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I'm a professional coach and former practicing lawyer, here to help you explore how to become more effective, intentional, and fulfilled in your personal and professional life. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join me!
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“Choose joy.” “Choose happiness.” “Happiness is a choice.” If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen these “choose joy” mottos everywhere — from infographics to artwork, to t-shirts, and everything in between. Some of us may even be striving to live by them. But what are they actually saying to us? And more importantly, what’s the result?
Although they mean well, I believe these mottos are setting us up for failure. If we look past the surface, these mottos tell us that happiness is as simple as a choice that we can make in an instant by sheer force of will.
And if happiness is just a flip of a switch, then we must have chosen wrong if we aren’t in a constant state of happiness. If we aren’t happy all the time, we must have failed.
But here’s the thing – NO ONE IS HAPPY ALL THE TIME! Not even the happiest person you know.
We are human! Life is complicated and messy. We feel sad, angry, frustrated. We also feel joyful, happy,
elated, proud. We may shift between these emotions within a matter of minutes or even seconds. But none of us — not a single one — is happy and joyous all the time, even at our absolute best. And if anyone around you comes across that way, it’s not real.
What is more, if we try to flip a switch and put on a constant happy face, it only results in superficial happiness and, even worse, a lot of pressure on ourselves to do the impossible.
Our emotions tell us a story we miss out on if we don’t listen.
Emotions other than joy are often there for a reason. Maybe there’s an area of our life that needs some work. Maybe we’re worrying about something because we’ve seen a red flag and our gut wants us to pay attention. While shoving those feelings down in the moment may feel like the right thing to do, it robs us of the opportunity to get in touch with our gut, to learn from our emotions, to improve our lives, and to grow as human beings.
Plus, the tougher emotions often find ways to come out anyway. Maybe we take them out on a loved one or they pop up in the form of a panic attack. The point is, emotions are there whether we choose to recognize and address them or not. They want to be heard.
A better option: focus on gratitude, which results in a deeper, more meaningful joy.
I find that choosing gratitude is much more effective and indirectly causes us to experience more happiness in life without ever having to focus on happiness itself.
Take a few minutes each day to focus on what you’re grateful for — whether it’s writing it down, saying it out loud or just thinking about it. Don’t just list the things off like a grocery list, actually try to sit, maybe close your eyes, and really relive the moments or focus on the people in your life that make you feel incredibly grateful. Experience gratitude for who you are, what you have experienced in life, and for those you love. Make a promise to yourself to do this each day. Make it a practice, not just a motto. Doing so has brought a whole new level of calm and joy to my life that I never knew existed.
These practices shift our perspective so we begin to see the world in a more positive light. In any moment, we can stop, pause, and think about something we are grateful for; focusing on what that experience, person, or moment was like and how it made us feel. This is an incredibly powerful tool that each of us can utilize in any moment of our choosing. When we are in that place — focusing on feeling gratitude –joy and happiness come naturally. Of course, it takes a little bit more effort than simply proclaiming we are choosing to be happy all the time, but that’s the beauty of it!
You might be thinking you don’t have much to be grateful for. Trust me, you do! Sit down and really think about it. I guarantee you’ll come up with something! They don’t all have to be big. In fact, some of the smallest things — like heat in my apartment or the sun pouring through my window — are what I’m the most grateful for in this moment right now, as I write this.
Shifting our mindset to focus on the beautiful things in life and looking for ways we can be of service to others are meaningful, realistic choices each one of us has the power and ability to make right now. These are the choices that will lead to true, deep, meaningful joy, happiness, and fulfillment.
Leave a comment below and share how gratitude has improved your life!