Joy is a Choice from Fire Power Seminars

Joy is a Choice

Nov 17th, 2015

Joy is a Choice from Fire Power Seminars

Joy is a choice – a deliberate, conscious choice.  That choice is available to us each day. Our joy isn’t controlled by others or by outward circumstances. Joy comes from a deeper place, a place of security within ourselves.  It’s an attitude, not a transitory emotion. Remember to be kind. Remember to be loving….but most of all, remember to be happy.” Journey to the Heart ~ Melody Beattie

The search for happiness, for joy, is of such great importance that our Founding Fathers included it in the Constitution of the United States. We are all familiar with the “unalienable rights” that include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. This pursuit is not just for Americans, but a sought after goal across the world. In a study of more than 10,000 participants from 48 countries, psychologists Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia discovered that people from all over the globe rated happiness as more important than other personal goals like having meaning in life, becoming rich, and even getting into heaven.

If joy is a state that is so highly prized, why do we have such difficulty achieving it? Perhaps, re-framing our mindsets about happiness and joy holds the key. Martin Seligman, the leading scholar of positive psychology, states that 60 percent of happiness is determined by our genetics and environment, but the remaining 40 percent is up to us. Taking that 40 percent into consideration means that we have a choice about our emotional well-being. We are responsible for the work of making joy and happiness a conscious choice every single day.

According to two experimental studies, the practice and effort of actually trying to be happier, working on embracing joy, causes a more positive emotional mindset. Instead of focusing on personal weakness and fear, choosing joy and participating in activities that make us happy really works to promote well-being.

Researchers and scholars are now even exploring the psychological and subtle differences between joy and happiness, citing that joy is more about connection and the positive emotions that come from that connection:

Mammalian evolution has hard-wired the brain for spiritual experience,” said George Vaillant at the 2006 {Positive Psychology) summit, “and the most dramatic spiritual experience is joy. Developmentally, the child’’s smile, the kitten’’s purr, and the puppy’’s wagging tail emerge at the same time. These social responses are elicited by, and in turn elicit, positive emotion. They all occur when the infant brain’s more primitive limbic system becomes effectively wired to the forebrain.”

Negative emotions, like aggression and fear, are as developed in lower animals as in humans. But “the limbic system differentiates mammals from reptiles, and contains most of what we know of positive emotions and spirituality,” Vaillant argued. “Negative emotions help us to survive individually; positive emotions help the community to survive. Joy, unlike happiness, is not all about me— – joy is connection. Beethoven knew little happiness, but he knew joy. The mystics have linked joy to connection with a power greater than themselves.”

Happiness activates the sympathetic nervous system (which stimulates the “flight or fight” response), whereas joy stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (controlling “rest and digest” functions). “We can laugh from either joy or happiness,” Vaillant said. “We weep only from grief or joy.” Happiness displaces pain, but joy embraces it: “Without the pain of farewell, there is no joy of reunion,” he asserted. “Without the pain of captivity, we don’t experience the joy of freedom.” Harvard Magazine

Looking at these ideas posited by George Vaillant, we understand that joy itself is not only a choice, but a choice to be flexible, resilient, and roll with the “punches” of life. We choose how we react to situations that trigger anxiety, fear, and anger and make a conscious decision to embrace the pain and still smile through it – to find the joy. Intriguing how slight differences can make enormous changes in how we face and engage life.

Are you ready to make joy a choice?

Fire Power Seminars offers empowerment seminars that promote positive choices and work on breaking through fear for individuals and teams. For more information about empowerment, team building and transformation, contact Karen at 954.232.4486 or


Karen Pfeffer
Karen is passionate about sharing powerful programs on communication, empowerment, team building and transformation. With a father from Kansas and a mother from Puerto Rico, Karen has a unique cultural mix that has inspired her to challenge stereotypes and “push the envelope” at every opportunity. She co-founded Fire Power Seminars with Connie Phelan in 2006 to empower individuals, organizations, and companies to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

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