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Joy vs. Happiness

Updated: Dec 6, 2018

Since childhood we are promised that if we “buy this” and “pursue that” we can expect to lead happier lives. With this attitude firmly in place we set out into the world with the goal of happiness dangling in front of us like a carrot before a horse. We strive, we push, we achieve in order to reach a desired lifestyle in which we’ll finally be happy. Yet, if we look around us (and within us) we can see that this false promise is not working out so well. So many of us feel empty and unfulfilled, as evidenced by the upsurge in addiction, depression, anxiety, and suicide.


Unlike inner joy, happiness is contingent upon outside forces being favorable to us. We hope we will finally feel happy when we get the right job, relationship, or income. However, it is part of the human condition that all of these impermanent things can be taken from us in a heartbeat, thereby taking our happiness with them. Happiness is fleeting. In contrast, joy is an inner state that isn’t dependent on the circumstances of our lives. Joy is who we are at our core. It is our natural state of being. In fact, it is our birthright to be able to draw upon a wellspring of joy from deep within ourselves.


When we realize that we can be joyful regardless of our outer circumstances, we can begin to take measures to cultivate a joy-filled life. We can orient our lives in such a way as to continuously cultivate our inner joy. We can heal the wounds that prevent us from living joyfully. We can focus on what is deeply meaningful for us (relationships, dreams, and passions) and reject the assumption that it’s only through pursuing material objects that we will lead rewarding lives. We can free ourselves from the delusion that feeling good is dependent on outside forces. We can see that it is ultimately up to us to allow our innate state of joy to blossom, thereby becoming the most beautiful expression of our essential selves.


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© 2020 Susan Duesbery

United States