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Day 64: The joyless thought

December 17, 2023

We all seem to have the same habit.

It’s the habit of focusing on a future point at which things will be different.

When it’s aspirational, the future holds something better. When it’s worrying or anxiety producing, the future holds something worse.

What does this have to do with joy?

This morning I was listening to “Start where you are” by Pema Chödrün. The chapter was all about this habit of jumping into the future, and she explained that, even when the future holds something aspirational, the underlying message we carry is that whatever we hold right now is “not good enough”.

I realised that’s what I’m doing with this joy blog. I’ve set myself this mission of figuring out how to live joyfully and, in so doing, have based my efforts on the exact same foundations that make joy more difficult – because the underlying belief is that “I am not joyful right now and I am working to become joyful in the future”, which only serves to highlight that now is not joyful.

I’ve written about this a few times over the past 64 days but today it clicked into place slightly differently for me as I realised my approach makes it impossible to achieve my goal.

I’ve known for a while that “time travel” (as I call it when we bounce our attention into the past or future) is disempowering because our attention gets rooted at a point where there’s nothing we can do to change anything. What I missed was that even when the future vision holds something aspirational, it also carries a barb within it that says, “whatever I have now is not good enough and I want that other thing instead.”

So, starting today, even though I have goals for the future, I am going to practice the art of staying present in the moment, being grateful for life’s lessons, experiences and opportunities, and accepting how things unfold. I am going to practice recognising that, joyful or not joyful, this moment is good enough exactly as it is – and I am good enough exactly as I am, without the need to procure specific emotional experiences or ways of thinking. Simply resting in this knowledge and making peace with it is joyful.

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