I recently read an article that truly changed my life. The most mind and heart-blowing thing the author mentioned was:
“You are joy. You are joy itself. Causeless, reasonless, careless joy”.
Three years ago, I would have struggled with this phenomenon – is this person saying that joy is a human state of being? What about the need to work hard, endure hardships, make tough decisions and sacrifices – all of which do not involve joy? Today, I can appreciate that joy is a choice I make (or not make) but it is something already in me and not something out there. I am learning that even through the most ‘unjoyful’ life episodes such as grief and loss, joy is always there, waiting patiently for one to live it out. Let me share my story…
There was a time in my life when I felt that joy was lacking. The strangest thing was that I appeared to be doing fairly well in life. I was on a great career path and turning into a seasoned consultant, earning good money. I had a good romantic relationship, my family and I were healthy and strong. Why then, was I not content nor fulfilled by my life? Why did I feel a sense of dread on Sunday nights when I thought about going to work? Something was not adding up.
As a reflective person, I continued to think about this until it led me to a vision board I developed a few years back. My personal mission statement at the time, which surprisingly I still hold dear was: “to appreciate the nuances that make people great for participating in a productive, divine and joyful life”. Adjacent to that statement was ‘Obtain PhD before 30, abroad somewhere’. Eureka! That was the missing link. It made complete sense that this was where my joy was! So I put all my trust in this concrete goal to pursue the loftiest task ever, an entire doctorate. Little did I know that it was the process of pursuing this goal that unlocked greater joy overtime rather than the achievement at the end. Fast forward to today, three years later, I have made a paradigm shift. Joy is not the outcome accomplished through achievement, but the approach to life amidst the highs and lows of your journey.
Do not be misled, this is not a linear process. Through this journey, I’ve had to deal with some unmet expectations of living abroad. I’ve struggled financially, experienced a failed romantic relationship, fell ill at a critical time on the verge of completing my degree and I still deal with a lot of uncertainty. Moving towards joy took hitting myself on a brick wall a couple of times. When I started to see the light, I became grateful for what I had , allowed myself to indulge in simple pleasures and that resulted in creating joy for others which has become my priority.
Joy remains a childlike part of me that wants to live itself out fully. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we do not consciously choose joy. I’ve heard these statements way too often:
“I need to just get to Friday, then I’ll be happy”- could we not approach the week with a more joyful state?
“I need to grind hard for 10 years and then I’ll enjoy life” – could we not allow for some moments of enjoying life in between that?
“I’ll put up with this unsatisfactory relationship because it’s the best I’ve had so far” – could we not live a full life as a single person?
I am in no way, making small the comprehensiveness of life’s experiences. However, as the author Claire Dimond puts it: “ We are joy itself. And when we know this we can grieve, weep and suffer knowing that all of it is there to be experienced. When we don’t have this wisdom, the slightest sadness becomes magnified and intolerable”. This is an approach to life I hope to always remember. I’ll leave you with this final thought:
“Do you know that you are pure love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom? That there is nothing, you can do not to be? Or do you believe you are what you think you are? An isolated, separate being, here on earth to find love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom?”
About the writer:
Dr Siphokazi is a Durban-bred global psychologist and educator who is passionate about building the future of Africa and her people. She is a scholar-practitioner and life-long learner in the field of leadership on matters that intersect transforming education, African renaissance, organizational behaviour and culture.