Choose Joy Every Day

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. Marianne Williamson 

T he crowd was electric with anticipation. The lights were low. The background music was barely audible as 18,000 individuals contributed their own buzz to the arena. In seconds, the band would burst on the scene releasing these minutes of tension with their unique blend of music, song, and energy. There was power in this moment. An edge for which we were all hungry. Though none of us were performing, we were all part of the performance. We were raving fans and we were ready to be taken somewhere else.

The place was Indianapolis. The band was Coldplay. The experience was amazing. Everything about the show was world-class. The stage, the lights, and  the entire production were a feast for the eyes and the ears. The band itself has achieved epic success commercially and, after seven albums, is at the top of its game. Their latest production: “Head Full of Dreams” is a tour de force of color, movement, and sound worthy of our biggest stages.

Though I enjoy their music, something else struck me as I watched my first live Coldplay performance. Yes, the pageantry was entertaining and I knew words to many of the songs, but there was something else happening on the stage and in the production. I felt something.

Their front man, Chris Martin, was incredibly energetic as he moved up and down the stage and engaged the crowd. Clearly very talented as a singer and musician, he matched, perhaps exceeded, those talents as a performer. The crowd roared. I looked around to see everyone around me singing, dancing, and smiling. And there it was: joy.

And there it was: joy

During the concert, there were balloons, beach balls, and thousands of flashing light wristbands carefully orchestrated to the performance. An curious piece of branding was a little plastic pin given to attendees that said “Love.” A grand marketing scheme executed to the tiniest detail. I wondered, what are they selling?

Looking back to the stage, I saw it again: joy. It was an image and sensation I couldn’t shake. The crowd was having fun…but so was the band. It wasn’t just fun in an “I’m feeling entertained” kind of way. It was joy. Real, my-face-hurts-from-smiling kind of joy. The word ebullient came to mind as I watched Chris Martin perform. The colors, words like “love”, the name of the tour, the lights, and all of the production were well-branded, well-themed, and well-executed. However, the joy came from somewhere else.

I’ve written before on the nature of epic entertainment events and the power of emotion to draw us together. It is fun to be caught up in such expansive experiences but I don’t recall one in which I’ve witnessed such a sense of joy on the stage and in the crowd. Watching Chris Martin and Coldplay on stage, I believe that the “love” symbol was not only strong branding, I believe it was sincere branding. In a very powerful way, they were able to convey it through the joy they exuded during their performance.

Clearly, we can’t maintain epic levels of joy in every moment of every day. But there is a more subtle joy that we can muster through our working lives. Part attitude, part conviction, and part vocation, we are called to find the joy in the mundane as well as the epic. Yes, called. In what we do and how we choose to do it.  We have such capacity for joy and continue to deny ourselves through our choices, active and reactive.

...we are called to find the joy in the mundane as well as the epic.

It is so easy to fall into the habit of depletion: the state of allowing our day’s energy vampires to drain us. Giving-in to the negative distractions that keep us from the fulfillment of true joy, we muddle through. It seems like such a waste. Why can’t we find even a small piece of that Coldplay-level joy in our working day?

Start by reminding yourself that it doesn’t have to be epic to be special. It doesn’t have to be a complex production and you don’t have to wait for it. The great thing about joy is that it is a choice. Another pop star, Madonna, said “Poor is the man whose pleasure depends on the permission of another.” I’d like to modify that line and suggest that we are all poor who wait for others to bring us joy. Don’t wait.

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