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Why Joy Can Be Your Enemy

Why Joy Can Be Your Enemy

    In previous posts, I discussed why the so-called “negative” emotions of anger, shame, sadness, and fear are actually good friends and guides. In this post, I am going to close the loop on this project by outlining why joy, a “positive” emotion, can be your enemy.

    How can this be? How can joy cause trouble? What’s wrong with feeling good?

    Well, nothing, of course. Except that the pursuit of joy (and the fear of losing joy) can distract us from creating long-term happiness and fulfillment. And it can even bring about circumstances that cause tremendous suffering.

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    But how does this happen?

    In one of two ways: Attachment and Distraction.

    How is attachment a problem?

    Attachment can be a problem when it clouds your judgment, preventing you from making the right choices (for you) in the hopes of getting or keeping something that you think will bring you joy.

    I’m sure you’ve known people who have quit their jobs and moved away from their friends and families to a new city in order to stay together with a boyfriend/girlfriend, only to find themselves dumped and far from home when what they really needed to do is accept that other person is moving away and get on with life. Attachment to that other person, wanting to get or keep the Joy that comes from being with the other person, brought that on. Similarly, people can get attached to ideas, places and objects, and let this attachment prevent them from making wise decisions.

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    We can also get attached to the results of our actions and create trouble for ourselves and others. How many times have we told ourselves the following:

    “I’ll be happy when I get rich/get married/have kids/get a promotion/get a better house…”

    Staying so focused on the payoff prevents us from enjoying the journey, and in extreme circumstances it can lead to problems brought on by unethical behavior. Whether it’s fudging taxes, covering up problems at work, lying to your spouse to keep the peace, all of them can bring serious consequences crashing down upon you…simply because you wanted the joy associated with the payoff.

    Joy can be a distraction

    It can be — and it may be a harmless one, like procrastinating with Facebook or playing video games instead of taking action on something that would bring achievement and fulfillment.

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    Starting that big project at work can be hard. Same with fixing up your house, training for a 5K or writing a book, but those things can be incredibly rewarding (much more so than playing Angry Birds). But playing Angry Birds can provide the distraction of fun and joy.

    Right now that prevents you from ever going down those paths.

    Taken to the extreme, distraction becomes addiction. You drink/take drugs/gamble because it feels better than facing some challenge. No one becomes an addict because they honestly want the lifestyle and rewards — they do it because it feels good (initially at least), and it brings joy to have a drink or a hit or another card. If it didn’t feel good — at least in the moment — no one would do it.

    But we do…because people find joy in distraction and they can’t tear themselves away from it long enough to take care of themselves.

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    In closing

    Joy can lead to attraction and be a distraction. We get attached to another person or object, or to a certain result, and this can lead to bad decisions. Similarly, we can use momentary Joy to distract us from taking on more difficult challenges that would ultimately prove more fulfilling. Such distractions can prove devastating in the case of addictions. Joy is important, of course — I don’t think we could live without it for long.

    But like the other “negative” emotions mentioned above, we need to keep it in its proper perspective.

    (Photo credit: Boxing Punching Bag on Red via Shutterstock)

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    Dave Kaiser

    An Executive Coach who helps people make better use of their time, from productivity to living their life's mission.

    A New Year’s Resolution Worksheet That Will Make Your Resolutions Stick Want Life to Be Easy? Get a System! Why Joy Can Be Your Enemy Why You Need to Give It Away What Not to do to Get More Done

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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