How to Choose Joy

Surprisingly unpopular opinion: You’re only as happy as you choose to be.

Isn’t that great news? It means you get to make the decision, you have the power and you get to do what you want!

Maybe this is an unpopular idea because it’s hard to believe. Let’s break it down so you can decide for yourself…

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This is true, always. If you’re thinking “NOPE, not for me, you don’t know what I’ve been through. I couldn’t choose joy. It was too horrible…”

You’re right.

I don’t know you and what you’ve been through. But if we’re going to compare suffering, let’s go all out for a sec. Bottom line: as the child of an addict, someone born with a chronic and ultimately terminal genetic disease, a survivor of rape, and as a woman who has lost every child who ever grew inside of her, I think I know what I’m talking about here, okay?

If I could always choose joy, then you probably can too. Just hear me out.

Absolutely everything could be in our favor in life, and we could still be miserable by choice… and absolutely everything could be working against us in life, and we could still be joyful by choice.

That's the truth.

When we struggle, it’s because we choose to struggle.

We blow mountains up into molehills. We turn a painful experience into internalized messages of victimhood and loss and heartache. We allow the moment to continue eating away at us long after it ends.

And these are just a few of the ways we resist our natural state of joy, that inner peace and brightness that is always within us.

The struggle is your safety net, believe it or not.

Think about it. If you have always struggled, things have always been hard for you (or even just one specific thing or area of your life)… then you’ve always had an excuse. You’ve always had a reason, a scapegoat, a protective bubble around your ego that- when you don’t get what you wanted in life- you can dub as the reason for your demise.

For me, this struggle has taken the form of poverty and lack of money, fear, and trauma from my childhood (not that trauma isn’t valid, because it absolutely is, but there has definitely come a time in my life when I was subconsciously clinging to that trauma and sabotaging my own success with it and I know I’m not alone in this) because to struggle a familiar struggle was less scary than to face the unknown and get my hopes up and then have to cope with the shame and pain and grief of seeing them go unfulfilled. Of failing.

Does that make sense?

Think about what you’re struggling with most in life.

Take away the blame for a moment. This isn’t about placing the blame on you for being unhappy, or shifting the blame in your life. This is just about noticing your struggle and being able to see it for the security blanket it really is.

Have you struggled with weight loss? Chronic health conditions? Trauma that leads to self-sabotage again and again? Addiction? Lack of money? Anxiety, especially around anything and everything that will allow you to grow as a person? Always being busy?

There are so many masks our ego will put on to protect us from the pain of failure, we have to be disciplined but also loving toward ourselves to be able to see through the mask and address the bigger fear and resistance settled inside of us.

Being able to see this struggle for what it is- an excuse, a barrier set up by your ego to protect you from falling (aka keep you from soaring!), is the first step to choosing to be happy in life and making a habit out of it (the same way you’ve made feeling unhappy, stuck, or trapped a habit up until today).

Once you can see the mask, the next step is to create a conversation with your ego and fear to learn to cooperate with each other. For more on this, visit this blog post where I break down how to recognize resistance in your life and work through it.

Because recognizing the mask and building a collaborative relationship with your ego isn’t something that can be done in a day, I’m going to leave this where it is and give you time to work through these ideas.

If you disagree completely, share with me! Let’s talk it out. One of us is bound to learn something and it’s through these conversations that breakthroughs are born!

Keep an eye out for a post in the future about choosing happiness! And if you’re really feeling ready, check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic- it’s an invaluable tool for making this journey with yourself!

Until next time,

Jessica Peña