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First, a definition of Joy: “emotion of great pleasure or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; elation. Delight. Exhilaration. Rapture.”

“Gurgle like a Meadow Lark.” W. P. Kinsella

All of those definitions and more are wonderful things. To have them you must first make them happen. It’s up to you (and me) to create our joy, delight and exhilaration. No material thing or person can make you joyous and truly happy. Lately, it seems that far too many people expect others to fill their hearts and minds with joy. They want their life and their work to be fun yet they do little to make them fun. They want (expect?) their our boss to acknowledge and recognize them because it makes them feel good about themselves, yet do little to recognize their boss or others.

Our universe, regardless of its size and scope is clear: what we put into our universe is what we get out of it. Happiness and joy in; happiness and joy out. When we are negative, act and talk like a victim and think we’re owed because of some perceived injustice, we get those and more out. To say it another way, GIGO: garbage in—garbage out.

Life requires, even demands, that we create our own joy, happiness, delight and exhilaration. A few suggestions (many I’ve learned on my journey) on how you can find more joy, happiness, delight and WOW in your life:

Make it a habit to spend at least five minutes each morning, before you go to sleep at night or both and think about who, what and why you feel grateful and Blessed. Gratitude and Blessings brings joy, delight and exhilaration. Count your Blessings instead of sheep. Remember those who’ve helped you on that day and in your life. Make a list. I do and what a list!! I start with God, The Trinity and work down from there It gives me a sense of peace, contentment, meaning and purpose. Before I fall asleep, I often recite, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame from within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

Acknowledge at least one person each week and thank them for their friendship, kindness, generosity, support and love. Be specific what you share with them. Is it awkward to say “Thank you” in person? Write a note and mail it to them or call them. It wasn’t awkward for them to show their generosity, kindness, support and love to you in person. It shouldn’t be awkward for you to respond in kind. One act of kindness deserves an equal response of thanks and respect. Skip the email—too impersonal. When we share a sliver of our joy with someone else that they can feel and touch, it gives us some more joy, too. For me, there’s far more than one person to thank. To know that brings me much joy!

“Kindness is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.” ~ Mark Twain

Make a list of the things in your life that you love. What are they? How actively do you pursue them? On a scale of 1-10 or A-F, rate each effort. Be honest with yourself. We receive joy, excitement, exhilaration, and delight as we march towards our goals, no matter how large the BHAGs, “Big, Hairy Audacious Goals” or how small. The key: keep headed forward.

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” ~ Confucius

Take a long, hard look at your career and work. Does it feel like work and is it fun and do you truly love what you do? Or when you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning, do you hear that little voice in your head that wishes you didn’t have to go to work at that place today? Liar, liar pants on fire.

“The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and doesn’t stop until you get into the office.” ~ Robert Frost

The people with who you associate are who you are and who you become. As shared with me in 1961 by Mr. Orville Merillat, founder of Merillat Woodworking in Adrian, Michigan, “A man is known by the words he uses and the company he keeps. Choose them both wisely.” His support and friendship and that of his wife Ruth were a constant source of inspiration and Blessing to me. How many people in your life truly support you? A friend in need is a friend indeed. If this suggestion creates some doubt in your mind or makes you uncomfortable, perhaps it’s time you take a good look around you. Reach out! Say thanks.

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” ~ Helen Keller

Remember, the friends we select and those who select us are the family we both choose. The old adage that you sure as **** can’t choose your family but we sure can choose your friends is as tried and true today as ever. The people in your life…do they support you or tell you what they think you want to hear? There are times in life, because of location, circumstances or a friendships lack of validity, when you have to create new friendships. The more true friends you have, the more unbiased support and love you receive. Make periodic deposits into your friendship bank account and watch the ‘interest’ and ‘dividends’ grow and compound. To know you have that much support and so many friendships, gives you more joy, delight, exhilaration and Blessings.

Do you associate with people who are committed and enrolled to your development? There’s a special delight to know that those in your universal sphere see your potential and value you to give of their time, talents, efforts and resources. Those friends and mentors shouldn’t, and most often can’t, give you the answer or fix the problem for you. See enabled. You created the problem. Only you can fix it. Own it! What your friends and mentors can do is offer you suggestions via Socratic Coaching; they answer a question with a question. “A pedagogical teaching in which the teacher does not give information directly but instead asks a series of questions with the result that the student comes to the desired knowledge by answering the questions or to a deeper awareness of the limits of knowledge.”

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” ~ Buddha

Play it forward. Give. “Pass the salt and make a difference in a person, place or thing.” Leave them, it or both a little better for your having been there. Share you ‘energy.’ Find that something that stokes your passion(s) and give of your time and talents. For me, it’s the opportunities I’ve been given to share my story of survival and to write. When I receive a hand-written note or email from someone who was the audience when I spoke or who read my book(s), my brain smiles and brings me joy. Their notes help me reflect of the many whose personal competence courage, compassion (love) and perseverance saved my life. It includes the many over the past 35 plus years who invited me to speak which helped me to continue to heal emotionally and spiritually. When we play it forward and give of our time, talents and resources, it gives our life more meaning and purpose. Give more, take less.

“The spirit in which a thing is given determines that in which the debt is acknowledged; it’s the intention not the face-value of the gift, that’s weighed.” ~ Seneca in Letters to Lucilius

Live your life with Character. Don’t be a Character. It’s the right and ethical thing to do. When we focus more on what is right with us, our relationships and our work, we feel better about ourselves. We’re more exhilarated and joyous and that drives us to build even more momentum…to do more right and ethical things. Our Character is our umbrella for life.

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Either you live your life with Character and use it automatically and instinctively, or you don’t. It must be weaved into your deepest psyche. Character, ethical thinking and decision making shouldn’t be conveniently espoused to garner support and/or make a political point. There’s far too much of that today in our ‘leaders,’ politicians and society.

Don’t be fearful. Fear, like other issues in life, is a choice. We create it most when there’s no real reason. It becomes another self-fulfilling prophecy and gives us permission to make excuses. Excuses become our reality. Fear limits us physically and emotionally. It sucks the life out of us like a dry sponge does to water. Fear’s a drain on our joy, excitement and exhilaration. Identify that which makes you fearful and then choose to develop a strategy to get rid of it, one choice at a time and one fear at a time. Go spread some joy…that’s joyous.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy in life is when men are afraid of the light.” ~ Plato

Each day, create a goal to think about and acknowledge those people and things that delight you and bring you joy, exhilaration and happiness. It’s all around. Sunrise. Sunset. Air after a rain. Flowers in bloom. Hugs. Dry heat. J You have to want to see it. Good luck. God Bless.

“May the God of hope fill you all with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:18

This article was reprinted with permission from the author, Captain George Burk, USAF (Ret), Plane crash, burn survivor, motivational speaker, author, writer. Visit his website at www.georgeburk.com  or contact Captain Burk at gburk@georgeburk.com.