A: The First Key is gratitude. It is necessary for joy to even exist.
Think about it: If you focus on the good things in your life, those will increase and result in more joy. If you look for the lesson or gift hidden within the hard times when they hit, you’ll move through the pain better and have gained valuable knowledge at the end — another reason to be glad. If you look at difficult situations as opportunities for post-traumatic growth, then that’s what you’ll get: growth and development and wisdom. In other words, a grateful attitude is what enables you to turn a setback into a comeback. But if you dwell on the lousy and negative, you’ll get gobs of that instead.
Many folks don’t realize the impact of their complaining and reacting — or how often they’re doing it. Every thought, word and action carries energy. The thrilling part is that we’re in control of this energy, regardless of what gets thrown at us. We dictate how we respond. We have to be warriors, not whiners, and this begins with a spirit of gratitude.
Forgiveness, which is also essential for deep joy, is another outcome of gratitude. Gradually those old hurts begin to fade when you examine them through a different lens. As your appreciative nature strengthens, you don’t need apologies from anyone in order to forgive. You don’t hold on to past “injustices” because you understand that is a form of self-bondage. You stop drinking the poison you’ve concocted.
The Second Key is authenticity. By this I mean being the real you. Living your truth. Being the one you were created to be. I call it getting close to your flame.
This is a big, hairy headache because it requires courage. It takes cojones to accept that what anyone else thinks about you is none of your business; what they want you to do or be is irrelevant; and that you must heed your unique calling. Transparency, vulnerability and ownership for your situation are also demanded.
As if that’s not a tall order, then you have to put your talents and skills into motion for the highest and greatest good. But man, when that happens your joy will go off the charts. We’re talking Joy-a-Palooza!
A lot of us get stalled because we doubt our inherent worth, our natural authenticity. We’ve been taught that we don’t measure up. These beliefs are deceptions. God made you for a reason and with meaning, and you are no less than the next person.
You have to embrace who you are before you can “follow your bliss,” as Joseph Campbell said. Joy remains elusive if you seek validation from the world. This means you don’t need a mate to make you whole. You don’t need a certain profit margin to be successful. You don’t need to please or compete with everyone. You already are enough, and you have enough. Right now.
Keep clearing out the junk in your life so that the honest, beautiful work can come through. Expect that sometimes you’ll have to break rules, follow your inner compass, do stuff that scares you, and let go of habits and relationships that compromise your purpose. Sadly, some folks would rather live small than lose what they have.
I suspect that the Third Key is actually a composite of dozens of things that vary by the individual. A few that fuel my happiness are contemplation, nature, writing, silence, music and stories, disconnection from technology, humor, mindfulness, and reading.
Finally, surely the Ultimate Key is love. Doesn’t it appear to be the whole reason we’re here? The more we love, the more joyful we become. The trick is to figure out how to put fear, ego, distractions, and insecurity to bed. It’s a matter of a made-up mind and a fortified spirit, I think.
So let’s greet each morning with gratitude, and face the sun — even when skies are stormy.
As Thomas Dreier said, “Today should always be our most wonderful day.”
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Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen—A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.