by Salle Merrill Redfield
Have you ever had an experience where you felt joyful and wise? Maybe you went through a divorce or you lost a loved one and you grew from the pain and developed a new outlook on life. Or maybe you accomplished something like loosing those extra ten pounds or improving your golf swing. For awhile you felt in the flow of life. Connected. As if everything was going to be all right forever. Then something came along that left you feeling out of balance.
Why does this happen? How can we feel so connected to everyone and everything one moment and equally disconnected the next? And what can we do when this occurs? How can we get back into the flow, and how can we be OK when regaining our happiness takes longer than we want?
Perhaps the answer is following the strategies of people who stay joyful most of the time. After observing and interviewing joyful people over the past ten years I have noticed they share strategies that enable them to navigate life with a positive attitude. Through experience, they have come to the realization that opportunities as well as emotions cycle through ups and downs. During hard times this awareness gives them the faith that "this too shall pass." Because they recognize the preciousness of the good times, rarely do they worry obsessively or lament the past. Instead, they keep their focus on moving through life with a sense of joy and wonder.
One of the most valuable techniques they adopt is not buying into the belief that their problems are special or unchangeable. While many people allow the thoughts "This will never get better" or "I can not survive" or "Nobody understands what I am going through" to continuously run though their minds, joyful people stop the chatter before it becomes consuming. They prefer to step back and evaluate the problem. Experience has taught them that they can survive difficulties. They also know that everyone has challenges, therefore they seek support and advice from friends, family members, counselors, spiritual leaders and books. Learning from the mistakes and successes of others gives them new options. Sometimes this means working hard to change a situation. At other times it means accepting the facts and moving on.
Another of their strategies is actively pursuing healthy distractions. Joyful people might call a friend and tell jokes, hit golf balls at a driving range, or window shop when life begins to feel heavy. They may also take a walk, go to a movie, or play with their children and pets. Activities like these shift their focus onto something they enjoy. This time out helps them lighten their mental load and return to challenges with a fresh outlook.
Focusing on a compelling future is also a strategy. Joyful people like having dreams that pull them into the future. They may aspire to buy a new car, increase personal growth, or take a nice long vacation. They may seek more quality time with their friends and family members. Or they might pursue a career change. Whatever the desire, joyful people like having something to look forward to.
They also know the value of living in the now. They take time to appreciate a beautiful sunset, a good conversation, or a well prepared meal. They make their relationship with themselves and others a priority. And they slow down to enjoy the simple pleasures.
Joyful people also take time for spiritual growth. They pray, meditate, and study spiritual teachings. They love to dialogue about the mystical side of life. And many of them find a spiritual connection when in nature. At some point they begin to think about fulfilling a spiritual mission. Many have achieved impressive financial goals, others have found their greatest satisfaction in raising children or traveling the world. An intuition or the thought "Is this all there is?" or a crisis can signal that it is time to reevaluate their contribution to society. Examining the past, recognizing natural talents, and listening to their heart's true desire, helps them discover what is next.
Joyful people earn wisdom and inner peace. Each time they face a new challenge, they learn. They grow. And they deepen their understanding of the divine plan of the Universe. They are not without bumps, bruises, and scars. They have discouraging moments. And they are not above asking the question "Why me?" Yet, despite momentary frustrations and regardless of unpleasant past experiences, or difficult current life situations, they take responsibility for their own happiness. Sometimes they do this gracefully, and sometimes they do this by kicking up a little dust. Either way, their strategies can enable us all to prosper in a world that challenges, but has the potential to bring tremendous joy.
Copyright© 2000 by Salle Merrill Redfield.