Finding Happiness Knowing When to Say “No” and When to Say “Yes!”

walk outsideI’ve recently had two remarkable experiences that are so closely tied together in an absolutely unintentional way. Were they an accident? Probably not.

This Rambling was inspired by an article I came across recently in USA TODAY about “happiness.” It caught my attention because I’ve personally been reflecting on the idea of “joy.” I believe happiness can come and go so quickly while joy or joyfulness seems (to me) to be the bedrock of a wholehearted and fulfilling life.

What is the difference between “joy” and “happiness”? Here are some thoughts on my perspective:

Happiness is a temporary state of mind about how we are feeling; it’s short-lived. Happiness is like hunger: When we are hungry, we eat and are no longer hungry. A sense of happiness needs to be continually fed. Don’t get me wrong, I love being happy. When we are happy it activates our endorphins, which makes us feel good. But happiness can be fleeting and temporary. It is triggered by something we see, someone we are with, a great experience, a personal accomplishment, or seeing the accomplishments of a family member or someone we care about.

Joyfulness is far deeper, far more meaningful. I find it tends to linger longer than moments of happiness. It adds substance and resilience to our life. The depths of joyfulness can carry us through those times in life when we are experiencing sadness.

When I was younger and in the earlier stages of my career I was driven to succeed. I kept my calendar crammed full. I would always make room for one more appointment, one more opportunity to engage, one more opportunity to prove to myself and others (including my friend and mentor, my dad) that I could do it! It was nearly impossible for me to ever say “no.” What I have since learned (that was also highlighted in the article) is that I was cheating myself: I was not giving those around me the quality time they needed. I just wanted to “get it done” so I could move on to the next thing. I felt good, I think I was happy, yet I did not have a foundation of joy.

I just returned from my first ever solo vacation with Backroads, a travel company that organizes biking and hiking tours for like-minded professionals. I signed up for a bike tour through California wine country including Sonoma and Redwood. I made the decision to do this over six months ago as a way of saying “YES!” to Bob and “NO” to a work schedule. I made the decision to embrace life and to expand my experiences, including meeting a new array of friends. I wanted to leave my comfort zone and add to my inner perspectives on life, culture, and people and to challenge myself to do something new and fun. I found not only happiness, but built a stronger base of joyfulness from this experience. I said “NO” to a few days of work commitments and “YES” to my soul, my heart, and my mind. I came back better as to who I am, what I want to be, and with a new commitment to embracing others and life experiences.

As I was sitting having a leisurely breakfast before leaving Sonoma to return home, I was reflecting on my experience and how I was feeling. I opened the USA TODAY newspaper and there was an article that popped up in a section I normally do not read: “Finding Happiness through NO.” I smiled at the coincidence of my just completed experience and the article that landed in my lap. This article tied my past few days together and reinforced that this will not be my last experience to wholeheartedly expand BOB, to embrace life, and to embrace new friends around the country. I’m glad I took the time to read the article as it added so much to my engagement with those I’d met on the trip.

So, I’ll share with you some of the questions that I ask myself:

  • Do you experience happiness? How do you define it?
  • How do you handle sadness and disappointment?
  • What are you doing each day to strive for happiness? How focused are you on the negatives?
  • Where do gratefulness and grace fit into happiness?
  • How do you define being joyful?
  • Are you intentionally striving to have an inner feeling of joy and if so, what are you doing?
  • What else can you do to enhance happiness, build on joyfulness, and be more resilient during times of sadness?
  • How do you think you carry yourself when happy, when sad, and when you have joyfulness?
  • Have you ever thought about the lasting and powerful impact on wholeheartedness and intentional living when your bucket is being filled with a deeper and more meaningful feeling of joy?
  • Are you thankful for your gifts and blessings? If not, get out in the world and experience the others, their lives, problems and joys. By doing so, your paradigm on life and your blessings will dramatically change.

Be happy, yet strive for being joyful and thankful for all the blessings and gifts you have been given, earned, and learned through intentional and wholehearted living


One thought on “

  1. I, too got into “operational overload”. I was able to balance my work (as a pilot) but allowed my “volunteer” duties to overwhelm me–enough so that I found myself getting cranky and irritated–resenting the very things I had previously supported. Don’t just look at your work schedule–look at social side as well.

    Perhaps it is an “age thing”–the “Cranky old man” syndrome. I know a lot of people that seem to develop this as they age.

    I’ve always been able to “compartmentalize” and differentiate between my work and social life (and as a pilot, often able to do both at the same time!) At age 70, I still enjoy my work–it is my avocation as well as vocation–it is my social life as well. I still get people stopping by to “visit”–which often devolves into “what do you think about ______?” I’m working on restricting my time spent with drop-ins as a coping strategy.

    The big plus–not only am I happier and less stressed, but I find I have more time to do things (in work and outside of work) that I WANT TO DO. I’ve found my own balance. I’m happy.


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