Surprising Discovery in a Search for Joy

by Guest Author on · 8 comments


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.

Radical Over-reaction

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.

Joy's Response

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 This book is available in both softback and eBook versions from all major online booksellers as well as orders placed by your favorite bookseller.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Gosselin July 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Hi Linda,
šŸ™‚ What a great story! I can’t believe you choose riding a motorcycle and such a long trip to shake yourself awake! I love how, through this, you came to this: ‘ A new self-trust grew, proving that I could count on life and myself again.”

I lost my son quite suddenly last August and even before that I was asking What Now? I thought your title referred to the empty nest adjustment but there are, as you know, worse adjustments to be made in life.

All the best!
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Lance Ekum July 19, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this – and know that it’s reminding me of what truly matters in this world – and how quickly it can all change.

My thoughts and prayers are with you in your healing process.



Lori Gosselin July 19, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Thanks Lance. Much appreciated!
Lori GosselinĀ“s Last Fabulous Post ..How to Let GoMy Profile


Elle July 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Linda, I am so glad you chose #3, a difficult challenge for long-term happiness.

Leaning to ride a motorcycle in 30 days is quite a challenge, and I think it was very courageous of you to choose a motorcycle trip.

As cheesy as it sounds, I think trips like these help people “find themselves”.

Taking a break and having some time away from one’s regular life is a great way to de-stress and clear one’s mind.
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Reply July 20, 2013 at 4:22 am

Thank you for sharing your story and advice. You are correct, if you don’t challenge yourself to do difficult things, you can never know the reward of accomplishing them.
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Rakesh Narang July 20, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Sometimes you do hit that point in life when you just don’t know where to go. I just let myself figure that out. I don’t try to hard, because most of the time, goals that I plan for myself aren’t according to my level. I get over-optimistic when I chart out goals.
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Linda Crill July 24, 2013 at 10:03 am

I think the question “What now?” is one most of us are asking about some area of our life. After a loss or upset in life there is a need to process it, grieve, and honor what’s changed. But at some point we have to move forward again in life and reinvent ourselves anew. There are fewer books written about how to move forward when nothing feels right. That’s the subject I am most interested in. I’m working on a process I call “Chaotic Creation” where we move one step at a time and then decide the next. That’s what several of you said in your posts. Thanks Lance for inviting me to be a guest post.


Lance Ekum July 25, 2013 at 5:55 am

Thanks so much for being here, and for sharing a part of your journey at the Jungle. I really like this idea of taking on additional challenges – and how it helps us to grow in the process…


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