Why Your Life Is Pretty Much Pointless Until You Fill It With Purpose

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how to be happy

When you have a long list of tasks to accomplish, do you always buckle down and get them done before allowing yourself a moment to relax and/or enjoy anything else? If so, stop doing that! 

Without moments of joy, life becomes oppressive and difficult, and rather pointless. But when you know

how to be happy, life is simply more pleasurable. You get along with others easier, you feel more confident, and hold a better general perspective on the world. Small moments of happiness also impact your creativity, productivity, commitment, and rapport with others at work.

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And brain research shows that joy is a measurable physical reaction in the brain's cortex, and that happiness has a direct correlation on physical health, resulting in a higher level of antibodies, lower levels of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, colds and upper-respiratory infections. We are hard-wired to live with joy. 

So, if it makes us feel so great, and has such obvious benefits, why aren’t we making it a priority?

It turns out that we don't fully understand joy. What it is, how to experience it, and how to sustain it. Most of us just chase after surface happiness in an effort to wear a smile or crack jokes when we’re with friends. But we’re actually not reaching the authentic level of transformative joy.

What's the distinction between happiness and joy? Happiness is the pleasure-based pursuit of happiness designed to enjoy ourselves and relieve stress. Joy, however, is value-based and concerned with the meaningful activities in all areas of life. Experiencing real joy is what gives life meaning.

Joy, in this sense, is found through a belief that there is something greater than just ourselves, and therefore we have a sense of living with purpose. The pursuit of happiness, while beneficial, doesn’t have the deeper transformative effects of joy. The pursuit of meaning and intimacy results in lasting benefits of a healthier life and greater life satisfaction.

Because authentic joy is values-based, it’s intensely personal. You must decide the best way to cultivate more of it in your life, but here are a few creative ways to start. You’ll see that what adds depth to these exercises is that they require values decisions, transforming the task from simple light-hearted fun to a deeper level of meaningful satisfaction.

1. Build an avatar.

Download a Bitmoji, robot, or avatar using one of the many apps available. Not only is it fun, it allows you to zero in on what your physical traits are, and choose how to represent yourself in clever and creative ways. (Avatars have also helped raise teen girls' self-esteem, which declined in 2015.)

Bitmojis are an affirmation, allowing you to positively celebrate aspects of yourself that you value, while also reinforcing supportive emotions. There’s no reason only teen girls can benefit from this! 

2. Create a secret world that is yours alone.

Think back to childhood make-believe when you created worlds, happy places, completely within your dominion. Why not make a world like that for yourself now? Invite others in if you choose, but have some fun with this. 

This can be just theoretical and stay in your playful mind’s eye, or you can let your artistic skills run free and write it out; draw or paint it; represent it with mixed material collage using paint, writing and art; build a model or make a map using any of the above methods.  

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Give this special place a name and fill it with your choice of flora, fauna, animals, buildings, and people. Give it a history, stories, a rich legacy. Write a book about your world! 

Besides having creative fun and relieving stress, this project lets you focus on what you inherently value as you build your special world, thereby integrating deeply with joy. Play returns us to the sense of wonder that is inherent in joy. The more frequently you return here and enjoy yourself, the more automatic it becomes. 

3. Map out a scavenger hunt.

Technology makes this extra-fun letting you create highly creative clues — either electronic, paper or a combination. A scavenger hunt is particularly fun when you plan it for other people, but you could also map out a themed route for yourself.

If you're house-bound, take a virtual scavenger hunt. Rather than mindlessly surfing the web, set up a hunt to locate the top 10 locations where monasteries were first established (for example). To make it a fun scavenger hunt, it needs clever clues, so include a riddle, poem or rhyme. And don’t forget to include a prize at the end! 

4. Live your life with a theme.

Choose a theme for your month or year, and plot out activities to explore that theme. Include books to read, movies and exhibitions to see, people or places to research or visit. Schedule events on the calendar. Give your theme a name or a slogan and write it in multiple places to remind you of the fun you’re having with it. 

But be careful not to make the pursuit of joy feel like a responsibility. Any sense of failure or dissatisfaction will backlash and make you feel worse! Once joy becomes obligatory, it loses its benefit.  

Joy is not a moral obligation. It’s a choice and a mindset, and when you choose values-based joy, you not only have a lot more fun and feel happier, but you also feel transported both physically and emotionally in unexpected ways.

RELATED: How To Finally Let The Little Things Go, So You Can Be Happier (In 2 Easy Steps)

Jan L. Bowen is a passionately authentic thought leader who helps clients align their lives so they find more joy and greater connection through articulating and living their purpose. To get Jan’s latest book, "Why Do You Get Up In the Morning? How to Demystify Your Life Purpose," download it now. You will also receive her newsletter, with articles only available by subscription. 

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