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Why happiness shouldn’t be our goal

“If you give me your phone, I’ll be happy.”

Looking up at me with his blonde hair swooping across his forehead and his blue eyes radiating light, my youngest son Henry shared the above quote with me. In an attempt to bribe me into giving him my phone, he assumed his personal happiness was my primary goal for him.

He was wrong.

I’m actually not into being happy. And most certainly it’s not the ultimate goal I have for my kids.

Happy is fine.

But happiness is dependent upon things going our way. Happiness is playing on dad’s phone, or getting more ice cream, or staying up late. All of these things provide the spark of happiness and can be lots of fun.

And all are extremely fleeting.

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

Indeed, what we should strive for is not happiness, but an enduring state of joy.

Joy is a condition that isn’t 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 despite the challenges, despite the setbacks, despite the struggle. And it’s a choice.

So how can we achieve a state of joy? The most joy-filled people I know have four things in common:

  1. They Live Gratefully. We spend much of our time seeking things we don’t have. The perfect dress, the nicer car, the better job, the firmer tummy. But the most joyful among us seek instead to celebrate the things they already possess. They’re content with who they are and grateful for what they have. And they know the little things aren’t so little.
  2. They Act Selflessly. Although a personalized laptop wrapping, monogrammed clothing, or documented life in pictures through social media aren’t bad, the exaggerated focus on self-importance is. Joyful individuals instead strive to elevate the lives of others AND have the audacity to go out and actually do it.
  3. They’re Lit Up Spiritually. We are spiritual beings having physical experiences. We long for purpose, we seek connection, and we desire to know what really matters. Joyful individuals live by guiding principles, they are rooted in their faith, they have strong meaning, a gritty drive, and they’re certain their work, their efforts, and their lives matter.
  4. They Compare Differently. Aren’t we all guilty of making utterly unimportant comparisons with others? Who has the bigger house, the better job, the smarter kid, the fuller social calendar? The most joyful people I know are also highly comparative. The difference is rather than comparing themselves to others, they compare themselves with who they were yesterday and who they might become tomorrow. They understand it’s the only comparison that matters.

So no, Henry, you can’t have my phone.

And no, more ice cream won’t satisfy. Staying up later won’t really make you happy, either.

The key to real happiness, true contentment, and a continual state of joy has nothing to do with getting more.

It’s 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.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

John O’Leary

7 replies on “Seeking a State of Joy”

This days it all “It’s 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.”

“The most joyful people I know are also highly comparative. The difference is rather than comparing themselves to others, they compare themselves with who they were yesterday and who they might become tomorrow.” 🙌🏻

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Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.