Where Does Joy Come From?

An Ideal Day

Imagine an ideal day. You wake up early. You work out and take a shower. You have a healthy breakfast.

You work hard toward your goals. You’re focused. You’re in the zone. You do your best throughout the day.

In the evening, you spend quality time with your loved ones. No distractions, no TV, no Internet, no gadgets. Just some relaxing background music. Everybody is entirely present.

How would you feel at the end of such a day?

A Mediocre Day

Imagine a mediocre day. You don’t want to get out of the bed. You hit the snooze button repeatedly. Finally, you wake up and rush out of your home.

You grab a doughnut and coffee on your way to work. You’re only physically present at work. You just want to be there for eight hours to collect your paycheck. You distract yourself with the Internet to get through the day.

You switch on the TV when you get home. You eat some home delivery junk food and drink alcohol. You keep distracting yourself with the Internet.

Then, you realize that it’s past midnight. You go to bed. You have to repeat the same routine tomorrow.

How would you feel at the end of that day?

Those are just two days in your life. Aren’t they?

I disagree.

We repeat the same day over and over. If you had an ideal day yesterday, you tend to have an ideal day today. If you had a mediocre day yesterday, you’d probably have a mediocre day today.

Before you realize, your whole life will be over. It will be either a string of ideal days or a string of mediocre days.

The Feeling You’ll Have at the End of Your Life

Do you know what’s more important? Do you remember the feeling you felt at the end of your day?

You’ll have the same feeling at the end of your life, but this time 1000 times more intense.

Remember how you felt yesterday when the day was over. Do you want to feel the same feeling 1000 times intensified at the end of your life?

16,348

That’s the number of days I’ve got left. Maybe more, maybe less. You can check your number here. It isn’t that much, and that figure can crash to zero at any time.

“Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” Pema Chödrön

Let that sink in for a moment. Your life can be over at any moment. Do you get it? Are you aware of it at the gut level? How do you feel about wasting your precious time now?

Pleasure Makes You Miserable

We try to optimize our lives to maximize pleasure. We feel like more pleasure would make us happier.

  • More food.
  • More sex.
  • More entertainment.
  • More distraction.
  • More downtime.
  • More goods.

We all know where all of that ends, and I didn’t even mention alcohol and other drugs.

All of that ends up in apathy, bad health, boredom, emptiness, depression.

Our strategies to make ourselves happy make us miserable at the end.

Discomfort Gives You Joy

Then, there are practices that we avoid.

  • Working hard.
  • Exercising.
  • Living a clean, simple, healthy life.

We think that those would make us feel miserable, and at the beginning, they do. But at the end, they make us happy. They give us satisfaction.

Optimizing your life for pleasure makes you feel miserable. Doing your best working toward a worthy goal gives you joy.

For your own well-being, do yourself a favor and do something useful with your life.

We try to escape discomfort. The more we run away from it, the deeper we sink into it. The more we embrace discomfort, the more comfortable we get.

It takes courage and self-discipline to get out of your comfort zone and to stay out of it. Satisfaction, joy, happiness, even comfort is out of your comfort zone.

Doing Nothing Is Hard Work

Giving yourself the time and space you need and doing nothing once in a while is a critical part of success. Yet, no one does it nowadays. With all the distractions within arm’s reach, even doing nothing is hard work nowadays.

Peace of Mind

Peace of mind doesn’t come from avoiding discomfort. It comes from knowing that you have done what you had to do.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.

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