Living a Joyful Life
It’s inspiring to encounter someone lost in a sense of joy for life and for other people. This individual is a refreshing contrast from those who are quick to project their anger and frustrations. We see these projections everyday and especially during the national election circus every four years. The prevailing messages when it comes time to vote are about discrediting others and winning instead of presenting new ideas that actually help people.
Our joy almost always involves other people. The same people who inspire our happiness also contribute to our despair and frustration. These folks include our children, parents, friends, and colleagues. Here’s a related irony: The biggest inhibitor to joyful living is that handsome and beautiful person looking at us in the mirror.
Becoming a more conscious person involves many decades of living and reflection. All of the people we encounter are like actors in our personal movie. Imagine life as a matrix of overlapping movie scripts where everyone is playing various parts in a multitude of dramatic productions. These interchangeable roles include hero, villain, antagonist, victim, savior, contrarian, and more. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s villain and tomorrow’s savior is our next antagonist.
One of the blessings of time is the opportunity to learn not to take other people for granted. That includes people who push our buttons or offend us because of their personalities or choices. Conscious living is about learning from every encounter and bringing empathy and compassion into our social interactions. Not just with agreeable folks like us, but also with people who see the world differently. Yes, that includes people who belong to that other non-patriotic political party or that less-enlightened church.
Most of us eventually learn that our love and respect for self and others is more important than our judgment and intolerance. All of the people in our lives are precious in spite of their imperfections. After all, we only have an opportunity to truly know a few hundred people in our lifetime. Even thousands of individuals are a tiny sample of the billions of people sharing our planet. Whomever we know is important even if we don’t know why.
Many of our “teachers” are not highly competent in how they approach parenting, managing, leading, problem solving, communicating, etc. That doesn’t diminish their value in helping to guide us to make better choices. It takes time to realize the lessons we learn from their example are more vital than our temporary frustrations.
Each of us holds each other’s hearts in the palm of our hands. This is particularly true for our loved ones. What we say and do can raise a vulnerable heart to a higher place or throw it down with predictable pain. Nothing inspires or dispirits other people more than the choices made regarding the care of their heart. Practicing compassion is the highest path for nurturing human hearts including our own.
Other indicators of a joyful life are doing things we love, helping others and associating ourselves with positive people. My dad used to tell me that having five positive friends that loved you unconditionally was more important than being rich or famous. I thought that was silly when I was 20, but now I’m sharing the same wisdom with others.
Never lose hope, even if you believe you are stuck doing things you don’t care about. Pursue your interests through your avocations and affiliations. Even though I’ve always had an interest in nature, I’m not inclined to go back to school to become a forest ranger or oceanographer. An alternative strategy is to use my communication skills and marketing experience to help clients that benefit the environment, such as the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.
I just completed the Florida Master Naturalist Program through the University of Florida. The program broadened my perspective and expanded my network of people who share my affinity for nature. I also write a couple blogs at Sarasota Bay Today and Positive Change Media that provides me an outlet for positive expression. I may never become a best-selling author, but writing regularly feeds my soul.
Another strategy for enhancing joy is any form of self care. Jogging regularly has helped me to live a more balanced life. I also play disc golf a couple times a week and spend time in nature even if it’s a brief visit to a local park. Another choice for more joy involves occasional trips around the world. My son Bryan and I are visiting Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands this month. We spent nearly a month in Italy and Switzerland on our last trip together. Sharing these adventures with him to learn more about culture, history, art, food, and new flavors of beer makes my heart soar.
If you live long enough you are going to experience depression, which is the opposite of joy. For most people, this experience is temporary and a wake up call for making positive changes. All too often, institutions in our culture worship consumerism and materialism without acknowledging their consequences. This mantra doesn’t change the fact that far too many people live desperate lives trying to make ends meet or measure up to norms that have little to do with happiness.
Thinking of joy as it relates to aging reminds me of the term aging with grace. No doubt, joy plays a big part in the idea. So does forgiveness, self-acceptance, gratitude, kindness, and humor. All of these qualities work well together like a finely tuned orchestra. Take a deep breath and enjoy the music of your precious life.
Randy owns Triple 3 Marketing. He’s a long term advocate for positive change, having owned community magazines since 1999. Randy sold Positive Change Media in April 2009 and took a year off before launching Triple 3 Marketing. In addition to helping business owners, he also provides private coaching. Randy has a masters degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he studied persuasion and attitude change. Contact Randy at email@example.com.