Running as fast as I could, I zigzagged across the field. I dodged and ducked, and stayed just out of reach from the grabbing hands. I stumbled and fell, but quickly rolled away from my pursuer and bounced back onto my feet before he could catch me. I charged toward a short stone wall and leapt over it, then I slid down a hill of soft grass to safety. I touched the light pole and cried out, “Home free!” It was the greatest game of tag I ever played.
It was a warm Sunday evening after a church dinner. There must of been two dozen kids on the lawn behind the Social Hall. At seven years old, I was one of the younger kids playing. I was completely absorbed in the moment. I was free of any thoughts except that of tagging or avoiding getting tagged. The exhilaration I felt as I ran, laughed, and screamed was pure unadulterated joy.
Then my parents called my name; interrupting my reverie. Sweating and nearly breathless, I ran quickly over to them to find out what they wanted so that I could get right back to the game. Dad said, “It’s time to leave.”
I was stunned. “Just a few more minutes,” I pleaded; looking over my shoulder toward the melee of shrieking kids where the game which was still going strong.
“No, you have to get to bed; it’s a school night,” he replied.
“No, not yet,” I thought, “not when I’m having so much fun. How can it be over?” I was still so caught up in the moment - the now of it - that I couldn’t shift emotional gears. Reluctantly, I climbed into the backseat of the car. As I looked out the rear window and watched the scene of my joy receding in the distance, tears flowed down my face. I simply couldn’t adjust my feelings to it coming to an end.
Joy seemed to come so much easier when we were children, now it seems like we spend the rest of our lives trying to find those precious moments again. So what is joy, and how can we find it as adults?
I think of Joy as a pure feeling that falls somewhere on the scale between happiness and ecstasy. According to inspirational author, Robert Ringer, joy is “a moment in time when everything seemed to be just perfect.”
There is a certain freedom of spirit that comes with Joy. It is obviously absent of anxiety or depression, but the reason that is so is because you can only experience Joy in the present. You must be free of thoughts of the past or future. It’s the kind of freedom we felt as kids during the summer break from school, when the days and weeks seemed endless.
As adults we can find Joy in moments of clarity when our thoughts crystallize into plans of action. I usually find these moments after some quiet time or meditation. These moments energize us to make productive and pleasurable use of our time. Physicist and author, Fritjof Capra, notes, “During periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight.”
And, the more fully we become occupied in these activities, the more joy we feel. Basketball legend, Phil Jackson, once said, “Winning is important to me, but what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I'm doing.”
For me, the greatest Joy I have experienced as an adult is when I’m in the fervor of the creative process - usually writing a new story. I’ve also felt that joy in other creative pursuits such as cooking, gardening, or planning a party. What creative activities do you find most satisfying?
The bottom line is that we are most likely to find joy when we are living in the present and fully engaged with whatever we are doing.
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist/speaker and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is the author of ...and Never Coming Back, a psychological thriller-novel about a motion picture director; The Annoying Ghost Kid, a humorous children's book about dealing with a bully; and the inspirational book: Wisdom in the Weirdest Places. For more information on Robert, please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.