In the last post on sacrifice I quoted Don Miller saying, “Joy costs pain.” We can also reverse that and say that pain is mitigated by joy. Joy is a core component of calling; it’s the counterbalance to sacrifice, discipline and hard work. Joy, the way I tend to think about it, is a combination of a feeling of deep gratitude and delight in your life and work. One of the synonyms for “enjoy” is “to be blessed with.” You could look at joy as feeling blessed with your life.
If you’re looking for your calling and wondering what you should be doing with your life, many career experts start with the question, “What do you enjoy?”As humans we want to experience joy in our work. We want to feel blessed with what we do. That’s why we’re interested in the idea of calling. We know there’s more to our work than our paychecks. Have you ever had that experience where you’ve done something difficult, that required a lot from you, but you wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything because it was meaningful and satisfied something in your heart? If you’re a parent, you know what this feels like.That’s the joy in the call.
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (yes, I spelled that right but don’t ask me to pronounce it!) has done extensive studies on human motivation and fulfillment. His term Flow describes “the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task” (thanks Wikipedia for that definition). Richard Leider and David Shapiro write in Whistle While You Work, “When we’re operating out of a deep sense of calling, our energy and joy border on limitless.” Have you ever had that experience where you’ve been so engrossed in an activity, you’ve lost track of the time? If you have, you were probably experiencing flow.
What if you think you’re already following your calling but don’t feel limitless and energized right now? Don’t worry! We will not feel like this every waking moment of our day, even if we are “operating out of a deep sense of calling.” The day-to-day tasks will not all be exhilarating, no matter how much we wish that could be. There’s a perception that our lives will become easy and happy if we’re doing what we love. This is false. It’s like the perception that getting married will solve all your problems and you’ll live blissfully ever after. Don’t give up on following your calling because you’re not experiencing ecstasy every moment of the day! The experience of joy may be more like the sudden ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds, the moment of beauty that lifts your heart and gives you hope and motivation to continue. Even though it’s only a moment, it makes the rest of the day worth it.
So ask yourself what brings you joy right now? And if you can’t think of anything that brings you joy right now, try thinking about what situation, thing, or process that you enjoy improving or fixing.