One of the most important decisions we will make in our lives is the decision about happiness and joy. What we usually hear is that each of us needs to pursue happiness because this is the true meaning and purpose of life.
Happiness is traditionally very much linked to the external environment and to circumstances we do not have influence over – for example, weather (sunshine or rain), time (weekend or working days), other people (good or bad mood of our co-workers, presence or absence of our loved ones), etc. Traditionally, we tend to think happiness is something that happens to us and we have very little or zero influence over it.
When pursuing happiness we focus on weekends and live for vacation; we might even develop dependence on a person, feeling empty and sad when they are not around. Or perhaps our self-worth depends on the good evaluation given by our supervisor. Sunshine tends to make us happy and when there is rain we feel sad. This kind of experience leads to insecurity, fear, and emptiness.
On the other side, there is joy. And surprisingly – we can choose joy. Joy is a state of mind. We choose to be joyful regarding our external environment, people, or circumstances. “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation” (R. Warren)
For some people, true happiness, joy, and life-satisfaction come from living life based on clear values and purpose. These people experience joy regardless of circumstances. For example, someone recently shared this experience with me:
“During the last ten years, my professional life has changed a lot. God’s purpose for my life became clearer, events that followed changed me. But change was not always positive. Somehow, I was bitter and angry. I decided to not allow any external circumstances or people to shape me into something I do not choose to be. I decided to bring joy back into my life. I dreamed of living a fuller life in (and with) God. What was helping me along the way were traffic signs in the form of my core values: love, wisdom, inspiration, courage, and kindness.
They are keeping me on the right road and are directing my path in the right direction. I chose the courageous life of serving humanity over the comfort of seeking false pleasures. I’m pushed way out of my comfort zone, but I experience true meaning, purpose, and joy.”
As advocates for the well-being of people, we lead the change from who we are, and from a strong sense of the purpose that is much bigger than our lives.
Maja Ahac is Head of Advocacy at ADRA Europe.