Happiness vs. Joy: what's the difference?
There are some really good reasons why we didn’t call this project the Happiness Venture. To pinpoint a few:
- We knew there would be a learning curve and that difficulty would likely ensue
- We anticipated there would be days, weeks or even seasons when things just wouldn’t go our way
- We would feel like nobody was listening (friends and family included) and question if anyone cared about our little adventure
- Rejection and disappointment somehow would be part and parcel of the experience
We expected these moments might arrive (and they have) – and that happiness wouldn’t be riding shotgun (disappointment is indeed a lone but frequent invader).
There’s plenty of psychological research to explain the differences between joy and happiness, much of which focus on the external emotional influence on our happiness and the more internally grounded nature of where our joy comes from. We won’t rehash all that here, but instead provide an analogy that we feel sums up this whole happiness vs. joy thing – and why we choose to seek the latter.
If happiness is the wood veneer applied to the manufactured table
Then joy is the solid wood table.
There’s a reason that we accept and, when necessary, painstakingly restore the hand-me-down bureau or the Amish-built table. There is a deep beauty that has endured through the generations, a solidness that has been tested and upheld over the years providing function. Something so well-worn becomes a story itself worth sharing, not to mention the stories that emanate from its history.
Likewise, there’s a reason we don’t seek to restore, pass down or hang on to the DIY particleboard piece either. The idea sounds silly for something fabricated to be functional yet fleeting, destined to be disposable yet affordable enough to replace on whim.
We all want happiness in our lives and we want it now. And, much like the analogy, we have a tendency to look for shortcuts to get it.
We put on the good face in hopes that our external veneer can somehow conjure up those desired feelings. Sometimes it works. We go looking for it in all the wrong places and manage to find moments of happiness now and then. But we also know it’s circumstantial. What ushered in happiness yesterday won’t necessarily yield it tomorrow.
Joy – and in particular, Joy Venture – is about recognizing that happiness is fleeting and how we need to find that thing, deep within us, that gives us joy. That something to buoy us, to lean into when "it" hits the fan (and it will). Something that gives us purpose to persevere during the less-than-happy times.
Do you have that thing? Do you want that thing in your life?
Take happiness as it comes. In fact, revel in it. And recognize it for how finite it is.
Then go and seek joy.
Discover that thing that gives you joy – a vocation or change of vocation, a hobby or side project, a ministry or volunteer purpose – and develop it. Pour yourself into it without reservation. Hone it. Make it yours. And make it last.
Through this lens, it’s hard to imagine chasing happiness when joy is there for the taking – for all of us.
Need some inspiration to start your Joy Venture? Check out our podcasts and other posts to get motivated. Get outside your comfort zone and see what resonates. And take comfort in the fact that you’re part of a community of dreamers and doers who are activity pursuing their joy.