What Does “Joy” Even Mean?
I’m sure you’ve seen inspirational quotes in the form of every item available these days, all shouting JOY JOY JOY! It sounds like a great idea, right? To be joyful all – or at least most – of the time?
But what is joy in the first place?
How do you get it? Where does it come from?
What do you do with it? And what do you do when you’re done with it?
In her latest book, Dare To Lead, Brene Brown defines joy this way: “When we feel joy, it is a place of incredible vulnerability – it’s beauty and fragility and deep gratitude and impermanence all at once.” A woman who attended one of my workshops told me that while she’d felt happy, content, and satisfied at various times, she’d never felt joy; she said it feels like it takes too much. Finding your joy is a simple-not-easy process: it’s not complicated, yet the work can be deep and challenging. It brings up a lot, and still, it’s always worthwhile.
The first slice of the joy cake
The first slice of the joy cake is being vulnerable with yourself. Vulnerability with yourself means that it’s time to take an honest look at who you are, right here and now. Not who you think you should be, nor who you wish you would be, not your roles at home or at work or within your family of origin. It’s time to peel all those layers away and begin to find your own truth. When you can be honest with yourself about your current state – of mind, of body, and of soul – you can begin to open yourself to being in the present rather than reliving the past or speculating about the future. And this present moment, now, is really the only time we have. So vulnerability allows space for being present.
The second slice
The second slice of the joy cake is finding forgiveness of yourself. Forgiveness, when broken down, is literally “for giving” – it’s a gift of freedom you choose to bestow. Any time you’re working on forgiving yourself or someone else, here’s the first thing to remember: forgiveness is not about letting someone off the hook, nor is it about excusing the behavior or action that caused the pain. Forgiveness is about accepting the reality of what happened and releasing your judgment. It’s about recognizing that we all do the best we can at any given time. We often judge ourselves far more harshly than anyone else would judge us – instead of constantly criticizing and berating yourself, try speaking to yourself as you would your dearest friend or beloved. Look yourself in the eyes in your mirror; if you can, channel your inner Louise Hay and say, “I love you. I really, really love you.” Forgiveness allows a release of stagnant old emotional energy, which creates room for fresh new thoughts and feelings to enter.
Third slice of the joy cake
The third slice of the joy cake is surrendering to yourself. No need to wave the white flag of truce - this is about surrendering to your highest self, the absolute best version of yourself to which you can aspire. When you look around for your highest self, don’t assign an unattainable level of perfection; rather, simply recognize that we are all works in progress and there is always a truer version of yourself awaiting your open curiosity. When you surrender to yourself, you ask a question at every juncture: is this choice going to bring me a step closer to my highest self? When you can ask that without attachment to the answer - in other words, releasing judgment – then the answer is either a yes or a no. Surrender allows simplicity and clarity in any decision, because you are asking a simple and direct question and responding with a simple and honest answer.
So finding your joy begins with a three-part process: vulnerability with yourself, forgiveness of yourself, and surrender to yourself. When you consciously choose to practice these, you will begin to notice small and subtle shifts in your perspective and outlook. You’ll find yourself opening to the beauty all around you, firmly rooted in the present moment and filled with appreciation, gratitude, and even joy.