Finding Joy in Ordinary Moments

What do you think about when you picture yourself experiencing the utmost amount of joy?

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I’ll tell you how I would have answered that a few weeks ago. Picturing joy would mean imagining living a life that was perfect. I’d have the exact job I want and I’d be successful – people in my professional field would know my name and be familiar with my work, and non-social workers would also know all about me because my influence would be just THAT great. I’d be living in a spacious (but cozy) and gorgeously designed (but not over the top) house with windows-a-plenty. My partner and I would be in complete harmony – no arguing ever and no fear, anxiety, or challenges would come between us. I’d be spiritually enlightened, eternally calm, and yeah, hella stylish.

My view of joy changed when reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. Brené conducted research to determine the difference between happiness and joy, and she found this:

Participants described happiness as an emotion that’s connected to circumstances, and they described joy as a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.
— Brené Brown

This idea was interesting – that, theoretically, we can be happy but not full of joy, or full of joy but, in that moment, not necessarily happy.

Reading on, I was stopped dead in my tracks by her other discovery about joy:

“Joy comes to us in moments.”

In talking with research participants who have experienced great losses, Brené found that what they missed the most was simple, ordinary moments. She writes that we are at a risk of letting joy pass us by if we disregard the ordinary moments while chasing after the extraordinary ones.

It makes so much sense. In a life that puts such a significant value on being busy, on “hustling,” on making it, on getting out of the suburbs and moving to the city, on being somebody – there’s pressure to live an exciting life, and a fear of living a boring one. Our focus leans closer toward achieving more than it does toward being grateful for what’s in front of us. 

I think we can take this concept of joy coming to us in moments and use that to cultivate joy in our everyday lives. We let the simple moments pass through us and we often don’t think twice about them because they’re ordinary. They’re the every day. They’re your boyfriend’s jokes, they’re your sister’s text messages, they’re your best friend’s phone calls to just see how you’re doing. They’re the real, authentic, life-shaping moments of connection we have with each other that will just slip through our fingers if we aren’t careful, because we’re used to them.

But we don’t have to let that happen.

We can put down the books about finding our happiness and we can stop picturing joy as a result of a perfectly crafted, Instagram-ready life. We can stop thinking we’ll be happy when we’re more successful, with more money, with better clothes, with a perfect relationship. We can stop with these broad ideas of concepts that will make us happier and instead, look at what’s right there in front of us and what always has been.

Imagine that big beautiful house with the high ceilings and big windows.

Zoom in and picture yourself sitting on your leather couch in your designer dress and your manicured nails.

Zoom in and picture talking to your partner, with your great careers and your awards hanging on the wall.

Zoom in and picture the small smile on his face when he reaches for your hand and asks what you want for dinner.

That’s the joy. Not the house, not the windows, not the dress or the career. It’s you, your partner, and the feeling of palms pressed together.

Let's stop seeking joy. We already have it. Now, let's savor it all.