We live in a society focused on self-improvement. Striving for success is an esteemed virtue, and the shelves of bookstores are filled with “how to” books, promising that in seven or ten easy steps you can improve, change, advance, discover, identify or uncover the person you are meant to be. We’re bombarded with messages that we can and should be a better mother, father, wife, husband, employee or athlete, and we’re passing those directives on to our children, indirectly if not directly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for improving myself, and I hope to always grow in knowledge and wisdom. But, whenever I have a nagging feeling of unhappiness and unease in my soul, I can usually identify a corresponding focus on the future, and something I’m hoping will change. “I’ll be happy when….” “I’ll be happy if….” “When this or that changes, then I’ll be happy.” For me, some of those “when” and “if” changes I’d like to make include: losing five pounds, fitting into my skinny jeans, getting one of my books published, changing certain behaviors of other people, my boys being a bit older and having more free time and independence, buying a house, complete financial freedom, being a better mother, having more time alone with my husband, and the list goes on.
The media, society, and even companies marketing their products and services, continually tell us, you cannot be happy until you have changed your looks, bought, read and practiced the ideology of a book, used their service, or purchased their product. High school sports have become so competitive that you can’t expect to make a varsity team unless you spend insane amounts of money on club sports and summer camps. And forget about getting into a good college unless you have a GPA that’s better than perfect.
Huh? That’s crazy!
Is it a wonder that we (and our children) feel unsettled, stressed out, and always striving to attain that ever elusive state of being called true happiness? So what’s the answer?
Could it be that we need to learn to be happy with who we are, right now…exactly as we are in this very moment? Not “when” or “if” or “but.” Rather, find joy and happiness within the life you lead right now.
And that’s what the Joy List is all about – finding happiness in the regular, ordinary moments or events in your life. Create time and space for happiness and joy. Connect with your family, friends and neighbors. Connect with God. Spend time alone, listen to your heart, marvel at nature, smile at and laugh with your precious children. Live in the now, instead of regretting the past or striving for the future. Make a list of everything in your life that you’re thankful for. Identify what brings you joy, create space for those moments, and honor them.
Life happens fast enough. If we’re always filling our life with activities, rushing around, and striving for all the success and betterment that society tells us we should want and desire, we will miss many opportunities to celebrate the joy and wonder right before our eyes, in this moment. Every fleeting moment is precious, and it will never happen again. You have one chance to embrace what is happening right now, and then it will be gone forever.
Whenever one of my little boys says, “Mommy, I want to show you something,” I drop whatever I’m doing and follow them. It’s usually a treasure – a bug, a flower, a beautiful cloud. Something special they’ve found that they want to show me. And we marvel at it, hug, kiss, and share a tender moment. If I was too busy with the housework that never ends, posting an update on Facebook, or my “to do” list, I’d miss a precious moment of joy. And those little moments of joy here and there remind me to embrace and celebrate the life I am leading right now.
Identify whatever it is that makes you happy and brings you joy – and make a list. Ask your spouse and your kids to create a joy list too. Then create time and space to celebrate those moments in your lives.
And, cherish the joy that follows.