“Happiness Versus Joy” Written By Charity Butler
“It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking, ‘How did he know to put the pursuit part in there?’ …Maybe happiness is something we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it… How did he know that?”
–Will Smith as Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happiness
The pursuit of happiness is exhausting, but our comfort-crazed culture demands the quest for more. If we win more, lose more weight, have more sex, earn more respect, find more love, make more money, buy more stuff, take more vacations, maybe then we will be happy?!
YOLO, the notion that “You Only Live Once,” has become the cultural anthem. The idea suggests that to be happy: get what you can… while you can… right now.
The truth is not that we only live once; it is that we only die once. We live every single day.
YOLO promotes the pursuit of happiness, but YLED (You Live Every Day), can unlock true joy.
Research Professor Dr. Brene Brown clarifies the difference in joy and happiness. She describes “happiness as an emotion that is connected to circumstances, and… joy as a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.”
When I speak to students across America about making good choices, I always pose the following questions: “Is it possible for mountains to exist without valleys? Can we experience highs without lows?”
The answers help us more tangibly grasp the difference in happiness and joy.
As students process their answers, their faces contort, and I can actually see their minds engage. They sometimes wonder if I am setting them up! “Is this a trick question?”
The obvious answer, though, is “no, highs do not exist without lows. If there are no lows, everything is the same. Everything is flat.”
I then exclaim, “I don’t know about you, but I want to experience the big, awesome, mountaintop things this life has to offer! [Pause.] If we want to experience the mountaintops, though, we must be willing to sometimes walk through the valley.”
The mountaintops are happy and worth the struggle, but we cannot reach the top without first walking through the valley. Valleys are not comfortable. They hurt. The valley is anything but happy, yet we can discover joy even in those low and difficult places.
When in “low places,” numbing the sting of difficult circumstances seems natural and is definitely desired. When we use drugs, alcohol, food, work, unhealthy relationships, emotional disconnection, bridled ambition or any other number of options to numb our lives and avoid the valley, we set ourselves up to live flat lives.
The truth is: we cannot selectively numb. This means we cannot habitually numb the bad in our lives without also numbing the good. No matter the method for achieving it, numb is flat.
Abandoning a secure, flat life is risky. It makes us vulnerable to pain and failure. Mountain climbing is not for wimps!
One of the most prolific over-comers of our time, the late Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
When we gather the courage to trek toward the top, regardless of the setbacks and momentary losses of happiness, we discover what blogger Leo Babauta tabs “JoyFear”.
“Every single defining moment in my life has been filled with Joyfear,” says Babauta, “with a mixture of intense joy and intense fear into one ball of powerful emotions that both lift me up and make me see things clearly when I hadn’t before… Having only joy is great. Having only fear sucks. But having both … that’s life-defining.”
To reach the mountaintops, we must be willing to experience JoyFear along the way. We must face fear. This requires vulnerability. Dr. Brown shares, “Vulnerability is not knowing victory [mountaintops] or defeat [valleys], it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”
To truly experience joy, we must be “all in” regardless of our current circumstances. Remember, joy is “a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.” Dr. Brown continues, “I use the word practicing because [my] research participants spoke of tangible gratitude practices, more than merely having an attitude of gratitude or feeling grateful… They gave specific examples of gratitude practices… keeping gratitude journals and gratitude jars [or] implementing family gratitude rituals.”
As I close this article, I choose to practice gratitude. At this moment, my grandfather is drawing is last breaths. Death is the lowest of all valleys. I am not happy. Tears cascade down my cheeks as I type these words.
I am, however, full of gratitude. I am thankful for his 87 years of influence and positive impact. He leaves a legacy that teaches me to be courageous, to experience life’s mountains and valleys to the fullest. I am thankful I will see him again one day. Yes, joy can thrive in the valley.
Novelist and poet, C.S. Lewis, is both concise and precise in his speculation, “I sometimes wonder whether all [happy] pleasures are not substitutes for joy.”
Pleasures are safe and easy, but they are never enough. Why settle for pleasures that only counterfeit joy? Pleasures alone are flat and empty, but the thrill of climbing life’s mountains and navigating its valleys while daily practicing gratitude, now that is living.
YOLO: You Only Live Once = Happy
YLED: You Live Every Day = Joy
The choice is yours.
|Charity Butler is respected nationally & internationally as a pro athlete, writer, speaker, collegiate coach, hitting instructor and Certified Intrinsic Life Coach®.Currently, as a Pro Speaker for Sports World, Inc, Charity travels the country speaking to more than 40,000 people annually. As a recognized expert in confidence training, she also presents at various conferences, colleges & universities.Charity is the founder of Exceed Sports, LLC, and of the I Heart Fastpitch Campaign Join Charity On: Twitter, and on Instagram|
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