Why wouldn’t most everyone want to experience great joy in their life? Experiencing great joy is no huge secret but it’s very subjective and varies from person to person. It actually dips into the area of philosophical thinking as there are many aspects that we could include. There are many books touting the secret to happiness and fulfillment. But in my opinion, joy goes much deeper than happiness. To illustrate this in nature, joy is not just what we see in the bubbling over of a stream but comes from the very source of the water, many times way beneath the surface. By finding the source, there is greater possibility of a well that won’t run dry with one drought or change.
Principles of finding that great joy are in life all around us and it is a mental perspective or picture of appreciation and awe of how life seems to be arranged to bless us. In fact, the word blessed means great joy, favor or gift. Blessed is a term used loosely, especially in spiritual phrases. Blessed was a term used in a scriptural sermon expounded on a hill on the shore of Lake Galilee in North Israel more than 2,000 years ago. (It’s written in the New Testament book of Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount) The terms used at that time were phrased differently than today, but the root principles of joy and blessedness are timeless. We will cover four areas here that I hope will at least stimulate your thinking about joy.
One: Great Joy Flows from Recognizing our Humanness
Self-sufficiency and independence are good qualities in developing and maintaining a strong work ethic and can bring much happiness. But a strong work ethic will only take us so far. We are human, fallible and are all on the same train, headed to the same place, eventually to either seven feet under the ground in a box or scattered as ashes over land or sea.
When we realize our fallacy, we look for a higher power and strength outside ourselves. We are human! This is actually a very healthy mindset. We don’t always need to be good enough or perfect. We can be authentic and real, revealing our true selves as we recognize our humanness and limitations. We can look outside ourselves to what goes beyond human shortcomings and frailty. When I take the time to see the grandeur of the mountains or the vastness of the ocean, I recognize the revelation of a higher intelligent design with the amount of species and variations I can see.
Traveling has confirmed this as I have marveled at the variety of animals and species in multiple wildlife reserves. I’ve seen tropical rain forests with a huge variety of birds and creatures in South Africa. (see video) Taking a walk among a coastal tidepools has revealed an unlimited variety of creative sea life with an active food chain off multiple coasts. Seeing all of this gives me great joy and fills me with wonder.
Two: Great Joy Flows from a Thankful Spirit
When our electricity went out for a full day and we were unable to open our front electronic gate, it made us realize once again how thankful we were for the ability to switch on a light or plug in our phones. We appreciate the most simple things even more when they are taken away.
I have seen the great joy expressed in families that care for a disabled child. This was especially revealed to me when I was on a music tour as a college freshman. Our group stayed with a family that included a Down Syndrome child. I was amazed at the thankfulness and graciousness that all family members extended not only to the child and each other, but to us. They had developed a pattern of giving and caring, thankful for each day they were able to be together. They weren’t rich monetarily, but rich in their love for each other with huge smiles on their faces.
I’ve also seen the great joy expressed by those who had very little while traveling in places like South Africa. The people had a roof over their head and the ability to work. We would call them poor by our standards, but they were rich in thankfulness and gratefulness for what they had. Their smiles and hugs, amplified even more with any small purchase we made, were infectious and genuine.
Three: Great Joy Flows from Strong Values and Purpose
Clarity of core values provides a strong foundation for direction in life. Those values help us understand what is truly important and worthwhile. This, in turn, brings contentment and provides the fuel for a purpose-filled life. A strong purpose can provide the motivation and drive to achieve goals for greater satisfaction and joy. Just as a building needs to rest on a strong foundation, a joy-filled purposeful life flows from solid values. (For help on Core Values, see the Appendix in Stop Circling book.)
Many people start thinking about making a difference and giving of their time or resources to a worthy organization at mid-career or the halftime of life. According to donorbox.org, charitable giving by foundations has grown by 17% from 2020 to 2021 in the U.S. In 2022, it was estimated to surpass $100 billion with 60% of American households participating in some kind of charitable giving. People making less than $50,000 per year are the second highest givers, which may come as a surprise to most, especially in inflationary times. But that statistic has been steady for a number of years. Why do they give? I feel that giving brings great joy and satisfaction. It becomes part of people’s core values to give part of what they have away.
Four: Great Joy Flows from Developing Significant Relationships
The value of healthy relationships cannot be underestimated, though discovering and developing those relationships eludes many. However, when one is able to experience love and true companionship, it can bring great joy. I’ve experienced watching my father well up in tears as he looked around one of our large family gatherings, expressing his gratefulness for our family. I realized our situation was unique but realize that fact even more now, as we work hard to create times that our immediate family can even be in the same state. Download Core Values (FREE)
Significant relationships will usually deepen when there is common ground, such as faith, purpose or values. According to the Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging, the size of social networks shrinks beginning in younger adulthood. David Snowden in his long-range study found that positive emotions played an important role in healthy aging and are part of warm, loving social relationships, so the development of relationships remains important as we age. That is verified in study after study. Even though this particular study was done with nuns living in a close-knit community, the study on connection is included in the Science of Happiness course at Berkeley University’s Greater Good Science Center. It’s important.
It’s also important to note that our personal joy should not be solely dependent on relationships, as they change. Most know this all too well. Family members become estranged and the closeness of many friendships shifts with the circumstances of changing location or priorities. It takes work to create and keep significant relationships, as most of those with spouses know. But those significant relationships have the potential to provide great joy.
How Can We Apply This?
There is no exact science to obtaining and maintaining great joy. But it is an outlook most of us can seek to obtain with the right mindset and priorities. Great joy is actually spiritual in nature as it flows from deep within us. So, it’s good to take a step back and not just focus on external happiness but to create and maintain a healthy mindset not dependent on mere circumstances. I hope these thoughts have helped you in some way and I wish you great joy.
There is no exact science to obtaining and maintaining great joy. But it is an outlook most of us can seek to obtain with the right mindset and priorities.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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