Finding Joy

I really had an amazing day, yesterday.

On the surface, there’s no particular reason why it would have been amazing. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, really. Heck, I worked three hours of overtime. But I felt great. Things started out good, and just got better and better. At one point, I felt so good that I actually ended up jogging about a quarter of a mile for no other reason than the fact that it felt wonderful to just move. And then, last night before bed, my wife and I were talking about goals and how you keep yourself focused on accomplishing them when they feel so huge and so overwhelming.

At first, I gave my stock answer about breaking the goal down into daily tasks and focusing on those tasks. Not because I wasn’t trying to help, but because I really do believe that the key to success is focusing on the daily process and letting the goal take care of itself. But then I said something else that, althought I didn’t plan it that way, stuck with me all night. I said that you need to find something about the goal that you love. Something that you want to do, that will keep you doing the steps when they seem hard. And I talked about the time last summer when, just a month into my exercise and weight loss plan, I took my son to Big Bone Lick and let him explore the nature trail and try to find the bison. Three and a half miles we walked, and I kept up with him. It was hard, but I did it. And it was one of the things I really wanted to do with him – take him out in nature more, and let him see all the amazing things in the world.

My wife summed it up as “finding your why”, which is something I’ve said before. But, that’s not completely what I meant. Let me try to explain.

You need a “why” for your goals, yes. You need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing, so that you keep doing it. I’ll never dispute that. In fact, I’ll champion that statement forever. But I’ve come to believe that there is more to it than just knowing why. There needs to be an emotional component to it, a deep reason that speaks to the part of our brain that understands instinct and not logic. And fear – even though it can be an excellent short-term motivator – isn’t it. You can’t scare yourself into changing, because it won’t last. You can only run on adrenaline so long.

You need hope. You need peace. You need joy. You need to take pleasure in your process and your goals.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I’m not talking about “having fun”. Sure, some of your process and your goals may be fun. And sure, you may start to enjoy the ones that you don’t think are fun right now. But… I’m not talking about ‘fun’. I’m talking about a deeper sort of response. The satisfaction of a job well done. The pleasure of realizing that you’re making progress. The joy of being able to do the things that you’ve dreamed of doing.

I can’t really explain how to do that. It’s a very personal thing. All I can say is that yes, I have a process. And yes, I have goals. But I find joy in being able to be more active with my wife and my son. I find pleasure in the spring I have in my step, and in how good I already feel, and in the thought of how much better I’ll feel as I get healthier. I find contentment and satisfaction and, yes, joy in my work and in my life. And I find joy in the fact that I’m making progress, and in the fact that this means that things will only get better as I keep at it.

Start by finding your why. But don’t stop there. Go beyond the rational reason, and find the emotional need. Find your joy.

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