So how do I REALLY experience joy in my life?

Last week we talked about the dual pathway to joy: Being thoughtful about what we are going to DO with our lives as well as who (and how) we are going to BE in our lives. Doing is practical and it’s typically where peoples’ minds go when they get serious about making changes in their life. Being is spiritual and most people don’t think to look there — or don’t know how to look there — for clues to their joy.

The tendency to focus on Doing first is because proactively doing something different with our work, money, free time, relationships, etc. feels more tangible and action-oriented than spiritual growth. Spiritual growth can be mysterious, nebulous, squishy and mystical. Getting a new job, volunteering, taking up new hobbies, acting more loving and giving more to charity are easier to wrap our brains around. Doing seems like a faster route to more joy.

The other reason most people opt for the Doing strategy is because no matter where we are on the spiritual growth curve, we often think that what joy we have currently experienced in that dimension of our life is the maximum we’ll ever experience.  That’s what I hear from many people I coach and it was certainly the case for me.

I was on rocket ride of spiritual growth (Being) from 2001-2005.  I was learning a ton through the bible, sermons, a small group of Christ-following friends and reading lots of books.  I started to see how God so lovingly arranged the world. My sense of peace and calm was increasing. My joy was sky high as I saw the reality of the world and eternity through God’s eyes. But then that joy plateaued.  And I thought I had mined all the joy out of faith and now was the time to switch my focus and effort from the spiritual to the practical. Looking back on it, it was completely the right thing to do. From focus on “Who is God?” and “Who am I?” to “What’s the most loving thing I can contribute to the world?”

Sure enough, that switch of focus bumped up my joy because I started to see that I was making a difference in peoples’ lives.  I was getting my skills (strategic thinking, coaching and writing) aligned with my passion (helping people discover God’s love and purpose for their lives.)

But overtime, even that “joy buzz” started to fade and I found myself stalled on both the Doing and Being dimensions. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to dig deeper into scripture. I started studying God and Jesus at a whole new level.  More importantly, I approached the bible and prayer with a desire for transformation, not just information. Gradually it became clear that I hadn’t tapped out on the joy of God, I had only plateaued in my understanding of Him.

I also realized that making joy the object of my focus would never lead to sustained joy. It became clear that joy is a sustainable state of being that is the by-product of making God’s love the object of my focus. Read those last two sentences again. They are hugely critical to your joy.

So where are you in all of this?  Do you have more of an appetite to make changes in the practical (Doing) aspects of your life or in the spiritual (Being) aspect of your life?

Regardless of where your energy is, you’ll need an important commodity to enable you to experience more joy in your life. Tune in next Sunday to see what I’m talking about.

Jeff Spadafora