How Darwin’s Little Mishap Makes Joy More Elusive (And What The Antidote Is)

joyHands up high if you have heard the statement ‘survival of the fittest’ attributed to Charles Darwin (many moons ago)?

Do you believe it?
Do you believe that the person standing solo at the top of the heap is the one that is going to survive for the longest?

Unfortunately for the health and happiness of the planet, somewhere along the line, societies as a whole have bought into the myth that the fittest, strongest, most powerful, will not only survive, but will win the race. The myth has perpetuated a collective sense (for many) that the attainment of personal glory is more important than the success of the tribe, team, family, group, company, country, etc. It has even lead many people to make unethical decisions to get to the elusive ‘top’. To lie, to cheat, to turn a blind eye, to manipulate, to compromise their values, and to neglect the impact of their actions on others.

Maybe this works for surviving (for a while); but if you would prefer to THRIVE and experience JOY, the ‘survival of the fittest game’ is a lonely one and will often mean that joy remains elusive.

Hands up if rather than surviving, you would much prefer to THRIVE?!?!

It turns out that JOY and FLOURISHING (as Martin Seligman calls it) is heavily entangled with our connection to others.

 

Experiencing more Joy

I have just finished reading ‘The Book of Joy‘ based on a week of exploration into the subject of joy by two amazing human beings: the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Two people that exude joy, even though they have been through greater hardships than most of us. Two people that are in their eight decade and have a lifetime of wisdom to offer. Two people that are a beacon of light into the possibilities of experiencing joy even in the most trying of circumstances; reminding us what is possible.

And one of the keys to joy that both speak of passionately is that joy is expanded exponentially by the helping, service and practice of compassion and generosity for others.

I am not sure about you, but that does not sound very survival of the fittest to me.

That sounds like THRIVING through meaningful connection and contribution to others.

Hmmmm. Did Darwin miss something?
Is the pursuit of happiness, and the experience of daily joy, less about “what’s in it for me?” and more about how can I better serve those around me? Is life about the collection of stuff, or is life about experiencing the feeling of deep heart-felt joy?

 

Thriving of the most compassionate

What follows is a reminder (for me as much as you). 😉

When you obsess too much on your own ‘issues’ and challenges, you close inwards. You feed the stress response. You disconnect yourself from others. And often the issues will grow into something disproportionate than the actual issue that may have faced you in the first place.

I am as guilty as the next person for hosting way too many pity parties over the course of my life. And in hindsight, the pity parties were not fun, they were pretty lonely events, and I got no presents!!! (that SUX!) Plus I felt worse the longer the party went on for.

On the other hand. When I didn’t show up at my pity party but went in search of something meaningful that I could do for others, my emotional state, and the flavour of my issues, changed significantly. When I helped others I experienced more joy.

A little side note…
There is a HUGE difference between JOY and PLEASURE. In this instant gratification world we live in, we are seduced into thinking that they are the same. We are easily sold on pleasure as it is more primal, and easier for advertising to trigger emotionally. Pleasure is the opposite of pain (which we don’t want to experience), so why would it not be great to experience? The thing is that we are human beings. Beings that are much more capable than having to be influenced between survival emotions of pain and pleasure. We have the mental faculties and brain architecture capable of evolving into the realm of regular elevated emotions like joy, love, abundance, magnificence, divinity, elation, radiance, limitlessness, wholeheartedness, vitality, elation, and connectedness. For me those emotions are the target.

JOY is immediate when we perform random acts of kindness. When we help ease the suffering or pain of others we feel deeply gratified at our core. When we show compassion or empathy for someone in need it increases our self-esteem and self-appreciation. When we build someone up, it makes us feel better at a deeper level, as opposed to using someone to step on in order to elevate our sense of achievement.

I guess my big point here is that one of the greatest ways to experience JOY in your life is not to isolate yourself, but to come together. Not to be fixated on helping yourself get to the next level, but helping others get to their next level. The interesting thing is that when we elevate those around us to greater success, we become more successful ourselves.

 

In honour of two amazing people and teachers

I know you know this intellectually, but I wanted to remind you more deeply.
If you are not experiencing the level of joy in your life on a regular basis that you know is possible, do you think there might be a way to increase your level of compassion, generosity and contribution to others?

So in honour of two amazing teachers who walk their talk (the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu)…

How could you be more compassionate today? This week?
How could you be more generous with your time, money, knowledge, wisdom, and love?
How could you contribute in an even bigger way within your relationship, family, and community?

Just choose one category. And just choose one thing and then do that.
Just one thing…

And thus endeth the lesson. 😉 Have a super awesome day!

Cheers
Carl

As always, please ask questions of me, or share your thoughts in a response email or by putting a post on Facebook.

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