The end of the year is an important period for many of us, giving us the change to reflect on what we have learned from the experiences and people we have encountered this year. As the year ends gets nearer, we try our best to make sure that we end it on a happy note, no matter what our year may have been. Hoping that the new year will be just how we close the current year. Happy. While we search for that happiness that often elude our grasp, my encouragement to you is to look beyond happiness, to choose something deeper. Something called JOY

Joy is not that giddy feeling we have when we are with someone, or that butterfly-in-my-stomach feeling, or that ear-to-ear-smile kind of feeling either. Joy is a deep sense of security, happiness and trust that anchors us in every circumstance. Joy steadies us, propels us forward, and compels us to always look for the best. It’s more than being positive, it is the reason we can be positive. Joy is something that we need to cultivate and choose on the daily basis because we are only human and life often challenges us to keep our joy.

What Steals our Joy?

One of the most influential things that will affect our joy is validation. The proof that we have done something meaningful and the most common way to see that proof is from others giving their approval. It is our tendency to look towards others for validation but very often external validation distracts us and becomes the very source that make you forget your identity and who you truly are. The more you depend on external validation, the longer you let your joy slumber and the faster you panic from one small mistake. The truth is, you are responsible for your own joy and happiness, so the only one who’s validation matters is yours and yours alone. One of the most valuable pieces of advice ever given to me as a teenager is this: “not everyone is FOR everyone” a lot of different people will come and walk with you in your journey but that does not mean that they will take the time to help you navigate the challenges in life or be a support to you. Your road is yours and yours alone to walk alone.

Secondly, our joy is affected by how we respond to different expectations. Expectations are the things that we strive to fulfill, be it an expectation we have of ourselves or expectations others have of us. How we respond to those expectations will determine our future direction. If we choose to emphasize only on the expectations we could not fulfill, we are only setting ourselves up for further despair. Joy allow us to be more flexible in handling those expectations. When expectation don’t match the reality, joy becomes the anchor that holds us steady and allow us to focus on the good, learn from the bad, and forgive the past.

These influences guide how we feel, what we think about, and the choices we made. When we think only about what makes us. By choosing joy we are focusing on influences that breathes life into us.

Choosing Joy in Relationships

The saying “out with the old, in with the new” doesn’t always mean quitting everything and everyone that leaves you with a negative impression. The focus of the saying is on the discovery of new and fulfilling things to welcome into your life. It means moving on from things and people who are creating a toxic environment in your life. Those who are not willing to push you forward or accept you as who you are. By choosing joy we shift our attention to the things and people that breathe life into us.

Communicate honestly and openly. For example, if there is a major point of contention between you and your spouse, make your needs known. Communicate openly and honestly with your spouse, tell them what is bothering you. Someone who truly cares for your well-being and wholeness will be willing to compromise and help you instate change in your life, and if they don’t, maybe he/she is someone you need to move on from. Part of embracing and choosing joy in your relationships involves 2 things: first, is choosing to be honest and open with your friends/family/partner and secondly is allowing only individuals who are not afraid to tell you the truth even if these things letting a little bit of unhappiness come around.

Re-address the priorities in your life. What will lead you to joy means creating priorities and setting up boundaries to keep negativity out of your life. Furthermore, essential to maintaining the joy in your life is to leave the past behind. Once you’ve refocused and re-evaluate the areas you do feel are valuable in your life and have the potential to give you great happiness, it is important to start fresh and leave the past behind. I cannot express how many times I have heard the demise of a relationship was due to continued re-visitation of past problems.
Part of choosing to keep people in your life is choosing to forgive and forget the past in order to embrace the potential for joy in the future. If you can use any of these simple lifestyle tweaks in the upcoming year, it is guaranteed that taking control of your own joy, gratitude and positive attitude will yield positive results. Even if you choose just keeping your word, or just forgiving and forgetting, or even just losing a few aspects of your life that weren’t fulfilling, you are already on the way to creating your own positive energy.

To close, let me leave you with this quote by Howard Zinn
“What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”