What if joy is my only metric for success?

What if joy is my only metric for success?

“What if joy is my only metric for success?” – Sarah Jones

I read that quote in an article full of good advice a year ago, and it resonated deeply. Joy is simply defined as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” It’s easy to think of joy as a short-term, short-lived feeling. We can’t feel joyful all the time, right? For me, though, joy can be derived from and found in many things–and I’ve found that actively making joy a metric to success can create more of it in your life.

First of all, I have to admit that my ability to seek joy is based in a solid amount of privilege. Having a roof over my head, money in a savings account and a steady paycheck (that comes from a job that I can do from home) are all things that allow me to quite literally rest easier. It also gives me more room in my life to actively seek out the things that give me joy, and turn them into habits.

I find joy in early, still mornings with a cup of hot coffee, sunlight pouring in the window, the crisp newsprint of The New York Times laid out in front of me. I find it when I take my dog on a walk, and when I let her offleash to play in the park or on the beach. I find a quiet joy in reading before bed, with a lit candle and a mug of hot tea on my nightstand. I find it in inside jokes with my husband, group texts with long-distance friends and over glasses of wine with new friends. It’s in long bike rides, the meditative quality of putting together a meal (and enjoying the results),

And, of course, I find it in travel. Part of what motivates me to travel so much is just how much joy I find in discovering new places. I get giddy over a beautiful beach, a cobblestone street, a light-filled and design-forward coffee shop, a place that is steeped in history and culture and yet completely shiny, brand-new to me.

A lot of people allow themselves to live lives without much joy: lives in which they hate their bosses and resent their spouses, lives in which they aren’t passionate about or motivated by the work they do. They lack joy in their everyday because it’s bogged down by a long commute, a struggle to make ends meet, and a constant desire for more: more money, more recognition, more privilege, more things. But I actually see this lack of joy more in middle-class Americans than in many people of varying income levels around the world (Hillbilly Elegy has an interesting take on this as well).

To me, part of it is giving up a sense of control and autonomy over your own life: joy can come in so many forms, big and small, exotic and everyday. But part of it is also using all of these other metrics to judge your own success, and not making your own joy (and by extension, health and sense of well-being) a critical factor. And perhaps, that’s why this quote resonated so much with me: if joy is our only metric for success, how much better could our lives be?

My grandmother had a plaque that now hangs in our bedroom: “Be happy; for every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.” One of the things I like most about using joy as a metric to success: however intangible it is, you know it when you feel it. And there are only so many moments in a day: you can either fill those minutes with joy, or you can fill them with frustration and anger and sadness. There will always be more money to make, more awards to earn, more ways to build your resume–but at the end of the day, only you can measure how much of that day was filled with joy.

What’s your metric for success? How do you define joy? 

p.s. notes on defining success, and my best career advice

  • Caitlin

    This is such a great read and so true! Making room for joy in your life and making it a priority is something I haven’t really thought about before, but I definitely will be now…

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  • As I read through this post, I kept thinking that it sounds a lot like gratitude. When I feel grateful for a beautiful sunset or a perfect autumn day or a good conversation with a friend, I think that also feels like joy. I don’t think of it as a metric of success per se, just more of a critical component for a good life.

  • camorose

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  • camorose