Most of us ponder the meaning of life. In all my trips around the sun, I found that this last one gave me the most insight into the simplest way to find the meaning of life.
It all started with some conversations I had with my parents and my in-laws. They’re all retired and advancing in age. Between the four of them, there are a variety of health problems they are facing. (I’m using vague pronouns on purpose, for the sake of their privacy.)
One day, I asked one of them, “What brings you joy?”
I asked this question because this person just seemed to be grumpy and depressed most of the time. Their response was a blank look. They couldn’t come up with one single thing that brought them joy. That just made me sad. How do you go through this much of life and not have a single thing that brings you joy in your Golden Years?
I continued asking this one question during my visits with all of my children’s grandparents. Three out of the four of them couldn’t answer the question. They seemed to have lost all joy for living.
But there was one. That one had a list of things that brought them joy, from people to activities to pets.
And that’s when I had a lightbulb moment.
That one grandparent in our family who still has joy in their life is the one with the least amount of health challenges.
So in my completely unscientific study of a whopping four people, I realized that having joy just may protect your health.
I also believe that if you have joy yourself, you’re going to be able to help others seek and find joy. And truly, if we boil down our purpose on this earth, perhaps helping others find joy is the simplest version of the meaning of life.
Because if you seek and find joy in your own life, you’ll be able to help others do the same. And then they’ll be able to help others seek joy. And the viral impact of this could truly change the world.
In a culture where mothers are often encouraged to be martyrs for their family and put everyone else’s needs first, I’d argue that THE most important thing you can do is to make sure you are seeking and finding joy for yourself. Because if you’re not happy, then your family won’t be happy. And then you’re all out in the word spreading that unhappiness instead of joy, with the opposite viral impact.
I spent a lot of the last year focusing on self-care, which meant I was doing the things that bring me joy and saying no to some of the things that were not bringing me joy but were taking up precious time.
For me, seeking joy comes in a variety of forms. Sometimes it’s spending meaningful time with the ones I love. Most days, I save time to curl up with a great book at the end of the day. I make time for yoga because it helps me find my inner peace. I spend time in nature, both for its soothing impacts and for the reminder of what an amazing place this world is.
I could go on and on. Like I found with that one grandparent in our family, if you are focused on the things that bring you joy, you can find more and more ways to find joy. Ninety-nine percent of the time, those activities are not things that cost money.
As we continue to forge into 2020 and beyond, I encourage you to put your own joy first. See what an impact it has on you and the people around you. I bet you won’t be disappointed.