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“Joy does not simply happen to us.  We have to choose it. And then continue to choose it each day.” – Henri Nouwen [Tweet this.]

this one“If you give me your phone, I’ll be happy!”

My 5-year-old Henry shared these words with me. In a ploy to bribe me, he assumed happiness is what I want for him.

He was wrong.

I’m actually not that into being happy. Happy is fine. But happiness is dependent upon things going “my way.”

Playing with dad’s phone, getting more ice cream, staying up late – these are great ways to feel happy.

They’re also extremely fleeting.

The phone runs out of batteries, the ice cream melts, the body needs rest.

It’s not happiness we should strive for then. What we actually desire is joy. Joy is not at all dependent on things going our way. It’s not reliant on getting what we want. Joy is the ability to be lit up each day regardless of challenges, setbacks or struggles. Joy is a choice.

How do we make this choice? I observed the most joy-filled people I know. They have four things in common:

1. Living Gratefully :: We spend much of our time seeking things we don’t have. The perfect dress, nicer car, firmer tummy. But, those I know who are on fire with joy intentionally celebrate the things they do have.

2. Act Selflessly :: Personalized laptop wrapping, monogrammed shirts, life documented and shared in pictures through social media. These things aren’t bad; but the hyper focus on self can be destructive. Instead, joy-based people ask themselves what they can do for others – and then have the audacity to go out and do it.

3. Lit-Up Spiritually :: On our Rising Above client pre-event survey we ask “Are there topics John should not speak about?” Most respond with “politics and religion.” My friend, to ignore spirituality is a disservice to our businesses, schools, families and lives. Joyful folks live by guiding principles rooted in faith, they have a gritty drive, and they’re certain their work, efforts, and lives matter.

4. Compare Differently :: Who has the better job? Smarter kid? More friends on Facebook? Some days, we are all guilty of making ridiculous comparisons. Those on fire with joy compare themselves, too. The difference is this: rather than looking toward others, they compare themselves with who they were yesterday and who they might become tomorrow.

No, Henry, the phone won’t make you happy.

The key to real happiness, a continual state of joy, has nothing to do with “getting.” [Tweet this.]

Joy is the moment-by-moment choice to be grateful for what we have, selfless in what we do, connected with why we’re here, and focused on becoming the best version of ourselves. Joy happens when we see life for how good it actually is.

Joy will not simply happen to us. We must continue to choose it each day.

Who is the most joy-filled person you know? Share in the comments who it is and a little about them. We’ll send one lucky winner a book and DVD with a personalized note from John.

16 replies on “Better than Happy”

My friend, Lisa, is THE most joyous person I know. We met in college and it seemed that she was always determined to be the one in the room who had the most fun. We lost touch for about ten years and then reconnected. I found out that she had MS and was in a wheelchair with use of one arm and partial use of the other. While on vacation my family made arrangements to see her. She insisted on making dinner for us—it took her three days to prepare the meal. When I expressed how sorry I was that she has MS her response was, “Oh well, it is what it is. I always said that if I die at thirty it’s okay because I’ve lived the life of thirty people and if I die at forty it’s okay because I’ve lived the life of forty people, etc.” All three of my kids agreed that their favorite part of our vacation was meeting Lisa.

My mother is the most joyful person I know. My father passed away and she raised 5 children on her own ranging in age 2-14 years old. One of those being mentally handicapped. She was always positive in everything she did and said. She treated all of us equally and gave us all the love she had. It wasn’t how much we had but the fact that we had each other and The Lord in our lives that made us full of joy as we grew up. She had taught me a wonderful lesson that I have now passed onto my family. I am full of joy because of the life lessons from my mother.

it has to be Denny O’Leary. I have observed him for many years. The one time he did not seem “happy” was the ime he told me of the onset of Parkinson’s. Since then there has been a peace of acceptance and true joy in him. Once I asked what keeps him joyful. He told me of the love of his beautiful wife and he is surrounded by love from his beautiful family. I personally know how he shares his love of the Father with all He meets!

In my 51 years, the most joyous individual in my life was my Grandmother. She had so many reasons to feel “Oh whoa is me”. This woman was grateful for everyone and everything in her life and you felt truly loved by her. She passed when I was 8, but I feel her still with me everyday. My guardian angel.

The most joy-filled person I know is my 4 year old! There is so much we can learn from children – every day is a new opportunity for something exciting, a new adventure, another day to be grateful and to give and receive love and joy in so many ways. The smile and laughter from my daughter will always remind me of that.

My friend Mary. She is 94. Her attitude is always one of encouragement and looking for the good in everything. She, as well knits caps for newborn at local hospital. every month she has a new batch for those babies. She is uplifting and keeps helping people inneed


thank you for your message. I surround myself with joyous people as much as I can and I am weeding out more and more all those people that choose not to be joyous.
I would nominate Ewan Nagao, he inspires me so much to be the best person I can be.
I have not been a joyous person for years and I was miserable. Then I took it into my hands and now I am consciously choosing joy everyday in my life. There is so much to be joyful about.

Hi John,
I want to thank you for your Monday Morning Motivation newsletters. I am a licensed social worker and your emails really start my week off on the right track, reminding me of what is important.

Terrie Allen is a dear friend of mine who I met when she became my Mary Kay consultant four years ago. She has an infectious personality and kindhearted spirit, and I always feel good when I am around her. I believe she truly has life “figured out” – and I hope to follow her in her footsteps as I continue in this journey of work/life balance!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us – they are truly inspirational and invaluable to me, and for that I am grateful!

My mother-in-law is the most joyful person I know. She is 95 years old and is an amazing person. she has seven children. She lost a little girl when she was two years old. Yet she went on. Always with a smile and positive attitude. She lost a son when he was 52 years old in an accident. Yet she went on. Always with a smile and positive attitude. Everything is always “fixable” one way or another.she’s always there to help people in need! I am sure at 95 she has her good days and bad days but she is always smiling and concerned about others. She is my inspiration.

Thanks, John! Always enjoy you posts and vlogs, and this one was one of the best yet. Pardon the pun, but this one was on fire! I’m always pounding on the fact that attitude and reaction are choices, mostly to myself and to my family. You’re spot in that faith plays a huge role. Keep up the great work for us followers!

My best friend Monica is the most joy-filled person I know. She is such a positive exams for me. Over the years she has filled herself with joy by helping others. Purchasing school supplies for underpriviliaged children, purchasing used formal dresses for sweet girls who wanted to go to prom but couldn’t afford it and countless meals to the sick, hungry or the family who just lost their loved one.she explains that it brings her true joy helping others. I hear her say, “I like to help people.”

What an incredible message! One I needed to hear…. My one year old Fin is the MOST joy based person I know. She has very basic needs. She loves to see her Nana everyday and requests: “Nana Please,” she loves her sister and brother and she loves her Mommy and Daddy. Of course she loves her Toys but in her world it’s ALL about the people and NOT about the STUFF. She lights up a room with a smile and laughs for the simple reason of laughing and enjoys dancing in the kitchen to Jimmy Buffett. I hope and pray she never loses her love of life, people and what is important. She has taught me more in 22 months about what is important than all my 30 something years. Children are very wise indeed.

im not posting this to win a DVD…..but I’m truly a joyful person. For a while I thought my joy was missing, for no other reason than when things didn’t go my way I wasn’t happy. Then, I realized…..joy is my choice. I live a grateful life. The trials and fires I face set me back at times but I always manage to find the spirit of gratitud in the Lord. Thank you for your posts, blogs and your amazing ability to see what life is really all about, helping others, being grateful and loving the Lord.
I’ve heard you speak,. I’ve read the book about your life changing fire. I stand amazed. Brenda

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