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We all want joy. And we know the formula for getting it. Yet we often muddle along in misery instead of climbing toward joy.
As humans, we fixate on our disappointments and frustrations. We regret the hopes that remain unfulfilled. We sigh under the weight of all we have to get done. Daily experiences seem tedious and boring. The media bombards us with bad news. We are disheartened to discover that family members and friends don’t meet our expectations.
Eventually we begin to wonder, “Is this all there is to my life? What reason do I have to be happy?”
Barbara Fredrickson points out that “You start out a little bit worried, ruminate, and your worry expands [into lifelong low-grade misery or even] a full-blown anxiety attack. Take a little bit of sadness, add rumination, and you bring on the symptoms of depression. Likewise for anger. Experience a set-back, rant and rave internally, and you may well lash out in violence or become a verbal loose cannon. With the starter dough of honest negativity, rumination creates an expanding rat’s nest of gratuitous negativity that usurps your mental space.” (Barbara L. Fredrickson, 2009, Positivity, New York: Crown, p.164)
The World’s Proposal for Happiness
Discontent grows. We deserve more than we are getting. And if we had more, we would be happy. More money. More stuff. A more attractive body. More excitement through exciting relationships. More time to do whatever we want. More respect. More wishes fulfilled.
Rather than imagining that happiness comes from getting “more” it turns out happiness can be found in better appreciating what we already have.
A More Reliable Path to Joy
The research on optimal human experience says that people are more likely to experience joy when they develop the ability to savor the good things they have in their lives. We savor when we notice and appreciate aspects of our lives that we might otherwise take for granted. We also savor when we choose to focus on the positive experiences of each day instead of framing our day in terms of disappointment or frustration.
We savor when we recognize the blessings that are bestowed upon us each day and are grateful for His tender mercies. We are thankful that if we view our life through the lens of faith, God will demonstrate an uncanny ability to turn any life experience into a blessing.
Are you interested in a remarkably predictable process for flooding our souls with refreshing joy? Consider the scriptural invitation: “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:18–19).
Do you want a stiff jolt of joy? The formula is simple: Sit down and record those things for which you are grateful. After recording those that come easily, push yourself to frame your challenges as blessings. See what happens.
Don’t qualify your gratitude: “Well, sometimes I’m glad for my kids, but . . . .” Cut loose. Find the good and celebrate it.
I tried this process myself. May I share the results with you? You may not be interested in my blessings, but perhaps you will feel the power of gratitude as you watch a fellow
traveler trot toward joy as he tallies heaven’s bounty.
There is the risk that you will say, “Well, you have blessings, I have none.” I will not deny that I am blessed. But gratitude is a state of mind. It is the choice to see the roses among the thorns of mortality.
So, here are a few expressions of thanks to friends, family, and heaven.
Flooded by Joy
I am grateful for great ancestors. Especially I am grateful for those who left letters, photos, and journals—even scribblings. I know that unknown others left traces of faith and goodness that distill into my soul unnoticed.
I am thankful for memories of my beloved grandparents. I am thankful for an extended family—aunts, uncles, cousins—full of grace, kindness, and exuberance.
I am grateful for a spiritual childhood home that taught me in my youth the true principles and meaning of life. Not only do I know that Orson and Bea were right, I also know they are good.
I am thankful for siblings who tolerate my fallenness and have taught me through their remarkable talents and goodness. They had reason to expect more of their big brother, but they share cheese enchiladas and pecan brittle with me without resentment.
I am thankful for teachers like Rhea Bailey and Ray Gilbert who saw and noted something good in a goofy boy.
I am everlastingly thankful for my wife, Nancy Thacker Goddard, a mild, gentle, sweet soul, who has done more—save Jesus only—for the salvation of my imperfect soul than any other person who ever lived on earth.
I am thankful for Nancy’s parents, Dale and Marilyn, who filled their family with examples of generosity.
I am thankful for the beloved children Father has sent to Nancy and me. They are treasures! As if they were not enough, each of them has brought a blessed addition to the family as they have
I am thankful for grandchildren who remind us of the miracle of life and the blessing of joy as they laugh and hug their way through life.
I am thankful for the chromosomal translocation I have that made conception difficult and every child more cherished. I am thankful for the dozens of miscarriages Nancy and I had, and the way Father transformed our disappointment into faith. I trust Him now more than ever.
I am grateful to (and humbled by) those I have offended who have forgiven me.
I am even thankful to those who haven’t forgiven me. They have taught me about the very real consequences of my thoughtless, careless or even wicked acts.
I am thankful to those students and friends who have looked past my imperfect teaching to my earnest beliefs. They are like the patient children who continue to love their dog in spite of slobber, chewed furniture, fleas, and an unruly and energetic tail.
I am thankful for the cancer that took away a part of me but taught me to be more grateful for the parts that remain.
I am thankful for aging. I keep losing once-cherished abilities yet continue to find awe in the capacities that remain.
I am grateful to prophets, leaders, and teachers who have pointed toward the bright lights of the City of God—people like Nephi, Bishop Brown, Alma, Howard W. Hunter, Aunt Ruth, Neal A.
Maxwell, Jeffrey R. Holland, Gordon B. Hinckley, Grant Jacobsen, Dennis Wildman . . .. There are too many to name.
I am thankful for wise and perceptive writers who have opened their minds and hearts so we might be warmed and blessed, people like Frederick W. Farrar, Richard Cracroft, Stephen
E. Robinson, Eugene England, Hugh Nibley, Terryl Givens, and Jonathan Haidt.
I rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ who not only empowered the Great Plan of Redemption, but who sustains my life, and lives to bless us all. The landscape is littered with His abundant goodness. He is the Light and Life of the world.
I thank Father for a perfect plan and His never-ending love.
Your turn. Try it and see. Rummage around your history for gratitude and see if sweet joy is not the result.