Joy vs. Happiness
I love ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” series.
Last week’s episode highlighted the struggle between heroes and villains. The show’s ending hinted that the focus of new characters and plot lines will evolve around what it means to be a hero, what it means to be a villain, and who deserves the desired happy ending.
And that got my counseling brain thinking. . .
Our choices determine what road we walk down in life.
I had a teenage counseling client once who had made some bumpy choices. She was trapped in a habit of lying to her family, her friends, and even herself, but luckily she became aware that the path she was walking down would not lead her to lasting happiness. During our work together, it helped her to discuss choices. I like to explain the difference between happiness and joy with my counseling clients that are struggling to make positive long-term decisions. I explain it this way:
“Happiness” is temporary, but “Joy” is eternal.
As humans, we go in and out of “happiness.” We feel happy, and we feel sad. We have our ups and our downs. With clients I use the example that I feel really happy when I eat a slice of cheesecake. I love cheesecake! It’s delicious! But the long-term, daily consumption of cheesecake would not lead to my goals of health and weight management. The happiness of eating cheesecake is temporary.
With my teenage counseling clients we talk about what choices lead them towards temporary and fleeting happiness. Common answers can be: telling the small lie, drug use, burning someone on social media, cheating on an exam, or procrastinating homework. Acknowledging that some happiness is gained from these less than desirable activities is important because it acknowledges their feelings and motivation. But then it is important to steer the conversation towards “joy,” and the long-term choices that would be better for them down the road. Teenagers know what path they are heading down when you discuss their choices.
This process can apply to adults as well.
Just like my choice to only eat cheesecake sparingly, I also make choices each day to steer my life down the path I want in the long run. I must choose to act towards my happy ending.
Allow me a quick example from the “Once Upon a Time” series.
Rumpelstiltskin tried to lie his way to a happy ending, but (spoiler alert) it didn’t work. His choices lead him to sorrow and revenge. Negative behaviors lead to negative consequences.
To find your “joy,” act in such a way to attain it. Choose joy!