Is Joy a Choice?

This morning was one of those “can I sleep until 3 minutes before I need to be in the office” type of mornings. I had to wrestle myself out of bed and I was super not happy getting ready. The most I could muster up to greet my wife was a New Jersey head-nod. Which of course she reciprocated, adding on an affectionate “whaddup”. We were meant to be, clearly.

Even as I got ready, all I wanted to do was lay back down. My body was aching, the weather was dreary and I needed it to be the weekend. I knew my attitude was garbage so I stopped long enough to pray and ask myself: Can I choose to be joyful this morning?

And that is when things spiraled out of control. I asked myself: Is choosing joy even an option? Is “faking it until you make it” even a thing when it comes to joy? I mean I have emphatically told many people before that joy is much more than a feeling or state of mind. That it is more.

So maybe choosing joy isn’t entirely about choosing your attitude as much as it is about choosing your focus.

I wasn’t just acknowledging how I was feeling. I was focusing on the pain in my body, I was obsessing on my discontentment. Isn’t that funny. When we are upset or unsatisfied or lonely we OBSESS on that feeling. Like when I am tired, sometimes I will say it one hundred times before my wife says, go drink coffee or take a nap. Its compulsive, the way we view negativity.

I challenge you, next time you stub your toe, or are super hungry or tired, or lonely or sad, ask your self how many times you verbalize or internalize the negative or uncomfortable sensation you are experiencing.

Then compare it to when you are excited, full of life or laughing. How many times do you externalize or internalize “I am happy right now. I am laughing very hard right now. This is fun. This is so fun. I am having fun. I like what I am doing. I just love what I am doing.”

I know there are some exceptions to what I am saying. But more often than not, positive things are only commented on in reflection. So like when me and my wife flew home to visit family and we got to take my mother-in-law and nephew to lunch, I told my wife on the flight back, “that was one of my favorite things that we got to do, it meant a lot to me”

Except for that reflection. I just experienced the joy. The contentedness, the happy feelings.

So maybe joy isn’t our choice to make. Maybe our focus is. Maybe our perspective is what begets joy.

Stop claiming your pain. It will not change a thing. Acknowledge how you are feeling, but live it and let it go.

Yes, I will be the first to say that what we are feeling needs to be verbalized to loved ones. But when you find yourself obsessing with the negativity. The things you cannot change, you have to change your focus. And for what things you can change. Change them. If you are hungry and are able to eat a snack bar, do so. If you are tired and need to sleep more hours, go to sleep earlier and so on. But while you are experiencing whatever negativity that you are. I cannot stress this enough. Acknowledge its existence and then focus on the life you are living.

The most important part about this is, “What do we change our focus to”

The answer is praise. Praise is not an emotion. It is an intentional action. For every negative thought you have or verbalize… can you double down with gratitude? Can you verbally thank God twice over that your children exist even though you cannot keep up with your bills? Can you thank God twice over for the oxygen in the air even when your friends have hurt and betrayed you? Can you thank God twice over for an income to provide if what you are doing isn’t bringing the best out of you?

Change what you can, when you can. For everything else: drown the obsessive and compulsive negative thoughts with praise.

Sometimes this takes weeks and months of repetition to master. So the best way I can advise that we all move forward is to take it one step at a time.

List ten things that you are grateful for. Follow my example:

  1. My wife
  2. My job
  3. My family
  4. Having lived all over the country
  5. My friends (list each individually if you need to)
  6. Summertime and a community pool at my apartment
  7. An apartment
  8. The way leaves flicker in the air when a cool breeze passes
  9. My kitten who acts more like a dog than a cat.
  10. The worldview that my disability has given me

Say your ten out loud every morning for as long as it takes. Some days will be much harder than others. As you may be able to tell, some of my greatest praises are in direct defiance of my greatest pains. I know you have praise to give even when there seems that there is nothing left in you. I believe in you. And I hope you will believe in me when I can’t find the strength.

I know the saying goes that joy will come in the morning. But I don’t think that is always true. Some times you will struggle clumsily for days through mud and darkness. But I assure you joy will show up. It might not be tomorrow morning, but it will show up. Add that to your list of praise. Joy will always show up.

Much Love


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