Can you choose joy?

As part of our research into joy and thriving at work, we’ve been inspired by an article we’ve read on Medium about happiness. The article begins by saying, ‘Everyone wants to know the secret to happiness’.

Perhaps, like us, you resonate with this. Most, if not all of us, would say we would like more happiness in our lives.

But for us, this goes further and deeper. We know from our research that happiness, or joy, has a direct link to thriving at work. Those who find joy in their workplaces enable themselves and those around them to thrive and grow. Gallup reports that only 20% of employees would say they are thriving at work, which can have a negative impact on well-being, performance, and productivity. We believe if we could bring more joy into our workplaces, the percentage of us thriving at work would be much higher.

But is it really that easy? Well, often it’s not. Happiness or joy doesn’t happen by accident. There will always be external circumstances beyond our control, which may affect our energy, mood, or motivation.

But there are also things we can control. What if we could make deliberate choices about our thoughts and feelings, our bodies, and our responses so we could choose more joy in our lives and work?

Joy or happiness?

First, it’s important to understand what we mean by joy or happiness.

Joy differs from happiness. Happiness is momentary and often comes from external sources, for example, winning a game, achieving a target, or buying new shoes. We might experience moments of happiness throughout our day or week.

Joy is longer-lasting because it’s within us. We find it in the journey and the destination. It’s like a flame inside us. Sometimes, it’s only a flicker, but it continues to nourish us and keep us moving forward.

For us, another important difference between joy and happiness is joy comes from finding meaning.

It’s difficult, perhaps even impossible to choose joy if you don’t find meaning in what you’re doing.

Joy comes from finding meaning in our work, feeling valued for the uniqueness we each bring, and from a deep sense of belonging when we are collaborating effectively with those around us.


If you look back on your week, can you identify times when you experienced happiness and/or joy?

The power to choose more joy at work

One of the most powerful moments during 1-2-1 coaching sessions with clients is the spark in someone’s eyes when they realise they have the freedom to choose how they think about something. They can choose to change their response to a situation, so they can move forwards rather than be held down by it. The results of these choices often lead to a more joy-filled life.

So, how can we choose to bring more joy into our lives and work? Here are some of our tips and insights.

  1. Notice your thought patterns. Next time you have a difficult day, or something happens that takes you into a frustrating, fearful, or even angry space, pause and take a moment to notice what’s going on in your head. What are you thinking and why are you thinking that way? What impact are your thoughts having on you?
  • Notice what’s going on in your body. Do you feel tense? If so, where is it showing up? So often, when our thoughts take us in a downward spiral, our bodies react too.  This becomes a source of rich intelligence for us, especially when we can get into the driving seat of our physiology and do something about it.  One way we can inject some positive chemicals into our system when we feel like this is to do the ‘Kate Winslet’. Try opening your arms wide like Kate does when she stands at the bow of the ship in the film, Titanic. This opens our heart centre and floods our systems with oxytocin, the chemical we need for trust, connection and belonging.
  • Go back to meaning. Ask yourself, is this worth me feeling like this? Sometimes, the answer is, ‘yes’ and it’s worth pursuing the situation and working through it. In other situations, asking this question may help you to realise how you’re feeling is simply not worth it. This line of thinking often makes me recall the serenity prayer, ‘God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’.

For more valuable tips for bringing more joy and happiness into your life and work, here are two great sources:

You have the freedom to choose joy in your life and work.

Yes, it’s challenging, and it can be painful, but that feeling of choice is one of the foundation blocks to developing our resilience and to enabling the flame of joy within us to burn a little brighter. 

We hope this blog inspires you to choose joy more often to help you thrive and grow at work.

This blog is one way we love to support individuals, teams, and organisations to thrive and grow. Another is through our monthly newsletter, Compassion Counts, which provides insights, tips, and tools you can use in your work and leadership every day. Click on the button below to sign up.

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