The Worst Advice I Ever Got About Joy

‘Cause you know, there’s some really bad advice out there.  And we’ve all been slammed with it.


When we were growing up, The Protestant Work Ethic was the creed by which we lived.  Our generation was raised by parents who survived the Great Depression, and the perception of “want” was never far from their consciousness.  The Depression, or course, following a time of great expansion and plenty.

But man, we’re coming on close to a century since then.  And yet people of my generation learned from parents and grandparents not to trust past the horizon. The rain may not fall, the banks may fail (and indeed, we saw this almost happen not long ago!).

So in times of plenty, smile, but keep your eye on the cloudy horizon—it just may be a dust storm.

In this perception, the idea of Joy is fleeting.  You can’t trust it, because around the corner surely lies another horror.  And indeed, it may.  But this idea is based on an impression that joy comes from events or people who bring it to you.  And therefore, joy can be taken away.  At virtually any time.

The Merriam Webster dictionary even defines joy as: A feeling of great happiness; a source or cause of great happiness: something or someone that gives joy to someone; success in doing, finding, or getting something.

The second and third definitions here are about external forces bringing you joy.  And while that may often be true, if you’re dependent up those circumstances or folks for your joy, or succeeding or getting something in order to feel it, you’ve just give the power away to feel joy all by yourself, and also given the power to something else to take it away.

Now, that’s just nuts.  Because if we have to wait for something or someone to bring joy to us, we may be waiting a very long time.

And if then that something or someone can take it back away, well, yep, that would make joy fleeting indeed.

But that’s not what it’s about.  Webster’s first definition hit it: A feeling of great happiness.

And what I know for true is that happiness is a choice.

This life is fraught with pitfalls and perils.  It’s also filled with great heights of success and happiness.

But always, when it comes right to do it—we’re still here.  We’re still in the game.  And what a luscious game it is!  What a great gift this life is.  Even if you see the end before you, today is yours to savor just like the cherry lollipop I had this morning at the hospital while a friend was having surgery.  Cherry lollipops!  Who knew the hospital had those!

These days it takes very little to make me joyful.  Because these days, I just am.  Filled with joy, happiness, laughter, stories, friends—ah, the richness of life!

And that was before the cherry lollipop!

I talk a lot about learned happiness and optimism.  I wasn’t born this way.  Or, if I was, I learned to be pessimistic fairly early on!  I talk a lot about the how-tos, as those have proven invaluable to me.

And brought me to what I know for absolute true, as Albert Scheitzer said, “The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds.”

I’m living proof!

How do you feel joyful?



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