As I have studied and explored joy over the years, I’ve come to realize that it boils down to just 3 simple steps:
- Change the way you think about everything
- Change 25-75% of what you do with your time
- Put other’s needs ahead of your own
“What could be easier?,” he said with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.
Joy, it turns out, can’t be captured in a pithy little 15-page book that is soft and gooey and promises joy unspeakable. It’s not a coffee table book that we skim twice a year to get the warm and fuzzies, but no lasting change.
No, joy is not for the faint of heart. Real joy – the type of joy where you’re solid in your soul about the truth of God, yourself, and your role to make the world a better a place – takes discipline, courage, humility and sacrifice. And, man, is it worth it.
Discipline – It takes discipline because moving toward lasting joy requires shifts in how we think and act. That means a lot of unlearning and habit- breaking. It’s more like 100 small, obedient steps over an extended period of time than some bet-the-farm, swing-for-the-fences, quit-my-job-and-move thing.
Courage – Breaking out of deeply rooted habits, ruts and ways of thinking is risky. Risk is scary. Overcoming fear takes courage.
Humility – You will have some false starts. Even a failure here and there. And people will question your motives and objectives.
Sacrifice – There is no pathway to joy without some sacrifice of comfort, of our insistence on doing it our way, and of long-held beliefs we assume to be true. Jesus said if we really want to live, we have to die to ourselves. (Matt 10:39)
My hunch is that only 5% of the readers who pick up my book The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose and Balance will earnestly follow through on the tools, assessments, strategies and recommendations. Jesus also said: “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt 7:14 ESV)
The ones who persevere will most likely be those who are missing joy the most. For people whose lives are “ok, but not great” the change is too hard. The psychological pull of comfort and status quo is not to be underestimated. Think about the great stories and movies of personal triumph. They are usually about those who are the most down-and-out.
My best recommendation, if you’re serious about embarking on this adventure, is to not go solo. Have your spouse, a friend, or a group of friends join you. I’ve heard from several people around the country who are reading the book chapter by chapter with their friends and discussing the issues, ideas, and exercises as they implement their learning.
You can do it. Lean into it. Step-by-step. Over time. Follow the M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan in the book and watch joy bubble up.
Written by Jeff Spadafora
(yep, he's my husband and here we are with our 3 kids celebrating Thanksgiving!)