Which Option to Choose
Imagine that after a difficult year you're desperate to bring joy back into your life again. You review the following 3 possible tactics for creating it: 1) Self-pampering, 2) Immediate Pleasure and 3) Difficult Challenge.
If you were to speculate which single option would most likely result in sustaining joy, which one would you pick?
Most people I've asked chose numbers 1 or 2. I used to agree with them, but recently I've moved tactic 3-difficult challenges-to the top of my list.
Experts & Friends' Advice
A year after losing a husband to cancer, I was ready to reengage in life and most of all experience exuberant joy again. I followed experts' advice to pamper myself, and friends simultaneously encouraged me to indulge in immediate pleasures. Dutifully I followed their advice. Among a long list of things I did was: bought a stack of jazz CDs, knitted thirty scarves, enjoyed previously forbidden rich desserts, scheduled massages and turned off my alarm and slept in late.
Mainstream Answers Fail
Activities following tactics 1 and 2 were pleasurable while I was doing them, but afterwards the happy feelings faded requiring the next new fix. More importantly, all lacked the kind of sustaining joy that-the mere remembrance of it months or even years later-brings back the joyful feeling again.
Eighteen months after overachieving at following the traditional advice paths of numbers 1 and 2 that weren't working, I decided, it was time to initiate something radically different. I signed up for a 2,500-mile motorcycle road trip down America's Pacific Northwest Coast riding a Harley. The problem was that I didn't know how to ride and had only thirty days to learn.
Four weeks of riding practice was inadequate preparation for the 10-day rigorous motorcycle road trip. Daily on the journey I'd faced new difficult challenges – jumping into Vancouver rush-hour traffic, riding up a long steel ferry ramp, maneuvering across a gravel road filled with washed-out gullies and riding up the side of a volcano at night on a road covered with black ice were just a few of them. Facing each, I'd strongly question if I could possibly do it, as I battled my fears, fought desires to give up, and rode white-knuckled through them.
As scared and intimidated as I was by each challenge, as soon as I'd survive each one, I'd be flooded with exuberant joy. A new self-trust grew, proving that I could count on life and myself again.
Fountain of Joy's Source
What I learned from the motorcycle adventure was that the source of tremendous joy isn't just succeeding at accomplishing a difficult goal; it's also the erasure of a life-constraining fear that limits what we think we can do. I returned home from that motorcycle road trip with an expanded horizon in which to live life more fully.
The real treasures in life can't be bought. Expanded self-esteem isn't for sale. It's self-earned, and the journey is usually a bumpy one and devoid of guarantees of success.
The Joy Formula
So my advice is that if you're looking for tumultuous joy, challenge yourself to a difficult task; and be ready for setbacks and failure, since they're a part of every learning process. But see if choosing the "Difficult Challenge" tactic doesn't end up with you discovering joy in unusual places.
Linda Crill is a sought-after speaker, trainer, and thought leader on mastering the new leadership skills: reinvention, resiliency and chaotic creation. She is the author of Blind Curves-One Woman's Unusual Journey to Reinvent Herself and Answer What Now? A story of reinvention where Crill trades her corporate suits for motorcycle leathers in a moment of rebellion on a quest to answer "What Now?" For more information visit http://www.BlindCurves.com. This book is available in both softback and eBook versions from all major online booksellers as well as orders placed by your favorite bookseller.