Cultivating Joy part I: Happiness vs. Joy

Today’s post will be the first of a three part series: Cultivating Joy. In this post, I would like to bring some awareness of the differences between happiness and Joy. There are clear distinctions between the two, and understanding these differences can help you cultivate wellness in you and your family’s life. In the second post, we will offer up great habits to adopt to cultivate lasting joy in your life. In the third post, we will work on coaching your family to stop chasing happiness and bring up some good strategies on growing joy.

Below (in yellow) is from the page: Champion Dad’s Vision. Joy is a pillar that all dad’s (people) should strive for. 

Joy: Through their encouragement of others, they have a positive impact on everyone they meet. They tend to be happy go lucky by nature and are willing to try new things to experience life fully. They are the rock or the person called when things go wrong. They can endure hardships with a sense of playfulness. Their actions speak to a win, win, win (expansion of self, expansion of others, expansion of community).

While on a recent vacation with my family, I watched my kids closely on making them happy. Over a few days, a pattern emerged, and I could determine what gave them happiness and what allowed joy to emerge. From these observations, I started to watch other families, and the same pattern applied.

Coming back from our vacation, I pulled together all of my notes that I could find on happiness and joy (yes, I collect and write down anything that speaks to me through life, training, movies, work…you name it…I am a collector of thoughts). What I found aligns with everything that I observed. With this, let us take a moment to delineate the difference between happiness and Joy. Having this basic awareness will give us a foundation to stand on for our next two posts.

Happy: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

Joy: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

Boy, those two definitions sound very much the same, don’t they?! Well, they really do point at each other so let’s analyze. 

Joy is manifested through living a good life. It is the result of living up to our values and living out our authenticity through our actions. It is a positive response to things going well and being lead well. Joy is something that emerges within us. Joy usually comes through the giving of the self to something or others. Joy is steady and is most often found in wonder and gratitude. Joy involves self-forgetting.

Happiness is an emotion that is pursued. Happiness typically comes from achievement. Happiness is briefly attained when we receive something.  It is fleeting and comes and goes like all other emotions. Happiness is the dopamine hit that triggers the brain when we get something we desire.

Here are a couple of examples of each from my vacation I noted above:

Happiness example: Our hotel had an arcade, water park, and professional climbing walls. My kids chased happiness to go to the arcade. They were happy on the walk there (anticipation). They were then quickly consumed with the desire to play the candy claw game. Happiness returned when they received candy. Once the candy was obtained, they were consumed by their next achievable desire. They chased the happiness bug all around the arcade until their money ran out. Their excitement and happiness were fleeting at best and not sustainable.

Joy example: My son, each day, worked on the climbing walls at the hotel. Over three days, he got better and better. On the third day, he completed the hardest climbing wall to the amazement of all who watched (he just turned six). Moreover, my daughter completed a hard balancing pool obstacle on day two. She was scared but pushed through it to the end. Their contentment was pure and could be seen for days after. My joy watching them give themselves to an effort (self-forgetting) and living up to their goals was something that will never go away (sustainable). 

So next week, we will really flesh out some great personal strategies to manifest Joy. Over this next week, take time to review things in your life that you chase for happiness and note all things you do where joy emerges. The ultimate goal is to realize that joy is sustainable and is found in the process of living….happiness, on the other hand, is fleeting and comes and goes based on what we achieve or get in the moment.

Aim for sustainable enjoyment….life is more peaceful that way.

Be well


Photo by Sebastian Leon Prado via Unsplash

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