Have you ever stopped to think about the difference between being alive and living? For two things that sound so similar, the two are worlds apart. Everyone who breathes is alive, but being alive is worthless if you do not take the opportunity to actually live. To live means to experience, to learn, to love, to suffer, to struggle, to make it through and to have joy.
Living life means constantly dodging bullets, cars and curve balls. It is extremely difficult sometimes to even just survive, but simply surviving is not enough. You must find joy in every situation to find a life worth living.
Forget yourself and serve others
"The joy that you give to others is the joy that comes back to you."- John Greenleaf Whittier
I know it seems backwards to tell you that the way to begin living your life is to completely forget about yourself, but it works. I get so tired thinking about myself all the time. What I want, what I need to do, all the things weighing me down. All the things everyone expects for and from me. I hate it because, frankly, when I spend all my time thinking about myself I just get annoyed with myself. When we turn outwards and think of others our lives begin to have purpose. In serving others we are really only serving ourselves. Our own lives are brightened when we take the time to brighten the lives of others. When we take the time to give to others in an unselfish way, is when we find what it truly means to live a life full of joy.
Make the choice
"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." - Henri J.M. Nouwen
Our choices determine our destiny, which is a scary thought when you realize that we make hundreds of choices every single day without even thinking. Some of them are trivial, but others could be the decisions that will set the course for the rest of our lives. Yikes! But let me suggest the most important choice you will ever make is the choice to be happy every single day. Because happiness is a choice. It is not a switch we just turn off and on whenever we want, but it is almost that simple. People only have power over our emotions if we give them that power, so let's stop. Be in control of your own happiness. Make the choice every day, make it multiple times a day if you must, and be happy.
Maintain perspective and faith
"Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God."- Robert Schuller
Embrace the hard times with faith in the future. Maintain perspective and know that this rough patch is not the end of the world. View your trials as what they are; just a fleeting moment in time that, though hard, will soon be swallowed up in the brightness of the future. Darkness is the absence of light and when you turn on the light from your faith and perspective, it will push out every ounce of darkness until only joy remains.
The person who is able and willing to master these three things is the person who will live a full, happy life and make a difference in the world. That person will not be perfect and their life will still be full of struggles, trials and despair, but that person will have true daily and lasting joy. That person will have lived a life very much worth living.