If you feel like you’re in a constant loop of making decisions that you think are going to make you happy, but then end up more unhappy than ever after making the decisions, it’s probably time to take a step back and re-evaluate your ‘why.’
As we work our way from childhood to adulthood, many of us get caught up in the societal pressure to chase after success, wealth, and recognition. We strive for a life that looks good on the outside, but when we finally reach the milestones we set for ourselves, we don’t feel the same fulfillment we thought we would.
Why am I so unhappy if I’ve achieved everything I wanted? We ask, hoping someone has the answer. Unfortunately, almost everyone around us is asking the same question.
Often, the reason we feel so disenchanted with these accomplishments is that we were chasing after things we wanted to do/have for the wrong reasons. Fitting in is such a strong subconscious desire in today’s world that we end up striving for things society tells us we should care about while convincing ourselves we care about those things too, only to find ourselves feeling empty when we do.
So how do we change that? How do we start working towards a life that brings us fulfillment and joy instead of a life that fits into the mainstream definition of what we should want to be happy?
How to Let Joy Guide Your Decisions
Step 1: Spend some time paying attention to what you’re doing when you feel joy and fulfillment
Take some time to cultivate a sense of awareness while doing your daily activities. When do you feel a true sense of joy, something that goes deeper than happiness? What type of activities make you feel useful, accomplished, and challenged? Maybe you notice that working with people is always something you look forward to. Perhaps you enjoy activities that allow you to be creative—the more specific your observations, the better.
Step 2: Pay attention to what leaves you feeling drained, unmotivated, or anxious
If we’re going to let joy guide our decisions, we must understand what is in our life right now that’s stifling that joy. What parts of your life make you anxious right now? What activities leave you feeling like your energy levels have been completely used up? Emotions and feelings are significant indicators for places we may need to make changes in our lives. Most people today are so focused on managing their anxiety and feelings of worthlessness, but what if the reason you’re feeling anxious and worthless is that you’re doing something you don’t want to do because you think you’re supposed to; or because what you’re doing isn’t something that makes you feel valuable? Do you care about what your life looks like from the outside if it makes you feel hollow on the inside?
Step 3: Make intentional choices to do things that bring you joy
After you’ve taken the time to develop an understanding of what it is that you enjoy and don’t enjoy, use that to make changes in your life. Use it when you make decisions about what you’re doing. It will be challenging initially because if we’ve gone our whole lives doing things because ‘we’re supposed to,’ doing what we want will feel uncomfortable. Maybe we realize that our job is sucking the life out of us, and we want to change careers. Maybe we figure out that the ladies’ group we’re a part of is something we need to drop because it makes us feel like we must live a certain life to fit in. Whatever changes you need to make, remind yourself that it is okay to do what is best for you.
Every day we wake up, we have a choice: live for ourselves, or live for the world; but if we’re living for the world’s standards of success and comparing our lives to everyone around us, the sacrifice we make is ultimately achieving joy. Although it may be scary to start living for ourselves, the end result is worth it.
What areas of your life do you feel unfulfilled? What areas do you feel anxious instead of feeling at peace? What are the motivations behind the goals and decisions you make? Please share in the comments and tell me how you’re going to let joy guide you moving forward!