“Have you found the joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others?”
These are two questions that Morgan Freeman’s character (Carter Chamber) asks Jack Nicholson (Edward Cole) in the movie “The Bucket List” when he is explaining an ancient belief about Egyptian death.
I watched the movie for the first time a few days ago and these two questions stuck with me.
“Have you found the joy in your life?” ‘Has your life brought joy to others?”
As the year ends, we might reflect back and reminisce over our best and worst moments of this year, or of our lives.
Some of those moments made us extremely happy while others caused much pain. As I sit back and reflect on this year, I ask myself the first question again:
Have I found the joy in my life?
But first another question comes to mind: “What exactly is joy?”
You see, I have come to the conclusion that joy and happiness are two different things. Happiness derives from good things happening to us. It’s an unstable feeling that can come and go at any given moment depending on circumstances and events that happen to us. Happiness depends on factors and is a temporary emotion based on the conditions and situations that surround us.
Joy however, is much deeper than that. It’s a state of being. Joy is a sort of peace that we feel in our lives. It is a sense of well-being and never-ending contentment that does not depend on circumstances, but instead comes from internal factors such as faith, hope, and love. Joy helps us expect the best in every situation and gives us peace. When we have joy, we have an everlasting happiness even through times of difficulty. Seasons of sadness are easier to deal with because faith helps us have a clear vision of what lies ahead, a better future. If we don’t have faith in current situations and for a better future, it becomes harder to experience joy.
Has my life brought joy to others?
As I reflect back on this year, I can say it has been the toughest one yet. I lost my joy completely (for a few months) for the first time in a long time. Not having joy helped me compare it to a time in my life that I had an enormous amount of joy, even as I went through tough circumstances.
You see, when I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years back, I faced a horrible truth that made me feel miserable. This intense sadness only lasted a few days and then I was back to feeling joy. I had a sense that I was still happy and knew a diagnosis didn’t define me or my future. I knew that life continued and that I had a responsibility to feel miserable or to feel joy. I had faith that despite my circumstances, good things were waiting in my future. My focus was on the blessings that surrounded me and my goal was to have faith that everything would be fine. This to me is joy, feeling contentment despite a bad situation.
Now, this past June I lost all joy in my life when I was facing a loss in my life. I only felt happy occasionally when good things happened. I no longer had peace, faith, or hope. I felt empty and numb. Life felt like it had no good in it, as I was focused on the past and worried about my future. This terrible experience helps me answer the second question, “Has my life brought joy to others?”
Has my life brought joy to others?
When I felt the most joy in my life, I was more willing to serve and spend time with others. My attitude was much happier and positive. This attitude could reflect and it somehow brought joy to others. This was a time when my students loved me most, my marriage was going wonderful, and my friendships were strongest. I noticed this was a time when more people approached me and enjoyed being around me. Joy attracts people.
As I compare this joyful time in my life to the depression I went through in June, I notice that when I had no joy-I also brought no joy to others. I had no interest in seeking others, nor did I reflect a happy spirit. When my spirit was unhappy, I noticed fewer people wanted my company.
My discovery is this:
When we have joy in our lives, we bring joy to others.
So how do we become people with joy? How do you find your joy?
Sometimes we live our lives saying, I’ll be happy when I lose weight”, “I’ll be happy when I find the right person,” or “I’ll be happy when I have the right career.” We live our lives hoping to someday have joy instead of having joy now. We live focused on the situations we are going through and we lose all hope and faith. These situations bring us to living in the past or worried about the future. Our joy is sucked out of us in an instant. Along with it, we stop bringing joy to others.
The question remains, “How can you find the joy in your life.” Just like joy can leave an instant, we can also bring joy to our own lives. We don’t need to have the most amazing life for us to live in contentment. We just need to live with a heart of faith. A heart that expects the best in every situation and focuses on the present blessings.
In my reflection, I take a look at what helps me experience joy. I also think of those people who are always so full of joy and came up with this list. Of course there are more ways we can find joy in our lives, but this is a basic list that came to me as I reflected on what helps me feel joy.
What does a joyful person look like? How can we become a joyful person?
A joyful person is one who can laugh at difficult situations and who smiles and laughs a lot. They are people who seem to bring sunshine to a room of darkness. Laughing and enjoying life brings us joy.
2. Sees problems as opportunities/are optimistic
A person who has joy is able to face problems with an optimistic perspective. It’s a person who is ready to learn something from the obstacles that he or she is confronted with. A person with joy will tackle these problems and turn them into an opportunity for growth.
3. Are thankful
Joyful people are thankful for what they have and don’t complain about the things they don’t. Instead joyful people feel blessed for all the small things in their lives, including setbacks.
4. Ignore offenses and are forgiving
Joyful people do not allow offenses nor insults to stay in their hearts. They do not hold on to grudges and are ready to forgive offenses. They prefer a peaceful heart than a heart full of resentment.
5. Are giving
Have you ever felt happiest when giving to others? Whether it be your time, gifts, or your service, most people experience the most joy when they make others happy. Serving others and giving is a reward we bring to ourselves when we do it. Joyful people are those who have love for others and are seeking to make other people’s lives better.
Joy can be restored
Joy can be restored. Think of a time in your life when you felt the most stable contentment. What things were you doing right? Why did you feel joy?
As you think about what is robbing you from joy, be intentional about bringing it back to your life. There are many things you can do to transition into a state of joy.
Every morning be thankful about something, remove toxic friendships from your life, and watch/read positive things. Everyday find something to laugh about, think about happy memories, and count your blessings. If there’s something you wish you were doing or had, maybe it’s time to start setting goals. Setting those goals will give you hope that you are one step closer to your dreams, thus making you feel joy. Overall, live in the present. Enjoy the small things that happen daily and look for ways to see difficult days as opportunities of growth.
When we live joyful lives, we become a ray of sunshine. You will bring joy to other’s lives. Happiness is contagious. Your happy spirit will rub off on the people you spend time with. Your positive outlook will influence them. Your joy will allow you to love others as well as to give and serve them.
So I ask you once more,
“Have you found the joy in your life?” and “Has your life brought joy to others?” Let’s focus on starting this new year with a joyful heart.
I would love to hear from you. Are you a joyful person? What are some practices you use to be joyful?