By Ellen Ericson

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha

Many of us have the opportunity and resources to choose a full life and to achieve our goals… so why are we not experiencing the joy that could accompany such a life?

This was the question that kept coming to mind as I talked to my clients. One of them told me that even with a beautiful family, incredible career success and the luck of good health, he didn’t feel satisfied. I asked what emotion he lives in each day. “Dread,” he said.

Another client frantically talked about raising her adorable daughter, being respected and promoted in her new job and experiencing life in the third largest city in the U.S., so I asked her what emotion she lives in each day. “Overwhelmed,” she said.

These are only two examples of an existence seemingly void of joy, and many people I talk to and work with share this experience. So, I wonder, if we are going to get up and do the same things each day for the next 20 years of our lives, wouldn’t we want to do them from a place of joy rather than dread or defeat?

I asked my clients this question. Their response, “I never thought I could achieve all my goals while feeling joyful. I don’t know if I’ve ever lived from a place of joy.”

Joy is an emotional state beyond happiness. It comes from a foundation of gratitude and there are a pureness and levity that comes with it.

“Joy makes the longest journey too short.” – John Wooden

Living from a place of joy may feel like a tall order, but it is within our reach. Here are practices to help you explore what a joyful existence means to you:

  1. Create self-awareness around the emotion you live in on most days. You can cultivate this awareness by asking yourself these questions:
    • What is your self-talk?
    • Which emotion does it lead you to live in?
    • What are the behaviors you are choosing because of your emotional state?
  2. Capture the feeling of joy:
    • Identify people, things, and events in your life that bring you joy.
    • How can you recreate that feeling on a daily basis?
  3. Joy is related to satisfaction. Believing that you are enough and have done enough leads to satisfaction, which leads to joy.
    • Do you feel satisfied at the end of each day?
    • Do you wonder if you have done enough or if what you have done is good enough?
    • Where are you on the journey of realizing you are good enough?
  4. Joy is not a destination, it is part of your everyday journey.
    • Can you embrace this thought?
    • How can you move toward joy without making it an end state?

So… if tomorrow you choose to leave work at 4 pm to see your child’s ball game, or to meet with a friend you haven’t spoken to in ages, will you sit there stressed for two hours wondering what else you could be doing that’s more “productive?” Or, since you chose to be there, will you live into it and be present in the joy of watching your child revel in her sport or the joy of being face-to-face with a cherished friend?

It’s a shift that runs deep within our souls. It’s a shift that I’ve seen make a beautiful impact in many people’s lives.