Advertising
Advertising

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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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)

    More by this author

    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

    Trending in Lifestyle

    1 The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want 2 Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) 3 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life 4 How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need? (What the Science Says) 5 How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

      Advertising

      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

      Advertising

      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

      Advertising

      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

      Advertising

      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

      Read Next