Perceived Joy Vs Actual Joy

The 23-foot sailboat where my imagination knew no bounds.

Not long ago I found a boat for sale. It was a sailboat of 23 feet that its current owner abandoned in a boat storage yard. The manager of the yard said I could have it for what the owner owed for the storage rent, which was only a few hundred dollars.

I’ve always imagined the joy of owning a sailboat, sailing the open seas, feeling the sun and breeze, and smelling the salt air; all the joy my imagination my mind could perceive.

The picture above does not offer a good image of her capabilities. This boat was in good shape; it had all the equipment needed to ply the local waters; and was ready to go.

I climbed in the cockpit, grabbed the varnished wood tiller and imagined sailing her in the open water. What joy I imagined I would feel if I bought this boat!

I drove out to look at her weekly for the next few weeks. I climbed aboard and just imagined the joy of owning it. It’s comfortable seating; it’s efficient cabin for sleeping; it’s ability to take me places I couldn’t go to otherwise.

I knew boats took time and money but what stopped me from buying the boat was what one blogger wrote: “Everyone is in love with the idea of owning a boat, but the reality is boats are a lot of work.”

He’s right I was in love with the idea of owning a boat. I decided not to buy.

His words hit home with me, and I thought about the reasons I wanted the boat. I did imagine it would bring me joy but that experience lasts only for so long before I get bored. The boat needed some work, and I weighed my time constraints with traveling an hour to the boat yard, sanding and painting the boat then driving an hour home. Did I really have that kind of commitment?

My imagination of what I thought the joy of sailing would bring, would be but a small percentage of the responsibility, work and money the boat required.

I sensed my interest in sailing would wane quickly and the boat would be like most in the storage yard, left gathering dirt and dust.

This experience led me to reflect on imaginary joy versus an actual joy.

I thought about other times in my life, times have I imagined or perceived potential joy?

Before most decision, I ran the pros and cons of a futuristic experience and judged the degree of joy or happiness it would bring me: Going to a party, taking a certain vacation; buying a certain car; writing this blog, going to the gym . . . anything and everything I might judged my level of joy.

The truth is I didn’t really know if I would feel joyful with these experiences and many others until I’m actually engaged in the activity, object or people and have some actual proof of how I felt.

This helped me develop fresh realizations about my life.

  1. I don’t know what joy I have in the foreseeable future until I experience it.
  2. I must try different activities, meet different people, eat different foods, and be open to new experiences without judgement as to whether or not they will bring me joy.
  3. I must move out of my comfort zone.

To help me along these three paths, I sensed the need to alter my perspective in these six areas.

Listen with an open — but objective –mind.

This sounds easy but the society, friends and family around me bombard me with their own judgements of what brings joy. Most of it meant to tug at my emotions, insecurities, or judgements and sway me to a decision of their recommendations.

Occasionally, what other people say altered my decision. Take movies or Netflix shows, someone might highly recommend a show, a book, a restaurant, etc. I will decide to choose their recommendation with the anticipation of the joy it will bring only to find I did not like it.

When I was younger, I was more easily swayed to other’s opinions. Sometimes in life altering ways. For example, when I started college, my aunt cornered me one Christmas to encourage me to get a degree in business. “You’ll make good money,” she’d say. “That business degree will open many doors to jobs for you.”

“It takes courage to do what you want. Other people have a lot of plans for you.”                                                                        Joseph Campbell

My aunt was a smart successful woman. I imagined that’s what I wanted. I perceived a great joy from attaining that goal: get a business degree.

I earned a degree in Business, Finance option and found I hate working in the field.

What I realized now is I needed to actually experience the career in some way to see if I like it, I mean really like it.

I read on Facebook and forums people asking what they should do for a living. I witnessed a variety of answers. I asked myself, “How did a person make sense from the myriad of choices.

The only way I know now to help with choices is to experience them.

The only real joy comes from the real experience.

Listen to Intuition

I leaned on my intuitive notions probably more than I should. Intuition is that feeling one gets with little or know knowledge to make a decision. Science shows that intuition works best when a person has some experience in the subject he or she intuits.

Instincts have lead me true in cases where I have experience with a person, place or thing, but in situations where I am new with not so much experience I could not depend on it.

However, I do have years of experience knowing myself. I listened to my intuition of my needs on many occasions. For instance, this blog was a result of my intuition. Something told me I should write a blog about Joy, not once but many times.

The this blog fills me joy. When I finished a day’s work, my “well” is full, and I can be more for my family and friends. I did not think writing this blog would bring me this much joy. I had to experience it first before I knew.

Learn from the past experiences.

I have a host of life experiences and reflecting back on them helps to separated my imagined joyful experiences versus real joyful experiences. A tool called the seven-story exercise helps individuals learn from their past, almost forgotten experiences, what brought them joy.

This method used by career and life coach professionals encourages their clients to search their memories — good memories — write them out and look for similarities of what made them joy.

I have written my seven stories and synthesized out what experiences were enjoyable. I have incorporated them into my current lifestyle.

To go back to the sailboat I wrote about in the opening, I look back at my experience with sailboats. When I am honest with myself, I realize I found the refinishing a boat brought some joy, but the actual sailing I found boring: Tack this way, travel that direction, while the first 30 minutes felt joyful the remaining time I fought tedium. Another reason not to buy the boat.

Block judgment of a person, place, or thing.

I will stop making judgements and come to an experience with an open mind. I don’t know if joy will be part of the experience until I move toward it with an open mind.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, encourages people go on dates by themselves. She calls them “artist’s dates.” The goal is to experience something out of the ordinary day’s activities.

Though Julia Cameron’s bestseller leans toward creativity,
most people can benefit from a reading.

Choose something different. At this time of my life, I choose Artist’s dates that involve activities I’ve never tried because. I am retired and I want to try new recreational activities.

If I was young and seeking career ideas, I would go on these artist’s dates only I would call them “career dates.” I would call up someone in a career that interests me ask for an interview; ask to experience the job. I would make a different career date weekly. I’ve done this later in life and it saved me much time and money figuring out what does not bring me joy.

To me, the key to any truly joyful experience is not just feeling good or telling myself, “Yeah, I can do this.”

No, it feels euphoric to the point where my confidence soars and I want to give back to other people. I become more passionate, more generous, and above anything else I feel like I can make a difference in the world. That’s the feeling of absolute joy to me.

I stopped asking others to make a decision for me and instead summoned the courage to go find out for myself. I found it much more rewarding in the long run.

Build concentration in the moment.

How much attention I bring to the activity can have a strong effect on my level of joy. Some philosophers posit all joy is found in the here and now.

To practice focus on this moment is said to induce more joy.

“The real secret to life is to be completely engaged in the here and now.”

Alan Watts, philosopher

Instead of looking into the future, past memory or present judgement to find joy and happiness, maybe — just maybe — all joy is right now, right in front of me . . . if only I focus into it. This takes concentration and builds concentration.

Writing this blog builds my concentration. I focus on its creation. Creativity, is my gift to the world and in concentrating on it, putting focus into it, I feel so much joy in that moment.

That joy would not have come about had I let my mind wander.

Experience everything.

Life is about experiences, some large and sublime other tiny and fleeting. I will work to come out of my comfort zone and experience the unknown without judgement whether or not each will bring me joy.

I will work to observe more of the people, places, and things around me I take for granted.

I will work to concentrate and finish that which I started so I appreciate the full experience.

The sailboat experience is gone, but there are so many more opportunities awaiting.

Peace, Love, Joy!