Success & Abundance
Joy Is a Muscle
Published: January 19, 2013
Finding happiness in everyday life.
Sometimes the greatest challenge in life is not the hardship or suffering. It’s the joy.
So often we have more difficulty experiencing the joy and miracles life has to offer than surviving the sorrow and suffering. As author Marianne Williamson says in her famous quote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”
In the 1980s, I heard about a wonderful workshop called The Joy of Singing and gave it to my wife as a birthday present. She had a beautiful voice that she rarely used. What better gift than to unleash the joy she already possessed. The genius behind this groundbreaking workshop was a former Broadway actor named Warren Lyons. Citing his own fears and self-criticism as inhibitors of joy and spontaneity, Warren coached workshop participants of every age and background to vanquish the “wagging finger of self-condemnation” and sing their hearts out. After a week of learning to rise above stubborn self-criticism and fear, they all did, including my wife, at a live concert for family members and friends. With the exception of our children’s births, I can never recall my wife as having been so joyful and happy.
Many of us have within our reach the joy of singing, dancing, painting, acting, writing, and other wonderful forms of creative expression. And yet we hold back. It can take time to free ourselves of the shame, fear, embarrassment, and self-criticism that keep us from joy. This is especially true for those of us who have depended on alcohol, drugs, food, and work to feel good. But we’re worth it! Workshops, classes, therapies, and other programs that specialize in teaching people to uninhibit and express themselves, to gain confidence and experience the joy of just being alive, are often a great place to start.
Another reason we miss out on our greatest birthright as human beings—that is, to live lives rich with joy and purpose—is simple: our mismanagement of energy and time. In today’s fast-paced world, too few of us are inclined to make time to rejoice and celebrate and savor the blessings that already exist in our lives.
We hear it so much that it’s become clichéd. “Live in the moment!” bumper stickers cry. “Live in the now!” self-help books declare. Movies like The Bucket List preach the importance of living life in all its fullness before your time on earth is up. Embracing each day of your life as a cherished gift, and each person you love as precious. And yet, no matter how easy it is to talk about counting our blessings, cherishing our families and living in the light, it still seems to be one of the most difficult things to do.
All we get is this moment. If we don’t learn to live in this fleeting, eternal moment, then we experience the ultimate loss: the living of our lives.
But “being in the now” is easier said than done, right? A lot of us remain mired in the past and fixated on the future. We fail to open our eyes, ears, senses, and hearts to what’s happening right here, right now. The intimacy of a relationship we’re in. The beauty of nature around us. The prosperity we enjoy. Or, on the other hand, we’re wired to go go go; there’s just no PAUSE or STOP buttons built into our software. We are “runners,” moving in ten different directions at once. We’re escape artists, slipping away almost invisibly from the here and now. As a result, we blow right past life’s most precious moments and miss the best parts of the ride!
Until we overcome our addiction to non-stop activity and diversion, and until we figure out how to pause, experience, and savor the moment—rather than running and escaping—we’re never going to receive life’s richness. We’re never going to be satisfied. We’re never going to feel a sense of gratitude or peace. We’ll just keep rushing on to the next thing—the next “fix” of activity—and justifying it as necessary.
Joy is a muscle. If you don’t learn to flex it, the best parts of your life are going to pass you by. And this is not just a cliché! It’s a reality!
Ken Druck, Ph.D., is one of the nation’s pioneers in personal transformation, breaking fresh ground in male psychology, executive coaching, organizational consulting, parent effectiveness, healing after loss, and, most recently, the art of turning adversity into opportunity. Druck Enterprises, Inc. (DEI), is a leading coaching, consulting, and team-building firm with a broad base of clients.