is actually quite the opposite.
Like I talked about in the other post, joy is not dependent upon your circumstances. Which means, you don't have to wait until you have more money, your health is better, you've lost the weight, you've gotten married, you had the baby... to be more joyful. You can be joyful NOW.
Even if your "now" consists of difficulties or what could be perceived as an unfortunate or troublesome situation. I should know, because I've been through a few of such situations in my own life.
But, what I found was that even in the midst of those unfortunate or troublesome situations, even when things appeared to be falling apart, I could still be joyful.
In fact, joyful living really is a lot simpler than we all make it out to be.
We already established that joyful living isn't about your circumstances, so let's talk about what it is about.
One of the easiest ways to start living with more joy is to be grateful for the blessings that you do have. Too much of our time and our thoughts is often spent on what we don't have, what we want or what we wish we could get. While all the while, we are missing the blessings that are right there in front of us.
Even in your darkest days, there is still something to be grateful for. I know in some of my toughest moments, it might be something as small as a comfortable bed to sleep in, the fact that I could sleep in when my adrenals were severely compromised or that I have arms and legs that work. Some of those may seem a little silly or "out there" at first, but when you think of them in terms of others who may not have those blessings in their life, the value of them quickly becomes crystal clear.
If you're struggling to make ends meet and barely have enough to get by, giving to others may be the last thing on your mind. But, when you do reach out to others and help meet their needs (despite your own circumstances), the joy you will feel is invaluable.
Several years ago, I was living paycheck to paycheck, with nothing to spare. But, I started serving with a homeless ministry through some friends of mine. I wasn't able to offer as much as I would've liked, but I would do what I could - taking about $20 of supplies with me like toothbrushes, combs, deodorant and soaps that I had bought at the dollar store. I knew that even though things were tough for me, they were even tougher for the people on the other side of those tables. And the sheer amount of gratitude and joy that they got out of receiving those little, "simple" items, only magnified the joy that I felt in giving them.
3. Forgiveness and Grace
One of the quickest ways to live a joy-less life is to walk around with a chip on your shoulder. Having a quick temper, holding grudges and constantly being judgmental of others are sure-fire obstacles to living joyfully. But, even if you've been guilty of these types of behaviors in the past (we all have!), you can choose to make a change and start living differently now.
Remember, that we are all flawed human beings and we are all going to do things now and then that upset other people. But, just as you'd hope to be forgiven in the case of your own poor actions, extend that same grace to others and forgive them too - even when you don't feel like it. I ask God to help me have patience and grace with others that I normally wouldn't be able to have on my own. And He always does.
Because, in the end, when you go through your days filled with anger, bitterness and annoyance, you're really just stealing the joy out of your own life. Be forgiving, be graceful and if you're really feeling ambitious - be generous with those that have hurt you or wronged you... and your joy will be multiplied!
You may have noticed this is one of my favorite words lately. But, it's because of what a noticeable difference it has made in my life. Ever since I felt like God "shifted" me from a place of working to follow certain formulas (hello, Facebook) or to achieve certain numbers, back to a place of just sharing what I'm passionate about and genuinely wanting to help others as much as possible, it's like the joy floodgates opened up! Not only are things flowing easier now, but I actually enjoy every task more too!
You may think what you do isn't important or that it's just the means to an end, but no matter what our occupation, we can enjoy it more when we commit to working with excellence. I do pet-sitting on the side and I can still choose to either half-a** my way through it, just to get it done or I can really be present in the moment, enjoy the dogs and have fun! Which means, no matter what you do, the same can be true for you. Look for ways that you might be able to work better, improve things around your workplace or make life a little easier for a coworker. Do a great job, not because you want a reward, but because it feels good to do so. And I'm going to guess, you might just start to experience a little something called... joy.
Ahh... simplicity. My favorite thing to talk about. Don't worry, I won't run on for fifteen more paragraphs on the subject. But, as the name "F.a.s.t. Life" implies, I do believe that our lives become more fabulous and more abundant, the more we simplify them. That doesn't mean that everyone has to move into a 160 sf tiny house like I did. But, you can still simplify your life and get rid of all the excess, so you can find the joy that's hiding underneath.
Stop obsessing over meaningless things like taking the perfect selfie or having the latest iPhone. Get rid of all the clutter that's taking over your house, cut those "extra" things out of your schedule that you took on out of a misplaced sense of obligation, let go of those ridiculous expectations you put on yourself. And get back to what really matters.
Allow joy to come back into your life as you let go of all those things the world tells you to be, and get back to who you were created to be.
Until next time... keep your worries tiny and your dreams BIG!