The world in which we live is very much centered around self advancement and, alternatively, protecting ourselves from harm and challenges. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best version of yourself. In fact, I mentor people from the wellspring of this notion. As humans, we often are guided by how we feel. While I believe in following your gut and your heart, life is a mosaic of both the beautiful and the brutal. This fundamentally means that no two days (or feelings) are the same. Like the ever-changing weather, where it is possible to experience snow, rain, sunshine, cloud and thunderstorms all in the space of a day, we also can feel the highs and lows of emotion depending on our moment-to-moment experiences. This could be physical or mental challenges or even the extreme sensations of excitement or unbridled success.
Though it may not be an emotional extreme, there is a huge difference between joy and happiness. They are two very different, yet similar, conditions of the heart. This mental shift, though a subtle one, helps us more gracefully and courageously approach our everyday lives.
We all face challenges and wins in life. Over the last few weeks, I have felt, seen and experienced both the brutality and beauty of life: The death of a friend taken too early knocked the wind out of my sails, while, on the flip side, my youngest daughter draws me pictures and always writes, “I love you daddy” at the top of each page.
In reflecting on these, and other, moments, I have come to realize, happiness is based on how we feel at a given moment. In most cases, it’s fleeting. If we are doing something we love, or are with someone we love, we are in a state of happiness. It’s an emotion we all want to experience and cultivate within our lives. I even ask my clients to track their joy levels throughout the week, paying close attention to those days they experience high levels of happiness and those days they don’t. It’s fascinating to really think about what makes you most happy (often relationships and personal or professional progression) and what makes you most sad. The simplicity of tracking such a feeling is that you’re able to increase experiences with things that produce the most happiness throughout your day. I know that when I am accomplishing goals (even small ones) and when I am with the people I love, my happiness levels are through the roof. It’s good to be happy.
Again, happiness is all feeling based. That is, happiness has its basic foundation in a given moment and the associated feeling. Joy, however, is based on knowledge— Perceived truth and fact. That is why when something bad happens in life, like the death of a friend, our feelings are of mourning and sadness. Of course, these are totally rational emotions to feel and express, but it’s also okay to remain joyful during such times because you base your joy on what you believe to be true. These could be beliefs, such as, “I know I am loved” or “I know my circumstances are temporary and not permanent” or “I am so glad to have experienced so many positive (and happy) moments with my late friend.”
Remember that happiness is a feeling that will come and go, but even during times of loss and sadness you still can have joy in life based on what you know to be true. Regardless of what you are facing, find those truths in your own life and joy will sustain you during those difficult and challenging times.